Monday, 1 December 2014

Review of Morrissey at The O2, London, November 29, 2014

It was great to see him again.  His voice is as clear, urgent and mellifluous as ever. He looks good for 55, even with his shirt off briefly at the end. And a Morrissey show in London is always an exciting event.

But nope - Morrissey is not an arena man.

When you think arenas, you think Taylor Swift, Take That and One Direction. You think big stages, pyrotechnics, dancing girls and acrobats.

When you think Morrissey, you think stage invasions by spectacle wearers at Derby Assembly Rooms. You think small halls, intimacy and caustic asides. Maybe a carpet of red gladioli for those of us lucky enough to see the classic Smiths gigs.

But there he was at the old Millennium Dome, dressed in white like a baggy ghost from Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), telling us one word at a time how privileged he was to be there, laughing theatrically at our disease-ridden chickens, showing us videos of matadors being mauled and pigs being slaughtered for food. He'd even insisted that meat was off the menu in the posh boxes and hospitality areas.

Just in front of him, a dozen polo-shirted bouncers patrolled a six-foot wide security moat separating Morrissey from the thousands of apostles who'd come to touch as well as see. They routinely did their job until the encore, when disciple after disciple managed to storm the barricade and reach up for a grateful Mozzer touch as they were bundled away.

Morrissey went out of his way to kneel and low-five every one of these pilgrims to North Greenwich. He seemed as touched as usual that they'd risked so much pain for so little gain.

So why did he choose a venue where the vast majority of his tactile public were so ludicrously far away from him? Instead of a huge one-off, why not a few shows in a more intimate place, like Shepherd's Bush Empire or the Roundhouse, where Johnny Marr makes so much hay and arguably plays the better Smiths songs?

Frankly, Mr Shankly, maybe it's all about the money, which we know is infamously important to Morrissey, but there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I've seen them (but not very often).

"Remember me," he urged, "but don't remember my fate," he added cryptically, perhaps alluding to the recent stories of cancer scares, perhaps not. This is the man who rhymes T-bone steak with prostate, remember.

There was also time for some songs. The blistering opening of The Queen is Dead, complete with a photo-shopped big-screen monarch giving us both fingers, and a joyous Suedehead, giving way to the more lightweight, Hispanic TexMex of the recently-issued and instantly-deleted new album.

The pre-encore show ended with the bride being kicked down the aisle and the Texan drummer kicking his skins all over the stage. They were patiently set up again before the Big Finish - a triumphant, jumpalong Every Day is Like Sunday, instantly transporting us back nearly thirty years to rainy seaside days in Hastings or wherever.

It would be more triumphant still if Morrissey and Marr's constantly on-the-move tour buses found themselves in the same car park one night.

Sing me to sleep and dream on.

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