Morrissey - Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Mon 20 June 2011 (5 stars)

Morrissey – Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Mon 20 June

A spellbinding show from Mozza on his Scottish mini-tour

Dunfermline’s grand Alhambra Theatre oddly represented perhaps the most conventional of stop-offs in Scotland for Morrissey on his latest mini tour of typically out of the way destinations. Or at least the most central, on a sojourn that will have wound its way through Inverness, Dunoon and glamorous Hawick by the time the outspoken animal rights campaigner, occasional exponent of controversial views and unrivalled indie icon warms-up the Pyramid Stage for U2 at Glastonbury.

Despite his latest best-of compilation offering nothing new for them to get excited about, Morrissey fanatics continue to experience a pseudo-religious communion with their idol at his shows that generates a peculiar, thrilling and galvanizing spectacle without parallel. Several newcomers too to the world of music’s biggest mope will have surely been converted by this utterly spellbinding turn from the indefatigably charismatic crooner, which served a reassuring reminder of why those tiresomely persistent rumours of a Smiths reunion will gladly never come true.

Something akin to Moz-Vision – vintage clips of everything from Lou Reed toying with a baying press pack to footage of Sparks and The New York Dolls performing on European TV shows – was beamed onto the stage curtain pre-show before it suddenly dropped, drummer Matt Walker rumbled his kit dramatically, and the grey-quiffed 52-year-old strode into the spotlight in a dark suit jacket, white open-necked shirt and jeans, looking tanned and healthy. ‘Dunfermline,’ Morrissey boomed, almost cheerfully, ‘how the hell are you?’

‘First of the Gang to Die’, ‘Shoplifters of the World’ and ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ straight into a pitch-perfect ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ were standouts among a first 30 minutes practically wall-to-wall with anthems, each powered by Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias’s robust guitar work. A trio of new songs were dispatched back-to-back mid-set – ‘Action is My Middle Name’, ‘The Kid’s a Looker’ and ‘People Are the Same Everywhere’ – each strong additions to the Morrissey canon, even if their lack of familiarity flattened the mood a little. ‘I realise your attention … quavered, there,’ he conceded. ‘That’s perfectly understandable – but let’s not dwell on it.’ A cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love’ – the pre-chorus lyric altered to an ironically disdainful ‘I absolutely hate to watch TV’ – rekindled the celebratory mood, before ‘I Know It’s Over’ sparked a mass mournful singalong.

Some Morrissey fans evidently don’t share their idol’s animal rights views lightly: as footage of a hen awaiting slaughter was projected onto the stage backdrop – one of several brutal scenes of industrial farming shown while ‘Meat Is Murder’ rumbled towards its moody and deafening climax – one punter loudly suggesting that someone should ‘pull its heed aff’ earned him a punch in the face from another. Never mistake a vegetarian for a pacifist.

A brief encore yielded a rowdy ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, before a rousing ‘This Charming Man’ brought crowd-surfers rolling over the heads of the front rows, their outstretched hand met each time by Morrissey’s grasp, bringing security running onstage to separate them – despite it looking like it was he who was trying to drag them onto the stage.

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Morrissey

The former Smiths frontman and purveyor of bittersweet indie pop continues to enjoy his solo renaissance.

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