Romanian version: here.
When I saw Morrissey last November at The O2, in London, not only was I naive enough to think and even fear it could be his farewell concert (“Remember me but forget my fate”, “there is a better world, well there must be”, “bye”, etc.), but I was also oblivious to this whole world pulsing around a Morrissey concert. His bravest and most devoted followers dedicate significant time, finance and energy to travel for miles, spend their time between flights, trains and cars, cities and countries, camp outside the venue many hours before doors open, or from dawn, or the night before or even 24 hours prior. What may seem completely unthinkable to some, to them is a way of life. I myself would have found such devotion hard to believe had I not been there among them to witness it all.
London’s iconic 1932 Hammersmith Apollo was host to Morrissey on the 20th and 21st of September for his supposedly final UK shows. Morrissey made the unexpected announcement just before the European leg of his 2015 tour kicked off and justified his decision by the baffling disinterest from British record labels despite them having enough material to record as much as three albums “immediately, very easily” and despite continuous touring (except the 2014 cancellations due to illness) these last years; concerts are scheduled until December in South America and confirmation is due for… yes, the Middle East. It’s not as if Morrissey needs a new record (or an official website or huge advertising investments for that matter) to play sold out venues anywhere around the globe! He is still increasingly successful 33 years after The Smiths came into prominence in bleak Manchester. Besides, nobody really seems to believe he is not going to have a change of heart. It may not be a question of “if” but “when”. There is no way of knowing whether the (in)famous announcement has anything to do with the setlist focussing less on his latest record, World Peace Is None of Your Business (released in July 2014). This being Morrissey, most likely it didn’t. The audience however seems quite happy with the 7 songs from World Peace on the first night, and as few as 5 on the second although they are not necessarily complemented with more songs from the The Smiths era; on the contrary. What She Said, The Queen Is Dead and the ever-present and devastating Meat Is Murder round up the magic number 3. Suedehead, Speedway and Everyday Is Like Sunday are guaranteed to make the crowd uncontrollably euphoric each and every time while the absence of There Is a Light That Never Goes Out from the setlist since… 2012 should be one of the biggest mysteries yet to be solved! Too bad, because it would have fitted the setlist perfectly following the power outage on the first night, which, of course, must be a Royal Family member’s doing. Trust Morrissey, he knows about these things. Several B-sides and the second night’s biggest surprise, Boxers (1995 World of Morrissey single that was last played 15 years ago in Brazil) complete the two magic nights beautifully. Everyone I spoke to at the end said they liked the second gig better and I can only agree; mostly because I was lucky enough to hear precisely the two songs I most wanted: Will Never Marry and My Dearest Love, in that order even. Then the dramatically touching, always-a-winner Now My Heart Is Full comes on. Not to mention the rather short and sweet cover of Elvis Presley’s 1965 song, You’ll Be Gone which is likely to become everyone’s new favourite song at Morrissey gigs. Should this prove to really be Morrissey’s parting with his native Britain, then his final call to stage is sure to linger on our minds for a long time. The light does not go out. Not now. Not here.
Until recently, the very popular Speedway used to be suddenly paused half-way through only to leave Morrissey singing an excerpt from a different, totally unexpected song in the dark a cappella; the snippet used to be a surprise (and I’ve often wondered if band members were taken by surprise too) and sometimes locally relevant. The mise–en–scène saw quite a change with the Sydney series in May 2015, and we have been since presented with sudden personnel rotation behind instruments as multi-instrumentalist Gustavo Manzur takes Morrissey’s place behind the microphone and finishes the song in Spanish, to the crowd’s utter delight.
The pre-show video made up of Morrissey’ personal selection of music, film, poetry, and dance features now includes a few new segments as compared to last year’s (among them are The Apex Theory, Leo Sayer – ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! – and Ike and Tina Turner). Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find the exact selection screened in London but here is a selection of pre-show videos presented over the years to satisfy your curiosity.
Morrissey and his band entering the stage before the roaring and delirious crowd must be among the most powerful moments. One always perceives and experiences these things in a new different way amidst them; this grizzled fifty-plus and clumsy yet inherently elegant man who is often referred to as „miserable crooner” by „lazy” journalists, wearing his simple shirt, seemingly two-size too large jeans, and massive colourful jewellery, his deep blue eyes that always seem to maintain their poignant trace of sadness (blue eyes that are so blue) who, hadn’t his name been Morrissey, would probably have gone unnoticed to some in the crowd, oozes such charm and unknowingly takes you under his spell in a completely unexpected way. Nothing can prepare you for this. There is no one else quite like Moz.
The same as last year, I can’t help but notice the heartening wide range of ages in the audience, from 10-11-year-olds brought by their dads to the very nice 60-ish couple, in the Tube on the way back home. Moz followers’ average age apparently continues to fall. Also I have never seen anyone receiving so many gifts and letters (while on stage!) – if any – from the front rows and rarely have I seen one who is loved with so much devotion, courage and honesty. These are beautiful, generous, kind people welcoming you among them and making you feel at home, wherever that is. Morrissey can do no wrong in their eyes. How could he when all he does in fact is spread “so much love in a loveless world”…?
As my few London days come to an end, the message that Morrissey left on everybody’s lips – „Our UK days conclude but there is no need for me to say goodbye because we will be close for the rest of our days” now has a whole new personal meaning.
So, „I’m writing this to say in a gentle way… Thank you but… yes!”
Morrissey is currently on a European tour and is scheduled to play Bucharest, Sala Palatului, on 14 October. Ticket prices range from RON 120 to 260 and are available for purchase online on eventim.ro and from their affiliated shop network.
Morrissey and band played:
|20 September||21 September|
|Suedehead||You’ll Be Gone (Elvis Cover)|
|Alma Matters||Let The Right One Slip In|
|Staircase at the University||Ganglord|
|Kiss Me A Lot||Boxers|
|World Peace Is None of Your Business||World Peace Is None of Your Business|
|I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris||Kiss Me A Lot|
|Istanbul||Staircase at the University|
|The World Is Full of Crashing Bores||Alma Matters|
|I’m Not a Man||Will Never Marry|
|The Bullfighter Dies||My Dearest Love|
|Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed||The Bullfighter Dies|
|Yes, I Am Blind||The World Is Full of Crashing Bores|
|Oboe Concerto||Meat Is Murder (The Smiths)|
|I Will See You In Far Off Places||Now My Heart Is Full|
|Meat Is Murder (The Smiths)||Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed|
|You’ll Be Gone (Elvis Cover)||I Will See You In Far Off Places|
|Everyday Is Like Sunday||Everyday Is Like Sunday|
|What She Said (The Smiths)||The Queen Is Dead (The Smiths)|
Photo cover credits: Christèle Mercier