It’s still hard to believe that it’s only ten years ago since Johnny Marr decided to go solo. Since the demise of The Smiths in 1987, his collaborations took centre stage, notably with Bernard Sumner in Electronic, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse amongst others, so tonight is a celebration of Marr’s decade going solo, lent an extra weight with the addition of the Johnny Marr Orchestra assembled on stage behind Marr’s usual band.

Standing on the site of the old Granada Studios, Factory International’s Aviva Studios is a vast cavernous warehouse space, and anyone old enough to remember the Granada Studios tours, and the original Coronation Street set based there until 2013 can feel a slight sense of nostalgia walking around, it’s the site where numerous bands made their teatime appearances on Granada Reports and where Tony Wilson hosted music show ‘So It Goes’ in the late 70s. The Mancunian musical landscape has shifted seismically since then, yet Marr has managed to steer a course through the decades, emerging with a vast body of work which seems to both encapsulate the mood of the city, vibrant, forward looking, yet melancholic and reflective in equal measures.

Marr takes to the stage, cool as ever in black waistcoat over white shirt, and kicks off the set with the disco beat driven ‘Armatopia’ the strings lending an extra weight to its already hefty melodies, whereas ‘New Town Velocity’, a song about dreaming in Manchester according to Marr, from his debut album ‘The Messenger’ in 2013, sounds even more grandiose with the orchestral sounds soaring. Marr reveals that we were all a part of rock n roll history tonight, as this is the first rock gig to be held at Aviva Studios, adding an extra layer of importance to this already unique night.

‘Get The Message’ from Marr’s days in Electronic, has the crowd singing along to every word, as does The Smiths classic ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’. As much as these gigs are a celebration of Marr’s ten years as a solo artist, he also knows that his earlier work with The Smiths and Electronic can’t be ignored from such a momentous occasion. Delving into The Smiths back catalogue again there’s a gorgeous version of ‘Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time’, made even more heart wrenchingly beautiful with the orchestral backing, before the funk infused Marr solo classic ‘Easy Money’ gets the crowd moving again, as the Marr band, including son Nile on guitar, keep the tune powering along in addition to the strings beefing up the riffs, before ending with the Electronic classic ‘Getting Away With It’. Coming back for an encore of Smiths favourites ‘Panic’ and ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, both find the crowd singing along arms in the air, as Marr, his band and the orchestra deliver stunning version, with the orchestra turning both into epic cavernous tunes.

Combining songs from his solo career, Electronic and The Smiths, all re-worked for an orchestra, tonight is a celebration of Marr’s songwriting prowess. Confirmation, as if any were needed, that he remains one of the finest musicians Manchester has ever produced.

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.