As a co-founding member of the Smiths (alongside cult fave crooner Morrissey), Johnny Marr influenced a whole generation of British guitarists with his signature sound of layered, jangling chordal ringing. Though he brings his guitar tones along on new record “Boomslang” (iMusic), he doesn’t sound the innovator anymore, nor does his live show have the pull of his earlier work.
The weakness lies in Marr’s songwriting, which doesn’t follow the patterns set by the Smiths but rather those established by his old band’s followers. That means an Oasis sound-alike is followed by a warbling, Jeff Buckley-ish ballad, with Marr’s pleasant but unremarkable vocals substituting for the Gallaghers’ whine or Buckley’s gorgeous drone.
Marr’s playing — as revolutionary as it once was — now has been co-opted so many times that it has lost its flavor. Even when Marr was a Smiths member, it was never technical excellence that made him a standout, and two decades later, his open-chord riffs seem completely played out.
That was no problem for this show’s capacity crowd, as enraptured with Marr’s persona as his music, but for Marr, it should be reason for worry. He seems to be coasting on his notoriety right now, but to make a lasting impression as a solo artist, he needs to find his own voice amid the noisy rock of his admirers.