Fans discuss how they feel about Morrissey's tour cancellations
It’s not a Morrissey tour without a cancellation or two. Kirstyn Smith talks to fans about how they feel
The story may be old, but it goes on … It was to little surprise, but a fair amount of concern, that Morrissey cancelled the second date of his 2015 European tour – meant to be taking place in Tilburg, Netherlands on Tuesday 10 March. After an opening night in Groningen, the show in Tilburg – which incidentally was a rescheduling of a previous postponement – was postponed for a second time, with flu cited as the reason, just hours before the show was due to begin.
To the casual observer this is a mild inconvenience at most, certainly no biggie. But to Morrissey fans – many of whom are the antithesis of ‘casual observer’, as The List has noted in the past – such disappointments are par for the course, after years of cancellations, postponements, illness and guilt. Tilburg was meant to make up for a cancelled show from his 2014 tour, during which he played 50 of the 71 shows scheduled. Admittedly that’s better than the year before, during which he played 16 scheduled gigs but cancelled 43 other shows and postponed eight. Naturally, fans are growing concerned.
‘I think that the number of cancellations over the years is due to his bad health,’ says Stefan Krix, a German fan. Krix tends to stick to attending shows in his home country and has had two shows cancelled, once in 1996, then this most recent postponement in Tilburg. ‘The best thing he can do is simply not tour if he's not able to stand the stress. Maybe he is currently not able to judge his abilities in a realistic way.’
Brian from Edinburgh (not his real name) is, like many fans, more sceptical: ‘If we're to believe all the stories, he must be very ill and touring doesn't sit well with him. On top of that, he should see through his commitments for the shows he cancels nonchalantly due to poor sales or just not being bothered.’
Ill health has dogged Morrissey for a while, with recent complaints ranging from flu to food poisoning and 2013’s double pneumonia/bleeding ulcer/Barrett’s oesophagus rumours (which graduated to cancer thanks to social media’s grapevine). As well as physical ailments, there’s mental ill health to consider – the least surprising reason for sudden and poorly-explained cancellations.
If not exactly outspoken about poor mental health, Morrissey has addressed various issues, most candidly in the 2003 documentary The Importance of Being Morrissey, where close friend Linder Sterling talks about his ‘periods of very, very bad depression … absolutely debilitating periods where life seemed to have absolutely no point.’ According to the Mental Health Foundation, across the UK, 91 million working days are lost each year due to mental health problems – why would rock stars be exempt? If this is the case, however, it seems fans would appreciate a straight-up reason for cancellations. After all, ‘don’t forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life,’ Morrissey warned in 1985’s ‘Rubber Ring’, and this need for lifesaving is something that swathes of fans can empathise with.
‘When I was a teenager, it was the music and the mystery. I escaped the cruel reality by listening to my Morrissey tapes.’ Another European fan, Lena (not her real name), believes that the reason Morrissey attracts such dedicated fans is because he taps into a sense of unbelonging in so many. ‘The strangeness, I guess. The fact that he doesn't really fit in. His aura. He cherishes that dedication as well.’
Therein may lie the answer. An aspect of martyrdom, the need to stick with someone no matter how many cancelled shows or how many questionable interviews he does. A resistance to the volatility of the modern world, in the same way that Morrissey himself refuses to bend or crack to anything other than his own opinions.
Brian adds, ‘Devotion sometimes masks fans’ view of Morrissey the person. People tend to think he's infallible and he can say or do no wrong. Nobody is infallible, least of all him, and I believe if, say, Madonna expressed views on races and cultures with the vitriol he sometimes does, these same people would be outraged.’
This view is echoed by Lena: ‘With every (crazy) interview he does, I get the feeling that I need to make a personal statement about my thoughts on the subject. In the beginning I defended him because of my love for the music, but honestly that has stopped over the last few years. I can no longer defend some of his words and actions. And I don't really need to.’
There is a reason the phrase ‘Because we must’ has become an unofficial mantra for some Morrissey fans. Why go to every show? Because we must. Why stick up for him through thick and thin? Because we must. Why put up with it? Because we must.
Morrissey’s latest musical output has been a new high in his solo career – World Peace is None of Your Business reached number two in the UK charts and flitted about the top ten mark throughout most of Europe. Whatever the reason for cancellations – health, poor ticket sales or general can’t-be-botheredness – he’ll never be short of fans. It wouldn’t be Morrissey's cat and mouse world without every movement shrouded in mystery.