by Kirsten Robertson
Morrissey, despite his continued success since The Smiths disbanded, suffers from a common problem that former band members face.
People forget that he is now just Morrissey.
The Smiths were active for five years between 1982 and 1987 and Morrissey has been working on his solo material for four times longer than that. Morrissey’s show in Glasgow was impressive but it was hard to ignore the blank faces of people who were increasingly peeved as Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now or other Smiths hits didn’t appear on the set-list. A group of young girls behind me decided after song three that their phones were more interesting than what the performance. But for the rest, who were aware that Morrissey has gone in a rather different direction since his Smith days, it was just what was to be expected.
The Hydro was exclusively serving vegan food at the artist’s request. Prior to the performance opera music was playing throughout the venue – perhaps also Morrissey’s decision. It was slightly odd to see (mostly) middle aged folk with their retro shirts and leather jackets chugging beer to the sounds of opera music. I watched the people, and tried to work out if the man in front of me was Robbie Coltrane, googling photos covertly to see. I am still undecided, but I like to think that Hagrid is definitely a Morrissey fan.
Rather than a support act, there was a video shown before the performance. It featured a variety of clips in a seemingly random order; The Human League, Dionne Warwick, The Sex Pistols, all were featured. Cut between them was a speech with Germaine Greer and a scene from Frankenstein. It even featured Russian band Tatu performing their cover of The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now. It was an interesting way to get the crowd hyped, and I heard one person loudly exclaim, “This is a journey through Morrissey’s own life, through music and TV! Right?” I pondered this, and decided the theory was confirmed when PETA protests were showed at length. These were all indeed things that influenced a young Morrissey, and created his diverse views. You can see he took his inspiration from everywhere and was not privy to learning from all types of music.
The video abruptly stopped and down fell a curtain to reveal a band in white t shirts, and Morrissey striding towards the microphone in a white button down shirt. With a fair amount of buttons undone, in true Morrissey fashion. “I am proud to be here.” he announced before launching into a cover of You’ll Be Gone by Elvis Presley. He was more than at home on stage, moving his hips in Morrissey style and flicking and flourishing his microphone wire like a whip. During Who Will Protect Us From The Police he picked up his mic stand, pointing it like a gun across the audience.
Morrissey’s new album is charged with the same social commentary The Smiths subtly inserted into their poppy hits. This was increased by footage shown alongside a handful of songs. During Munich Air Disaster 1958 (exploring the horrific crash that killed 21 people, including members of the Manchester United football team) there was footage of the team scoring goals, celebrating on pitch before a black screen with the deceased names. Through Who Will Protect Us From The Police, there was footage of the police brutality during the Catalan referendum this summer. Each song was thought provoking in its own right.
However, when Morrissey addressed politics directly, asking the crowd “I am curious… do you actually like Nicola Sturgeon?” he was met with a rather awkward reaction. Both boos and cheers replied to his question, as well as a blatant silence from many people that indicated “we don’t want to go here, not tonight thanks.” Morrissey surveyed the reaction before shaking his head and saying (to the highest voting Yes city in the country) “those hands would be in anyone’s pockets…” Some people walked out at his opinion, voicing their views on Twitter.
How to lose half your audience?
Come to Glasgow and ask “do any of you actually like Nicola Sturgeon?”
Well played #Morrissey
I waited 26 years to see him (Glasto 1992). Currently struggling to separate the art from the politics.
— Willie Elliot (@WilliePSPC) February 17, 2018
Morrissey is very much known for being a controversial singer, and it is not surprising he was outspoken here through his views on veganism and politics. In response to the 2011 Norway attacks where Andres Behring Breivik murdered 77 people Morrissey said “That is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried shit every day.”
He has a collection of tirades against the government and Margaret Thatcher, such as 1984’s quote “The sorrow of the IRA Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unescaped.” Even Michael Buble, perhaps the most harmless singer in the world was branded “famous and meaningless.” His anti capitalist stance is ironic, seeing as tickets went for between £50 and £72 for the concert.
Near the end of the gig Morrissey did not seem to lose any of his energy – and the audience regained their lack of energy as two Smiths’ hits were finally unearthed; How Soon is Now and I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish.
Overall, it was a fine gig. If you distance yourself from the off stage antics of Morrissey, it is easy to enjoy his new music. The country where it sold the most copies was in fact Scotland. Spent The Day In Bed was my favourite performance as well as Jackie is Only Happy When She’s on the Stage – both these highlighted the almost poetic lyrics Morrissey can bring to life on stage.
3 out of 5