When you think you have seen it all, Morrissey

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Morrissey at O2 Academy, Leeds

On playing Ganglord Steven Morrissey muses to his audience which ages with him and muses "I smell the lowest chart position of my career, unless..."

Hand clenched put pointed upwards his eyes rise and his band of checked shirted boys strike up Cemetery Gates.

He refers to Swindon and the first night of this tour which ended within minutes of the opening refrains of This Charming Man - Morrissey has started The Smiths revival without Johnny Marr and is right to do so arrowing the phrase "Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate" across the room he reminds all that while Marr and his union was beautiful no one liked or loathed the definitive band of the eighties because of the noodlings from Marr's guitar.

Morrissey spent an evening in a Wiltshire hospital with breathing difficulties and tonight - four days later - his skin as a waxy, ill look about it in comparison to the gleaming, tanned Steven who returned to his homeland in 2004 with album You Are The Quarry and a set of gigs that saw the man tanned, robust, powerful and epitomised by the snarl of Irish Blood, English Heart which crisply played tonight.

He commands though This Charming Man and races into his newer work setting a tone for the evening in which he enjoys his current album unsettling all with the odd gem of his past. From The Smiths canon emerge unexpectedly Is It Really So Strange?, How Soon Is Now? and - in a seething awe - Nowhere Fast the live performance tonight of does justice to its status as one of the best tracks on the best album by one of the best bands to have made a noise.

Nowhere Fast sits well along Morrissey and his men's blues tinged slap bass current efforts the performance ends with Morrissey at the rear of the dark stage picked out by spotlight in a swirl of haze and bassist Soloman Walker thumping out the end of I'm OK By Myself taking the last bow of the evening, the solid figure of the iconic front man silhouetted behind him before the raucous return and end with First of the Gang to Die.

There is awe, even in the reasonably minded there is awe, but that is not what the evening will be recalled for. Thirty minutes in and the now fifty year old man bombastically treads the stage teasing his devotees with the chance to speak into his microphone. "Do you want to say something?" he asks down to the front row and - as he has many times - bends down to offer and withdraw.

Frozen in time though someone speaks clearly to the singer - to his idol - to this icon and softly he says tells the singer that he is looking well, and that he is sounding good, and that he should - please - look after himself.

The singer moves backwards and his face is near indescribable. His eyes bleed forward tenderly and he might mouth or say "Thank you" because at fifty after a lifetime of leading this near army of devotees and followers though his teasing and tantrums and his affection and rejection Morrissey - for a second - is subject to his supporters.

His eyes show a powerlessness, for a second only, and a dedication as if he could form the words he would thank the world for allowing him his part of it. For a second only and after what would seem to be the scare of his life it seems that Morrissey is the young man again plucked by his bedroom and put on stage simultaneously seeking attention and painfully shy. The boy again, but for a second.

That, as he would sing, is how people grow up.

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, October 31st, 2009

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