Morrissey the Reminder More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Morrissey at St George's Hall, Bradford

It is said that Morrissey's set at Glastonbury did not raise much of a note against the back drop of Beyonce but tonight Steven is on familiar ground.

Playing to an audience mostly advancing in years it might be seventeen years since the one time The Smiths front man was hosted in thus venue or this city but should he cast his eye over the faces that yodel back at the singer must feel on familiar ground.

Morrissey knows his audience and plays appropriately. Six The Smith tracks and a smattering of his modern stomp alongs are raucously received. The lighter moments of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out float over the heads of the beer guzzling sort who sing football songs between tracks.

It's difficult to recall sometimes just how insanely important The Smiths songs seemed on a personal level. They were Zeitgeist, they moved the person you were, informed the person you wanted to be.

Perhaps the gang mentality that weaves through of Morrissey's songs - and is seen in his backing band - attract the sort of element which missed that formative isolation which many years ago the Mancunian singer seemed to be all about avoiding. Morrissey is all about gangs, and leading them, and to illustrate that while he shimmers in a purple shirt the six men behind him dress identically in t-shirt emblazoned with the words Fuck Fur.

Morrissey is at his most effective when cast as the outcast leader. I Want The One I Can't Have still crackles with anti-authoritarianism and there is a stunned silence to the images of slaughter and animal cruelty projected behind Meat Is Murder.

It is there that Morrissey has risen to his full height as the reminder. The tap on the back or hand on the shoulder that recalls a person changed by time, and age, but who had nurtured dreams of something else.

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When you think you have seen it all, Morrissey More

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.

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Morrissey, The Pope of Mope, Turns Fifty at The Apollo More

Live Review

Written By Duncan Slater Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Morrissey 50th Birthday at Apollo, Manchester

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So Morrissey, The Pope of Mope, turns fifty and hosts a party at Manchester's Apollo to "celebrate" what would you expect?

  • a. A life-affirming reminder that the human spirit has a large capacity for love and real friendship?
  • b. A sing-a-long with jokes and audience participation?
  • c. A moving demonstration that happiness is a valid, if complex, emotion?
  • d. All of the above?

If you voted d. then not only have you chosen the right answer but you were clearly at The Apollo for the former Smiths front man's fifty birthday gig.

As one of the lucky few who nabbed a pair of gold dust tickets - they ran out after six minutes - I was anxious to see if the great man would really deliver on his big day (and whether the audience would think it lived up to its huge hype) but when he walked on to the strains of Youll Never Walk Alone the spontaneous standing ovation demonstrated what we all really knew - we were all here to praise the old man not to bury him.

When I (in common with everyone) was given a laminate saying "I came to wish Morrissey a Happy Birthday", it felt like the man himself had just handed me a slice of cake I was well and truly invited.

So we began a hip-jangling performance of This Charming Man was followed by a (clearly unexpected) audience singalong of Happy Birthday. He was in a hugely good mood, relaxed, sure in the knowledge he was among friends. Irish Blood, English Heart was sung with gleeful gusto by (seemingly) every single person in the theatre. Barely ten minutes in and the warmth, happiness and camaraderie were already tangible.

The whole thing proceeded at a breakneck pace: How Soon Is Now?, Girlfriend In A Coma, I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Let Me Kiss You, Ask and Something Is Squeezing My Skull passed in what seemed like seconds. The usual stage-huggers were strangely absent: perhaps aware that a moment as special as this was best enjoyed from the Moz pit.

All in all a very giving performance from a man who, at 50, is at last comfortable with who he is, what people think of him and what his audience expect from him. Several critics have (unfairly) labeled he whole thing as a love-in, it was clearly a mutual appreciation society raw, heartfelt and charming - but above all joyful.

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The Magnetism of Morrissey More

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.

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