Panic on the streets of London -
Morrissey, London Brixton Academy, August 7th 2011
Morrissey played two concerts this weekend in London. You know, on the weekend that England, and London in particular, decided to fracture and generally turn to shit.
Its been a funny few weeks for Morrissey. Having made comments recently comparing the Norway bombings and shootings to the activities of certain fast food chains, we were kind of left wondering if things in Moz land had finally tipped over the edge of rational human behaviour into something perhaps slightly sinister. With the increasingly blunt and sensational quotes Morrissey has been generating the last few years (my personal favourite being that The Chinese are a subspecies) it appeared that Morrissey was becoming to Pop Music what Prince Phillip is to the Royal Family. But thats not going to stop him tonight. David Cameron comes under fire with Does anyone think that David Cameron has been to Tottenham? I dont think so as do Charles and Camilla with Moz reminiscing over the time they were attacked at the so-called London student riots. Apparently this made him laugh for weeks. Before setting us straight with no months.
Opening act Kristeen Young is a strange choice. On a stage the size of Brixton Academy she almost gets lost standing on her own in front of a gigantic projection letting us all know who she is. Shes a very noisy, angry young lady by the looks of it. I couldnt help but imagine her having a row with her parents and then storming upstairs, putting a drum beat on at a million decibels and then essentially kicking the living shit out of her keyboard with a hammer. Thats what it sounded like to me. I think its a niche thing maybe. Maybe this is cool these days? I dont know. Im thirty now and I havent got a clue anymore. I dont even have to pretend now. Shes probably owned by the NME.
Anyway, on to the main event. A Morrissey gig is a strange affair in itself. Crowd wise we are looking at 80% male and most of them are not the kind of people you would expect to be here. I dont know quite what it is that makes so many fall for Morrissey but whatever it is, it evidently works. He is greeted onstage like the second coming as the superb five piece backing band launch straight into the old Smiths number I Want The One I Cant Have. Other Smiths songs aired tonight are the penultimate Meat Is Murder during which the backdrop projection shows us images of animal slaughter and cruelty, which is genuinely quite upsetting. Something that I thought I would never see comes later in the shape of The Queen Is Dead centrepiece, and possibly Morrisseys bleakest moment, I Know Its Over. It was really spine tingling to hear the four thousand odd crowd packed in tonight singing back Oh Mother I can feel / The soil falling over my head. And of course we get probably The Smiths finest hour with There Is A Light That Never Goes Out which inspires one of the most raucous sing-alongs that I have ever witnessed.
But anyway, this is not a Smiths nostalgia show by any means. Morrisseys solo career has been in the works now for an incredible 23 years and during that time he has established himself as an artist who is no longer The one who used to sing in The Smiths. The set tonight evenly showcases songs from both pre and post You Are The Quarry, the record widely regarded as his triumphant comeback album. Pre Quarry era we get early singles Ouija Board, Ouija Board and Youre The One For Me Fatty as well as both Alma Matters and a simply astonishing Speedway from 1994s (criminally under rated) Vauxhall and I album. However its Everyday Is Like Sunday which is arguably Morrisseys best known and best received solo song. If you have the time to view the YouTube clip of this song from this show, please do. It is simply a beautiful thing to witness. Post Quarry we get Black Cloud from Years of Refusal as well as singles You Have Killed Me, Irish Blood, English Heart, Im Throwing My Arms Around Paris and a final crowd led blast through First Of The Gang To Die.
So lets talk new songs. Tonight we get four brand spanking news tracks presumably destined for Morrisseys next album (or its associated B Sides). They vary in quality greatly. Lets start at the bottom of the deck here. People Are The Same Everywhere is dreadful. Its almost like a piss take pastiche of what you would expect a modern Morrissey song to sound like. Predictable by numbers fodder. No doubt itll end up being the lead single. Scandinavia is a slow building sombre number reminiscent of The Never Played Symphonies. Action Is My Middle Name is a lovely ballad in the vein of Come Back To Camden eschewing the progress of time: Action is my middle name / I cant waste time anymore / Everybody has a date with an undertaker / A date that cannot wait. The best of the new bunch is Art-Hounds dealing with the fashionista and scenesters, which is possibly the most punk song that Moz has ever performed.
So in summary then, when you add a lovely rendition of Lou Reeds Satellite Of Love to the set, you get a pretty damn amazing show. Say whatever you like about Morrisseys seemingly dwindling grip on reality but on the evidence presented tonight, if he had never done anything else in his entire career other than this show, the man should quite rightly be seen as a super star. This night has opened my eyes.
Words and Pix : Richard Bull