People sure love Morrissey don’t they? Despite the seated format, the stage was cushioned by a throbbing ring of dedicated fans from the moment doors opened, showering Morrissey with flowers and adoration as he stepped onstage.
For these dedicated fans Moz inspires an almost religious devotion, and there was certainly something Pope-like about the way he graciously grasped at the outreached hands of his followers.
A brisk opening run included career-spanning cuts like Suedehead, Alma Matters, How Soon Is Now and Speedway, the latter featuring an amusing band-wide instrument swap that left Morrissey hidden up the back corner on tambourine while keyboardist Gustavo Manzur handled lead vocals.
Many middle-aged rock acts throw in a moment of mid-set political statement by playing to a montage of provocative black and white images of social unrest and injustice. Few are quite as dedicated to it as Morrissey, however, with 2006 B-side Ganglord backed by a procession of completely uncensored footage of police shootings and beatings of both humans and animals. It’s confronting stuff, even if such imagery is now a depressingly regular sight on the news.
Later Morrissey goes one step further when Meat Is Murder is backed by a compilation of every horrific animal slaughter video your one militant vegan Facebook friend has ever shared. But unlike Troy from your yoga class, Morrissey has at his disposal a stage, giant screen emblazoned with the words “What’s your excuse now?!” and a bloke with a massive gong to really drive the point home. Once you’ve seen the nineteenth or twentieth cow be whisked off to “bovine university” in the most gruesome fashion imaginable, you can’t really fault him for using his platform to effect a bit of change.
But it’s fitting – after all, Morrissey is in many ways an ahead-of-his-time embodiment of that Facebook friend. You know, the one who dances a line between strangely compelling over-sharing and frustratingly opaque vague-booking. The one whose posts you want to ‘like’ but fear it might be misconstrued as a slight. He might even chuck in a few uncomfortable remarks every now and again.
He was, however, in fine voice throughout the night, his distinctive warble as emotive and deliriously melodic as ever. The band were tight, with longtime guitarist and crowd favourite Boz Boorer working through what seemed like a different guitar for every song of the set, each vintage axe more elaborate than the last.
The set was peppered with newer tunes from last year’s World Peace Is None Of Your Business, from the title track to a stinging rebuke to the “shame of Spain”, The Bullfighter Dies. The trio of older Smiths classics were a fleeting treat, including lone encore What She Said.
The theatre-full of fans would have preferred him to stay all night, of course, but like any good disciple they’d have to make do with their unwaivering faith in His eventual return.
Morrissey performed at the Thebarton Theatre on Wednesday, October 26.
Photos: Andreas Heuer