I spent much of the 1980s listening to The Smiths. Today they are eulogised as one of the seminal English bands, the Beatles of the 1980s, the only band of the era that managed to combine incredibly poetic lyrics with a bright sound that was at odds with the pop music of the time.
But I have vivid memories of the Smiths, buying ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ on vinyl the moment it arrived at Our Price records, taking a bus to London to buy ‘Strangeways…’ because it would be quicker to go to London, rather than waiting for the album to get to stores in Surrey and Hampshire, spending an entire holiday in France listening to the first album, especially ‘Suffer little children’… I just regret never seeing them live. I probably could have managed it, but I was only 17 when they split – maybe if I lived in London I might have seen them on the final tour, but it was never to be.
So, it’s always fun to see a Smiths tribute band. I’ve seen the Smyths several times now and they are very good – also doing a lot of Morrissey solo material as well as Smiths – but last night I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see ‘Smiths Indeed’. I had never seen them before this gig, but if they had the guts to book a 2,000-capacity venue as a tribute act then they had to be worth seeing.
They didn’t fill the venue. When I arrived it was still quite empty, maybe 100 people were in there and I was worried it might be a disaster. The crowd filled out eventually to something like 500-600 (my guess), which was good enough to fill out the standing area in front of the stage. By the end of the evening, the crowd were having so much fun, it felt as though the venue was packed to capacity. In a pub that kind of crowd would have been huge, a packed pub heaving to the rafters, but in this venue it felt a bit empty until the crowd really got into the gig.
The smaller crowd meant they cut back a bit on security – there were several stage invasions, which isn’t really much fun for the band or the fans who want to hear the band as some loon runs around the stage trying to grab the mic.
They were really good though. They should have sold out the venue and I’m not sure why it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s too close to Christmas. Maybe it’s because The Smyths had just played in London at the weekend, so old Smiths fans chose that gig instead because it was on a Saturday night. Maybe they just did not do enough promotion – it’s always tough to promote gigs and when the venue is much larger than normal that just makes it even harder.
BUT, forget my moaning about the venue size…
If you closed your eyes, it could have been Morrissey and Marr up there. All four of the guys were very good, but particularly the ‘Marr’ who did a great copy of Marr’s style, and ‘Morrissey’ who really captured the voice and affectations, even if he only bore a passing resemblance to Mozza. They produced a really nice rich sound that was well mixed and sounded a lot better than many bigger gigs I have been to recently.
I’d definitely go to see them again, it was a really great night out!