I threw myself into a sober challenge last night – I went to watch Johnny Marr, former guitarist of The Smiths, play at Sheffield’s Leadmill.
In the past, this would have been all about the alcohol but now, obviously, that is not who I am and so it did not form an integral part (or any part) of the evening’s unfolding.
I wanted to report back to you, on a truly amazing experience. First off, the Leadmill is a venue that I have frequented on countless nights out, and prior to last night I have always been worse for wear upon arrival. Looking round whilst sober was a strange experience – as though I recognised it but only out of a dream; semi-formed memories came back to me, rolling back and forth like a lazy tide.
People everywhere clutched beer in plastic pint pots, me standing amongst a sea of alcohol and anticipation for the arrival of a guitar legend with a glass of Coke, ice and a slice.
Something that struck me hard last night about being there to see Johnny Marr is that in giving up alcohol, I haven’t lost me; the Lucy that poured booze down her neck in some misguided rock n roll mission, smoking like a chimney and gradually slipping into inebriation as the night wore on, well, she was not present. But the real, human character of me, the part of me that loves watching amazing, world-changing musicians like Marr, live on stage, the part of me that soaks up the atmosphere and has the ability to lose herself in the music, to step away from the stresses and busyness of everyday life for a couple of hours, eyes glued on the stage, not wanting to miss a second of what proved to be an incredible performance, she was right there.
Being straight just made it better; there was no fogging of the senses, no wobbling, no over-thinking about how to get more alcohol when you’re stuck fast in the middle of a heaving crowd, fastened together so tight that the hundreds have become just one seething mass of bodies.
I just listened and watched.
And Johnny Marr did indeed fill the shoes that the teenage Smiths-idolising Lucy had placed him in over twenty years ago. With a mix of new stuff from his album, The Messenger, and old Smiths classics (There is a Light That Never Goes Out, Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before) Marr consistently delivered to a mixed crowd of old diehards and younger fans. His guitar-playing was as effortless and mind-blowing as it ever was – for me, seeing him perform without Morrissey by his side only served to highlight his musical genius even more, elevating his new material to one of my current favourite albums.
I owned sobriety last night; I concentrated on what I was there to see. My brain wasn’t dulled, my motives for being there not lost to a pointless addiction. I revelled in being present; I felt as high as a kite, full of meaning and anchored to what matters to me in my life. Last night, one hundred per cent of me got a massive kick out of living, of beating my problems and loving the present.
What a night.