Morrissey is a man never far from the headlines. At least this year some of them have been for his music, thanks to the well-received World Peace Is None Of Your Business released a few months ago. In truth though many came not just to hear recent songs but also had fingers crossed that some of his older tracks, both solo and with The Smiths, might be played at last.
Anna Calvi played support, eschewing subtlety in the cavernous venue, treating early arrivals to songs like Eliza, Blackout and Desire, evoking not only have the often compared PJ Harvey but also Siouxsie Sioux. A powerful rendition of Love Won’t Be Leaving proved the standout, Calvi truly inhabits this song as her powerhouse guitar pyrotechnics are ably supported by her band.
After a series of video clips, including one of Morrissey’s own songs (The Bullfighter Dies), Morrissey arrived to a still of the Queen of England with upraised fingers. Launching into The Queen Is Dead, the imagery continued with images of Will & Kate captioned United King-dumb, as his band, wearing F**k Harvest Records t-shirts gave able support. Subtle it was not. However the music just about measured up, delivering fine renditions of Suedehead, Istanbul and I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Boz Boorer playing weedy trumpet on the latter.
But the night was at its best on the slower tracks. The exhumed, long forgotten by most Yes, I Am Blind was delivered with emotion, with Boorer providing acoustic guitar. However these moments when the intensity dropped were not appreciated by all, many choosing to chatter through sensitive renditions of Smiler With Knife and Mountjoy. The night culminated with what has almost become his signature song – Meat Is Murder. An intense version of an already intense song was made more visceral by the accompanying film of animal cruelty. Again, not a subtle message, but a somewhat effective one. The set ended with Speedway, which overcame a decidedly strange interlude to culminate in the drummer literally smashing his drums all over the stage.
An encore of Asleep left not a dry eye amongst the hardcore, while Everyday Is Like Sunday was a celebratory ending. If it felt like a lap of honour that maybe that’s because it was. Although at times in danger of drowning in his own (self) references, the concert wont have pleased everyone but it was never supposed to. Anachronistic, self-pitying and controversial, Morrissey is never dull and who knows what’s in store for him next?