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Morrissey – Barrowlands, Glasgow

MorrisseyThere’s a thing about being a regular gig-goer; no matter how excited you get by a new band, a new album, when they walk onstage it’s just a few blokes. We all have bands who we love who perform incendiary live shows and who we’d follow round the country on tour; but you simply don’t get that heart-halting buzz, that raw, eviscerating slice of emotion you get with someone you loved in your teenage years.

If Morrissey is a religion, then I was a fully faithful member of the congregation when I was a kid. Like many teenagers of a certain disposition, I felt he’d been sent to save my life; those incredible songs, full of anger, alienation, joy, humour, knowledge, yearning and terrible jokes. The way he looked, the way he spoke, the way he sang and most of all – best of all – the fact that most people hated him. ‘Oh, he’s so miserable’ they’d say, and you wouldn’t even argue, you’d just walk away secure in the knowledge that they were wrong and you were right and you were a member of a club that they couldn’t join. I literally loved him.

But it cooled, and not in the mid-to-late 90’s with the underrated ‘Southpaw Grammar’ and the X-rated ‘Maladjusted’. No, this new millenium saw a new Morrissey, one I didn’t recognise; surly, diffident, rude, arrogant and genuinely miserable. Where was the joy, the panaché, the class? As Patrik Fitzgerald wrote ‘Don’t ask me to be your hero; I will only let you down’. And he had.

Hand on heart, I’d found the comeback albums a little turgid too. Perfectly listenable, but lacking the spark that he’d had even a decade before. I was pleased he was doing so well, delighted a new generation of schoolkids were going to find this incredible music that sounded as though someone had looked directly into their souls and beamed it out. But we were finished. I’d moved on.

So I walked into the Barrowlands as a lapsed member of the congregation. There with friends, few beers, do the review. But when he walked on-stage to a thundering welcome, well, there it was. That’s fucking Morrissey up there. It felt exactly like when I’d first seen him two decades ago. You don’t get that at MGMT gigs.

They open with a storming, rock version of ‘This Charming Man’ but the important thing is the voice. It’s a sensible move; a nod to the past while the lack of intricate guitar work plants you right in the future. This is a rock show, and Morrissey now fronts a rock band, no doubt about that. But if Johnny Marr isn’t here anyway, why try to replicate him? You are only going to end up with second best.

‘Billy Budd’ follows before an absolute monster of a version of ‘How Soon Is Now?’. Seriously, the old hall is shaking as this beast prowls around. Seymour Stein famously thought this song could be ‘Stairway to Heaven of the 80’s’. Here you hear why. It’s dazzling.

And, best of all, he’s in chipper mood. Joking, smiling, laughing and joy to behold, having fun. He’s witty, charming, urbane – Morrissey again. It’s great to see him back.

There a few choices for the hardcore – ‘I Keep Mine Hidden’ (the last Smiths song ever recorded, again you don’t need to be one of the Crane boys to figure that one out) ‘Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself’, ‘The Loop’ and a beautiful version of ‘Seasick, Yet Still Docked’. But it’s the Smiths classics that stand out – utterly rousing versions of ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Some Girls are Bigger than Others’ are recieved like returning war heroes.

And that’s a crux, in a way – when you hear them, you realise that he has songs in his back catalogue ten times as good as a lot of his new stuff. Still, it’s unfair to ask him to turn into a travelling nostalgia act, and some of the disciples who never left seem as taken with ‘First of the Gang to Die’ as they would have been with ‘There is a Light….’ so who am I to judge?

So while not a fully born again, I’m definitely taken back to the faith somewhat by tonight’s experience. Morrissey, that peculiarly, wonderfully English creation (for a creation he surely is) is as big a part of our culture as take-away food, drizzle and the BBC. He’s an institution, albeit an incredibly strange one, and I for one am glad he’s been a part of my life as I’m sure so many others are too.

Final anaylsis? This is a good show. 27 years in, you can’t ask for any more.

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6 Responses

  1. I went to see Morrissey once and fell asleep….as I said at the time I don’t particularly like his voice…and also I had a hangover from seeing Johnny Marr playing with the Cribs the night before…..but I totally understand why some people think he is a god. Though I like Johnny more!

  2. Great review. Having been there too, I concur with the honourable ELM. I may not be a massive fan of his later works, he is a definite force on stage. In fact, if I was one of those simperingly useless x factor judges, I would definitely say that he owned it. But I’m not, so I’ll just say he was fucking good.

  3. great review, ELM. My pal from work was at the gig, I’ll hear about it Monday.
    The man IS a genius, but how much would you pay for just ONE Smiths reunion song?
    Johnny Marr has done some ok stuff since, as has chairman Mos, but it’s nothing like the visceral thrill of The Mighty Smiths live. And they WERE a fucking awesome live proposition.
    Glad you liked it, though.
    Watching “Juno” just now, and realising what a spot-on pastiche Disaster Movie was.
    For some real musical thrills, try Desoto Rust (www.DeSotoRust.com) for a new -band- that -everyone-has-never-heard-thing. Trust me, it kicks the shit out of the “Juno” soundtrack which has all those Belle End and Sebastian wanks on.

  4. My first gig was The Smiths – awesome. I was tossed about like a nude book of course as I was only 14, but the bruises were worth it.

  5. Whippet – I’d genuinely pay silly money to see a Smiths re-union! Cheers for the tip, will check them out.

    Bert – early gig bruises – ah, the memories! I’m a bit Danny Glover now, I stay a safe distance back!

  6. Reunion tours , bag `o shite.
    They – and all others – have been and gone ; remember them through what they did when they were meaningful and vital…………..didnt you lot learn anything from Spinal Tap !

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