Born in 1959, and in his prime; he appears from the darkness. Propelled by the shadowy silhouette of James Baldwin behind him, eyes search with frenzied recklessness for the first glimpse of their hero. it is unmistakable, unmissable, who is about to appear.
Morrissey doesn’t amble or saunter onto stage, he arrives, with gusto; no announcement necessary. The build-up of a typically Morrissey-esque combination of post-punk, and late 60s pop music in the pre-show video, provide the perfect appetiser before the main event, a spectacle of passion which clings to your skin for days and weeks to come. I’m still in the elated haze of recovery. The recent UK tour has proved true what Noel Gallagher said nearly twenty years ago, “When Morrissey comes to England, you f*cking know about it.”
The hours of queuing, the days of waiting, the weeks of listening, the months of suffering all culminate and combust into a solitary moment of utter elation. Here he is. Poised, you await the first words to leave his mouth, desperate to consign whatever wisdom that shall be bestowed upon you by the messiah into your consciousness forever.
“What’s a nice boy like me… doing singing in a joint like this?”, he croons, tongue firmly in cheek.
It begins. Away the guitars flail into the unmistakably grungy riff of ‘How Soon is Now’. For just a little while, everything will make sense.
As of last Friday, I have travelled around the country to different venues, and saw three live shows in seven days, gripped tightly onto every word I know so well. Yet as I write today, I’m still desperate for more. The craving for the melodic blessing of my idol has not been quenched. Such is the effect of the man from Manchester, who even forty years after his first performance as frontman of The Smiths continues to captivate audiences through his poetic, witty lyricism, whips of the microphone cord and demigod-like aura on stage.
“Why are you seeing the same show three times?”, they ask.
“Isn’t it really depressing?”, they wonder… minds closed, mouths open.
“You’re going where? Just to see Morrissey?”, they look as if I am the clueless one.
They do not understand. The combative crowd, the enfeebling exhaustion spawned from pure euphoria, the extensive expense… please, please, please let me do it all over again.
It’s one thing to listen to a Morrissey record, (as you can imagine as I do quite often) but another to see the man himself live, just a few metres away. He doesn’t shy away from a single chord, nor miss a note. Each line is delivered with the passion as if just written, or as if it is the last, he shall ever deliver. The crowds clumsily try to sing along, and try as they might, they are merely disciples at the feast – led by the young gliding, skating 63-year-old soul, as sprightly and lively as ever in performance.
Highlights from the show are endlessly trickling through my mind, but to name a few… the inclusion of ‘Half a Person’ in the setlist once again, particularly in Stockton was fantastic. The live exertion of what is seemingly my autobiography, written over 15 years before I was born, is as warm as it is comforting and accepting to witness in the flesh. I felt at peace, yet emotionally turbulent as he drove through each line with grace and elegance.
The inclusion of ‘Have-a-go Merchant’ in Doncaster. What a rare treat that was, another Morrissey song I hold so dear. “As always I’m here, right beside you”.
It would be incredibly unfair of me not to at least mention the fantastic band that played alongside Moz. Brendan Buckley, Alain Whyte, Gustavo Manzur, Juan Galeano and of course Jesse Tobias were all phenomenal at all three shows, providing the melodic underbelly to the songs that saved our lives. Surely this is Morrissey’s best band ever? The trickling ‘Auld Lang Syne’ introduction to Everyday is like Sunday, the striking guitars of ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, the harmonica to close ‘I am Veronica’. Just sublime. I’m very grateful to all the band.
Finally, the delivery of “these things I give you”, at the closing of a lyrically revised ‘Jack the Ripper’ was phenomenal to hear, and a part of the song I’d eagerly wait for at each gig. It really did feel as though I had his soul in my hands at that moment. It was an outpouring, an outcry, at the summit of a fantastically theatrical recital of a classic Morrissey song.
A real point of note from Morrissey’s shows are the sheer diversity of the fanbase. The young and the old, men and women from all different backgrounds turned out in their Edith Sitwell t-shirts to see the master at work. This goes to show that the pleasure Morrissey brings to us is universal, and not overtly situational or based on circumstance. I find an enormous amount of self-identification at Morrissey concerts. I not only believe what he says… but how he says it. “I will die, with both of my hands untied”. I am watching an artist I feel proud of, and I feel part of his journey. If you’ll allow me to be sentimental, I feel it’s a journey we share. I know many feel the same. It is clearer now than it has ever been before.
The concerts serve as a chance for the adoring to feel noticed, to feel seen… and to pay homage to their hero. The strength of devotion has also seemed to increase in recent times, which only compliments Morrissey’s wide catalogue of ‘us vs them’ tracks. The ‘us’ is getting louder, and prouder, it seems.
The sold-out, ardent crowds, and unwavering, rapturous applause for M only served as a reminder to leeches of cancel culture of today’s world… Morrissey will stand tall, and continue as the truly unique individual of art that he is. And, do so in quite some style, may I add.
Morrissey was dropped by his record label last year as part of “new plans for diversity” for BMG. I would implore BMG to explain to us all how many other artists have been able to produce the calibre of work that Morrissey has for now over four decades. If he isn’t a unique and diverse artist, I’m not sure who is. It seems the only form of diversity that isn’t considered to be a strength is diversity of thought. We truly live in a knockabout world.
Nevertheless, Morrissey has pressed on, performing on his UK tour a number of new tracks from his unreleased album ‘Bonfire of Teenagers’. The title track of which, a ferocious outcry at the atrocities of May 22nd 2017. Morrissey ironically howls “go easy on the killer”, towards the Manchester audience, who respond emotionally subdued with awe, before exploding into audible support for the sentiments of the fantastic and poignantly moving track. ‘Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings’, was yet another highpoint from the new songs, bringing another rendition of the sturdy, witty, honest and powerful nature only Morrissey possesses. “Please be fair, you must tell the little kids, they live in hell now”.
Other highlights of the setlist across the three nights were as diverse as the audiences who looked on, including older Smiths’ classics such as ‘Frankly, Mr Shankly’, ‘Never Had No One Ever’ and the timeless ballad ‘Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want’. The audience on each occasion reacting as if introduced to an old, dear friend.
I feel utterly privileged not only to live in the same time period as Morrissey (however perilous it may be) but also to have seen him live on many occasions. In a world where increasingly little makes any coherent sense to the spinning mind, Morrissey is the voice of reassurance, of comfort and of hope.
Thank you, Morrissey. The pleasure, the privilege is all mine.