MOR­RIS­SEY

Mus­cu­lar but un­even show de­lights and dis­mays the Moz faith­ful.

Q (UK) - - Contents - DAVE EVER­LEY

Moz puts backs up in Glas­gow with a re­li­ably con­tro­ver­sial per­for­mance.

MOR­RIS­SEY SSE HY­DRO, GLAS­GOW SATUR­DAY, 17 FE­BRU­ARY, 2018

It takes Mor­ris­sey roughly 45 min­utes tonight to open his mouth and say some­thing that up­sets peo­ple. It comes mo­ments be­fore he and his band launch into the test­ing slog of World Peace Is None Of Your Busi­ness, the ti­tle track of one of his less lov­able solo al­bums. “I am cu­ri­ous to ask you a ques­tion,” he coyly asks sev­eral thou­sand Glaswe­gians, bathed in the light of sev­eral il­lu­mi­nated school badges that hang above his head. “Do you ac­tu­ally like Nicola Stur­geon?” The re­sponse – a mix of cheers and boos, equally vo­cif­er­ous – in­di­cates the sub­ject of Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence is still a thorny one here in a city that voted em­phat­i­cally in favour of break­ing away from the UK. He ploughs on re­gard­less. “Those hands would be in any­body’s pock­ets,” he says, a ref­er­ence to the First Min­is­ter’s plans for a tax hike. By his re­cent stan­dards, it’s soft­ball stuff. It’s cer­tainly not in the same league as de­fend­ing Kevin Spacey from ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or call­ing the Chi­nese “a sub­species”. Still, his words – si­mul­ta­ne­ously teas­ing and provoca­tive – aren’t nec­es­sar­ily well re­ceived by ev­ery­one here. Ac­cord­ing to a dra­matic re­port in one lo­cal news­pa­per the next day, the jibe prompts an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of “fu­ri­ous con­cert go­ers” to storm out in dis­gust, a story picked up and run with by sev­eral national news out­lets. From Q’s van­tage point in the up­per tier, this ex­o­dus of the disgruntled is barely no­tice­able. While empty seats and cur­tained-off sec­tions in the up­per lev­els sug­gest a less than full house, there are more than enough peo­ple to pa­per over the cracks left by the walk-out. It does beg a big­ger ques­tion: what kind of Mor­ris­sey fan doesn’t ex­pect to be dis­mayed or of­fended by some­thing he says? Putting up with his mas­ter’s procla­ma­tions is all part of the job.

But what was once au­da­cious (call­ing for the Royal Fam­ily to be hanged, com­par­ing meat-eat­ing to child abuse) now tends to­wards the re­ac­tionary. Of course, you can level many ac­cu­sa­tions at Mor­ris­sey, but ig­no­rance of the con­se­quences of his ac­tion isn’t one of them. Call­ing his var­i­ous ut­ter­ances cal­cu­lated is stretch­ing it, but they have cer­tainly kept him in the con­ver­sa­tion in a way that his mu­sic hasn’t for a long time. Iron­i­cally, he ap­pears to have re­lo­cated his muse re­cently. Last year’s Low In High School was his best al­bum in over a decade, and it is rep­re­sented by eight tracks in the setlist. He’s cer­tainly pleased with the re­cep­tion it re­ceived here. “When we re­leased our re­cent LP,” he says mid­way through the show, ever the ana­logue man in a dig­i­tal world, “the coun­try through­out the world that gave it the high­est chart po­si­tion was… Scot­land!” He makes it sound like ev­ery­one else is crim­i­nally un­der-ap­pre­ci­at­ing him, but he’s fool­ing no one. Mor­ris­sey knows his own worth more than most other artists. This could ex­plain the de­ci­sion to forgo a sup­port act on this tour, in­stead opt­ing to open with a 30- minute film pro­jected onto a giant screen hang­ing in front of the stage. The footage con­sists of vin­tage videos from Moz-ap­proved artists, rang­ing from the ob­vi­ous (New York Dolls, Ra­mones, Dionne Warwick) to the droll (Rus­sian faux-school­girl duo t.a.T.u’s he­lium-voiced up­date of The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now). Were it not for the brief snip­pet of per­for­mance artist David Hoyle, it could be an im­pec­ca­bly pro­grammed episode of Top Of The Pops 2. But it also serves a big­ger pur­pose: to en­sure there’s no chance of the main at­trac­tion be­ing up­staged. Now more than ever, Mor­ris­sey seems to ex­ist in his own sealed-off world, like an age­ing opera diva or para­noid bil­lion­aire. Threats to his great­ness, real or imag­ined, have been shut down. Which is odd, be­cause he re­mains a mag­netic live per­former. What­ever health prob­lems have plagued him in re­cent years, prompt­ing the can­cel­la­tion of nu­mer­ous gigs, have seem­ingly been van­quished. He stalks the stage rest­lessly, a bar­rel-chested fla­menco dancer whip­ping shapes from his mi­cro­phone lead while his band – silent, static, clad in uni­form white T-shirts read­ing, “No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care” – lurk obe­di­ently sev­eral feet be­hind him.

His voice sounds fan­tas­tic, too, sweep­ing ef­fort­lessly from Mu­nich Air Dis­as­ter 1958’ s torch singer croon to the ejac­u­la­tory yelps that punc­tu­ate Spent The Day In Bed. That song is a high­light of the new al­bum, and of tonight’s show too, a glo­ri­ously jaunty cel­e­bra­tion of 21st- cen­tury en­nui. It also acts as a mis­di­rec­tion for the song that fol­lows it, a bru­tal The Bull­fighter Dies, whose mes­sage is ham­mered home by some on-the-nose

footage of mata­dors be­ing gored on the screen at the back of the stage. The set fol­lows the same broad arc as his solo ca­reer: mo­ments of glory peppered by pe­ri­ods of drudgery. In the former cor­ner are Suede­head, dis­patched early and still sound­ing fan­tas­tic, and a charged Speed­way, a song that en­cap­su­lates the mix of de­fi­ance and vic­tim­hood that de­fines the man who wrote it. Another new song, When You Open Your Legs, is a long, fab­u­lous swoon, while a cover of The Pre­tenders’ Back On The Chain Gang is un­ex­pected but wel­come. The less sparkling mo­ments are in the mi­nor­ity, but there’s no es­cap­ing them. On record, Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage is trim and waspish; here it’s ground out with grim de­ter­mi­na­tion. I Bury The Liv­ing is even harder work: an anti-mil­i­tary screed so joy­less that it ac­tu­ally makes you want to sign up for the army. The lat­ter is ac­com­pa­nied by an image of the orig­i­nal, un­doc­tored photo that ap­peared on the cover of Meat Is Mur­der. It’s a rare call­back to his former band. Just two Smiths songs are aired tonight, I Started Some­thing I Couldn’t Fin­ish and How Soon Is Now. Both have been re­cal­i­brated to bring them in line with Mor­ris­sey’s lat­ter-day solo ca­reer: the play­ful snap of the former is re­placed by boom­ing per­cus­sion; the lat­ter adds a metal­lic edge to the orig­i­nal’s riff and con­cludes with a crash of the huge gong that hangs at the back of the stage. Still, it’s not as star­tling as the cur­rent ver­sion of Ev­ery­day Is Like Sun­day. A song that once gazed wist­fully out of the bed­room win­dow of life now sounds like it spends its week­ends bench-press­ing 250lbs down the gym. The whiff of in­del­i­cacy that sur­rounds it is a re­minder that one of the big­gest is­sues Mor­ris­sey faces in 2018 is that he used to be Mor­ris­sey. But that Boy-King is long gone, con­signed to yel­low­ing mag­a­zines and episodes of TOTP2. As if to stamp out any re­main­ing doubts, he con­cludes the night’s sole en­core, a ram­pant Ir­ish Blood, English Heart, by whip­ping off his top to re­veal a physique that’s more great oak than youth­ful sapling. It’s one fi­nal piece of the­atre from a man who has long known the value of drama.

THE SET FOL­LOWS THE SAME BROAD ARC AS HIS SOLO CA­REER: MO­MENTS OF GLORY PEPPERED BY PE­RI­ODS OF DRUDGERY.

Hit the North: (clock­wise from be­low) Mor­ris­sey with his band in their No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care T-shirts; Moz reaches out to fans per­haps dis­pleased by his Nicola Stur­geon com­ments; the gong show – Mor­ris­sey “re­mains a mag­netic per­former.”

“Scot­land, are you ready to be mildly of­fended?!”: the SSE Hy­dro, Glas­gow.

Mor­ris­sey thrills, then up­sets, the Glas­gow faith­ful (p98).

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