Mexrrissey: Mexico Goes Morrissey at the Barbican
As the Ladysmith Black Mambazo song says, “music knows no boundaries”. Still, it may come as a surprise to many to learn that Morrissey has a large and passionately devoted following in Mexico. Camilo Lara, the producer and remixer responsible for assembling the blend of alternative and traditional musicians that comprise Mexrrissey, puts the attraction down to “The Pope of Mope” and his mastery of melodrama: “Mexico is a very melodramatic country”, he says.
At once both grand of scale and tightly intimate, the Barbican’s main hall provides the perfect space for the collective’s debut on their idol’s shores, and for a mutual love of Morrissey to be explored with an enthusiastic sell-out crowd. For their part, that crowd are firmly onboard from the moment a piercing mariachi trumpet heralds the start of opener El Primero Del Gang (The First of the Gang to Die).
The set list is drawn from Morrissey’s greatest solo hits and those of The Smiths (with Johnny Marr perhaps not getting the credit he deserves amid all the Moz-centric hero worship), all diligently translated into Spanish. For the shamefully unilingual, there’s a certain amount of fun to be had in anticipating which of the canon’s idiosyncratic titles appears next on the “menu” presented to each in the audience. The concept transcends that of the novelty album however, thanks to the strength and depth of musical talent on display.
While all is richly coloured with the authentic folk sounds of Alejandro Flores’ violin and Alex Escobar’s trumpet, the band has a contemporary backbone. Chetes and Jay De La Cueva share rock frontman duties, and Lara himself lends electronic beats and samples, which come to the fore during the spikier reimaginings such as Cada Dia Es Domigo (Everyday Is Like Sunday). Keyboardist Ceci Bastida is given responsibility for lead vocals on that number and International Playgirl, which she makes her own through a rendition worthy of the biggest Latina vocal stars during which she rouses the crowd to their feet. On their feet they remain, for mass joyous dancing through Panico, El Boca (Big Mouth Strikes Again), and an encore that provides both a pared-back, traditional version of Mexican pop classic La Bamba before closing with a triumphantly upbeat El Hijo Soy (How Soon Is Now?). It’s a fitting way to end a unique and vital celebration of the unifying power of music.
Mexrrissey: Mexico Goes Morrissey was a one-off event at the Barbican, for further information about future events visit here.