Review: Johnny Marr: Live At The Crazy Face Factory

“My guitar style and sound: like other artists, it’s a little bit of trying to do something and maybe getting it wrong,” says Johnny Marr in this glimpse behind the curtain at his custom-built studio space in Manchester. “In my case, it was copying things I learnt from 45s from the glam rock era in the 70s.”

Johnny Marr. Picture: Andy Cotterill

Interspersing small insights into the 58-year-old guitar slinger’s creative process with footage of him playing songs from his extensive catalogue with his four-piece band, Live At the Crazy Face Factory is a 70-minute livestream film well worthy of investigation for fans of The Smiths, Electronic or his solo career.

As well as providing a taster for Marr’s forthcoming album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, due out in February, highlights include such gems from The Smiths’ canon as Bigmouth Strikes Again, Headmaster Ritual and How Soon Is Now, in which those minor chord arpeggios still shimmer after all these years.

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A new arrangement of Getting Away With It, originally written with Bernard Sumner for Electronic, is spacier than the original, with Marr’s guitar at its core.

New Town Velocity is the choice cut from The Messenger, while Easy Money, from Playland, is arguably the poppiest moment thus far from his solo albums. Hi Hello, from Call The Comet, also makes a welcome appearance.

Marr reveals that the connection between the Crazy Face Factory’s name and the late Joe Moss, The Smiths’ first manager, who also owned the Crazy Face street clothing line. “It’s partly a tribute to Joe and partly a tribute to my past,” he explains.

That glittering musical past inevitably looms large in the background, but this spirited set shows he’s far from resting on his laurels as a performer as his fifth decade in music approaches.

Live At The Crazy Face Factory screens until November 14 on-demand – for tickets visit https://www.universe.com/events/johnny-marr-filmed-live-at-the-crazy-face-factory-on-demand-replay-gbp-tickets-RGH8B0