The Magnetism of Morrissey

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Morrissey at The Empire, Sunderland

"I'm sorry for being unoriginal." Steven says looking playfully at the aging but rapt audience in the music hall classic surroundings of the Sunderland Empire.Not to his second song - the ebullient First Of The Gang To Die - does he refer but to opener Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before.

A song now imitated but not by the man, not by Morrissey, who does not dwell on self referential imitation or parody. The twistiest verbalist in music plays this straight.

Honesty has something to do with the magnetism on stage when Morrissey performs but as he mixes new songs - That's How People Grow Up and Something Is Squeezing My Skull have a similar urgency to the highlights of his extensive back catalogue - in with records written a quarter of a decade ago then one guesses that there is a element of reclamation showmanship at work.

Showmanship that looks on a collection of imitators of The Smiths that grew into a genre. He takes back all that was once his as in flickering black and white strobe guitarist Boz Boorer grinds out the chords of How Soon Is Now and Morrissey is caught not just in light nor in time but in legend. He is Ozymandius.

Four times he departs the stage changing from tuxedo to throw away shirt and each time he plays on the notion that he may not return. He tells the audience he is staying in Newcastle to jeers - "Was is something I said?" he smiles.

The heart of Morrissey's magnetism - and until seen it is impossible to understand just how impressive the man on stage is - is this easy charisma that begs to be loved and that toys with the relationship between audience and act. Is he there to entertain us or - with his simple chides and scattered comments - are we wheeled in to amuse him on a cold night in the North East of England?

Regardless there is little that pop can offer to match Morrissey in this form and for a dozen and a half tunes he delivers. English Blood, Irish Heart is his modern classic, The Death of a Disco Dancer effortlessly peerless. Tomorrow - the sole track from the forgotten classic Your Arsenal - sounds picked out of time from some glorious age of heartfelt song. Morrissey at his best is without irony.

I could listen all night, everyone here would if given a chance.

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want comes with a yoked in significance over twenty years since it was written and it rings clear and true tonight. It breaks hearts, it brings tears. It genuinely brings tears.

A single song as encore - Last Of The Famous International Playboys - and Morrissey and his five strong band of lads are gone to return at his whim in a place as random as this old cinema in Sunderland should the mood take him.

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

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