IT’S tough being a tribute act.

For one thing you have to be an actor as well as a singer, because you’re not just playing music, you’re living through another group’s creation, recapturing it for fans who haven’t really come to see you.

Of course as an act you collect the money from the gig and live out being the band you’re essentially idolising through song, but people don’t come to see you they come to see the act you’re portraying.

If that sounds negative, then it shouldn’t, the best compliment a tribute act can get is that people come away from your performance thinking they saw the real thing, and that happened at the Manchester Academy with The Smiths Ltd.

From the moment Morrissey (as portrayed superbly by Johnny Turner) burst onto the stage clad in cream pants and a charcoal jacket, and wafted around a giant “The Queen is dead” sign during ‘Panic’, everyone was sold on the idea they were actually watching Manchester’s favourite son himself on stage.

Turner’s portrayal goes much further than that, and shined through during numbers such as ‘Meat is Murder’, since it’s easy in comparison to do the on stage gallivanting as Morrissey did. Yet during slower songs he still manages to nail the icy stillness that was equally Morrisey, his acting as well as singing performance transcends the regular tribute act and puts him on a level with the cast of musical tribute shows such as ‘Let it Be’.

Johnny Marr was also superbly portrayed from a technical aspect by Alex. Himself and the aforementioned Johnny having a chemistry and dynamism on stage that is rare to come by, enough to be deserving of a band in their own right.

In terms of set list they did almost everything right for a tribute act; the show didn’t develop “Saturday night at the Phoenix Club” syndrome which haunts so many tribute acts when they cram too much fan service into one gig.

The Smith’s Ltd’s pacing of the gig made the bigger hits like ‘This Charming Man’, ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and an electrifying rendition of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ stand out, and lesser known number such as ‘Still Ill’, ‘Hand in Glove’ and ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ acted as a bridge between the crowd singers whilst still being appreciated by a packed Manchester Academy.

The only issue with the set list (and the gig as a whole for that matter) was the transition between ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and ‘Meat Is Murder’. The former was stunning, the entire room shaking with the noise made by a crowd that was nearing the point of ecstasy. Meanwhile, the latter was positively dead in comparison, perhaps it was the case that everyone in the audience needed a breather but when you’ve just created so much momentum, it seemed strange not to capitalise with another classic.

Nonetheless, it was a stunning show enjoyed by an incredibly diverse crowd, inch perfect from a technical aspect and mesmerising from a visual standpoint. The Smiths means everything to generations, and to an audience ranging from 18-60 it still does.

The Smiths Ltd are probably the best tribute act going in the UK today. Pushing the cast of ‘Let it Be’ incredibly close in terms of musical performance and on stage mannerisms. I would still say the latter is the better all round recreation of a famous group ever seen. However, considering ‘Let it Be’ are a tribute ‘super group’ with a cast 20 strong it’s not bad company to be in.

By Oliver Mackenzie

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