Ironically, today, I spent the day in bed. Snow has taken over England and schools out for winter. Reduced public transport and extreme delays actually threatened me even getting to the Brixton Academy last night, but even the wait at the station turned out to be entertaining. A lady told me of how she got charmed in to buying an expensive emerald ring in Rio by a rather attractive Brazilian, and a South African man who had been eating saveloy, battered sausage and chips (Morrissey wouldn’t approve) chatted for a bit before heading back to the chippy to buy more. He asked us if we wanted him to pick anything up for us. I’m glad we didn’t – he missed the train.
The lady asked why I was braving the journey; “I’ve got tickets for a concert”. When she found out that it was Morrissey, she replied, “oh! He’s still going, is he?”! He certainly is.
Having opened with ‘The Last of The Famous International Playboys’ (its first airing since 2011), this was a celebration of the stand-alone Morrissey, with only one Smiths song (‘How Soon Is Now?’) featuring in the evening’s twenty-one song set. The bulk of the set came from his latest offering, Low in High School. Of those, the biggest audience response was undoubtedly reserved for the album’s two singles ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage’ and ‘Spent The Day In Bed’, but worthy mention must go to ‘Home Is A Question Mark’ and ‘When You Open Your Legs’, where the sound of Morrissey and his band cut through the room in a way which others sometimes didn’t.
However, it seems whenever you say to most people, “I’m seeing Morrissey tonight”, the majority tend to comment on how “miserable” he is. Well, a smile is as medium-rare as the steak he would shun, but people often confuse demeanour with passion, and Morrissey certainly doesn’t lack in the latter.
As is typical for his last few tours, a number of songs are accompanied by some no-holds-barred videos. We see and hear Morrissey spit in to his microphone at the end of ‘Who Will Protect Us from The Police?’, while a compilation of crooked coppers attacking innocent peaceful protestors plays (Police 5-1 Human). In ‘The Bullfighter Dies’, we see Morrissey, the animal rights activist, perform in front of bloody and brutal clips of, well, bullish revenge (Bull 1-0 Human, for a change). Of course, Morrissey is raising awareness of global injustice and attempting to even the scores.
One score that won’t be settled was presented in the song (and the video for) ‘Munich Air Disaster 1958’; a tribute to the Manchester United players whose lives were cut tragically short sixty years ago. Sometimes it’s good to remember that our Steve is just a football-loving bloke, as well. It’s not always tears and tofu.
We also saw Morrissey’s personal tastes in a thirty-minute video. Rather than having a support act, fans were treated to a compilation of music, famous speeches, and scenes from films (including the footage which gave The Queen Is Dead its famous artwork). Despite omitting some of his own hits, Morrissey also performed covers of songs by both The Pretenders and The Ramones. After some widely-reported health scares over the last few years, Morrissey is just doing Morrissey, and it’s fantastic.
People also often say that Morrissey is incredibly secretive, but you only have to listen to his words (and sometimes ‘it’s not what he says, it’s how he says it’) to get an understanding of the man and his passions both on and off stage. It is this shared authenticity with his audience, and that ‘secrecy’ (or, ‘a refusal to liaise’) with the media, that endears him to this sold out crowd. In some cases, he may be preaching to the converted, having worn his views on his sleeve for decades, but his passion is as alive and well now as it ever was. For as long as that remains the case, it’s the reason why Morrissey was, is, and will be worth wading through snow for again and again.