Morrissey live at London Hammersmith Apollo (4 stars)

Alleged last UK tour date sees Morrissey go out with a bang

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Morrissey live at London Hammersmith Apollo

credit: Robert Winning

‘Take me to the place I’ve been dreaming of/where the grotesquely lonely meet the grotesquely lonely...’. So sang Morrissey last night at Hammersmith Apollo and, looking around, it was obvious why those lines mean so much to so many fans. The show was allegedly Morrissey’s last ever UK date and the sense of desperation and adulation was palpable.

He was on good form too, opening with a brief (and rather pithy) cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘You’ll Be Gone’. With his perpetually pompadoured hair and new penchant for garish low cut shirts, his transformation into Vegas crooner seemed complete. He quickly played a succession of great, underplayed classics – ‘Let The Right One In’, ‘Boxers’, ‘Will Never Marry’ – and it was very easy to see why spirits were so high.

Of course, no Morrissey review is complete without a mention of the ubiquitous ‘Meat is Murder’. Originally a limp whine about the industrial meat industry, the song has been transformed in recent years to an intense diatribe – a solid wall of sound made all the more affecting by spliced clips of abattoirs and farms projected onto the huge screens behind the stage. Even having seen the video 40 or 50 times in the last 10 years, it remains powerful and is, in spite of its rather crude and simplistic premise, always a standout moment of every gig.

Musically and vocally Morrissey and his band were strong but onstage quips, once one of his many selling points, were sadly extremely weak. He didn’t even mention David Cameron’s alleged porcine entanglement, which showed a disappointing and uncharacteristic lack of both imagination and spite.

Songs from Moz’s latest effort, World Peace is None of Your Business, were (thankfully) light on the ground, but it wasn’t quite the Smiths retrospective some fans may have been hoping for. People often complain about Morrissey setlists and, while recent shows have been very World Peace heavy, to do so is somewhat missing the point. Morrissey’s appeal lies partly in ‘indie classics’ like ‘Panic’ and ‘First of the Gang to Die’ which are often considered to be ‘quintessentially Morrissey’. And in a way they are – they’re brooding and dark and sharp and paint a perfect picture of a very specific time and place – mostly an England that we all recognise but don’t actually live in. But to approach a show on these grounds is to fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a Morrissey fan.

These songs are great, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not what make Morrissey shows so special, so atmospheric. He writes about that rich internal life that most of us (especially those of us who are sad or fucked up) don’t normally get to share and turns it into a celebratory experience, a joyful statement of defiance. Songs like ‘Now My Heart is Full’ and ‘Will Never Marry’ might not be singalong anthems for aging dads with faded Smiths t-shirts on, but they capture this defiance in a way that few others have managed. ‘The World is Full of Crashing Bores’, the 14th song of the night, bemoans ‘lockjawed popstars thicker than pigshit’ and while the lyric does smack of your drunk uncle ranting about Miley Cyrus at Christmas, he does kind of have a point. He’s unlike anyone else. He’s totally peerless.

Fans scream the words to ‘Ganglord’ to this inexplicably intoxicating 56 year old miserablist – “save me, save me, save me” – and suddenly his deep, enduring appeal is obvious. He has, he does, he will.

Setlist:
You’ll Be Gone
Let the Right One Slip In
Suedehead
Speedway
Ganglord
Boxers
World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Kiss Me A Lot
Staircase at the University
Alma Matters
Will Never Marry
My Dearest Love
The Bullfighter Dies
The World is Full of Crashing Bores
Oboe Concerto
Meat is Murder
Now My Heart is Full
Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed
I Will See You In Far Off Places
Everyday is Like Sunday
The Queen is Dead

Morrissey

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

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