“It’s better up north,” says Johnny Marr, to a packed Sheffield O2 Academy crowd eager to hear every word and absorb every riff.
If Marr delivered jingle-jangle mornings in the 1980s, he’s now hosting afternoon tea in a solo career that already spans more years than The Smiths could muster.
Wearing tailored shirt and skinny trousers, Marr looks lean. And the music is fitter than a butcher’s dog.
Band and arrangements are edgy, chance-taking, pushing an envelope of guitar, bass and drums.
Opener The Tracers sets the pace, before a break-neck Big Mouth Strikes Again hits like a left hook.
The song’s jolting finale is greeted with a behind-the-goal cheer, mainly from men of a certain age.
Yet there are plenty of kids that can’t have been born at the time. Never, ever, forget the kids.
“This is a dance tune from across the Pennines,” notes Marr, as he dedicates Electronic’s Getting Away With It to a slew of Sheffield bands - ABC, Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Pulp.
He invites requests and respond’s to an unlikely shout with an equally-unlikely and impromptu version of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.
Yes, dear reader, you scan correctly.
Marr’s voice seems improved. Perhaps he’s more comfortable with his name above the door.
So he should be, with three solo albums on an eclectic CV that also has more than enough collaborative material to draw on.
Easy Money chops like a chainsaw, while encore starters Rise and Bug showcase Marr at his enigmatic and creative best.
There’s a white line marking the edge of the stage and Marr crosses it, physically and musically, several times, throwing down a gauntlet to the lofted arms straight ahead
He closes with You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby.
If that’s the message, artist and audience have little option but to keep on keeping on.