Morrissey at Alexandra Palace
Legendary Smiths frontman appears onstage to rapturous applause, with social critic James Baldwin’s backdrop setting the scene, Morrissey in a deep V-neck shirt. The 10,250-capacity venue is filled to its brim, the most avid fans at the front row, bequiffed, swinging gladioli and homemade love letters, one even with hearing aids, a reference to Bigmouth Strikes Again. A bold start to the set, the Mancunian icon covers Elvis Presley’s You’ll Be Gone, with panache, his voice perfectly befitting the Latin style.
I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish – from The Smiths’ final album, Strangeways Here We Come – follows, and the background of a cat listening to Morrissey with earpods is an endearing accompaniment. Going into his most recent album, Low in High School, I Wish You Lonely consists of the elements closest to the singer’s heart and concerns: animal cruelty, monarchy and “romances gone wrong”. Visiting 1992’s Your Arsenal, Glamorous Glue is a surprising track, but delivered with the frontman’s usual vigour, while politically rife Who Will Protect Us from the Police makes his feelings for free speech clear, relevant to today’s social media platforms. The first real highlight of the show, however, is How Soon Is Now, a known hit with the audience; Morrissey kindly taking flowers from a fan, the thrumming bass and electric guitars charging the atmosphere, fuelling everyone; the outro is truly something to behold, flashing white lights reflecting the drum, every beat exhilarating. “Servitude, slavery, slaughter, Spain” are the precursors to The Bullfighter Dies, graphic scenes displaying mauled bulls and matador, from his European tour film.
A great tribute to The Pretenders, Back on the Chain Gang, really lifts the Alexandra Palace’s spirits after some of the more morose songs, proving his strength lies in tunes that are instrumentally if not lyrically optimistic. With World Peace Is None of Your Business, the singer briefly makes a comment on free speech, against a setting of a black child with “rise up” written on his palms. With crowd pleaser Everyday Is Like Sunday, from 1988’s Viva Hate, the atmosphere peaks, contagious with a sense of togetherness. But as this tour is promoting his latest album, Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage follows, seeming to be a reference to Morrissey himself, the intro akin to Disappointed, but musically not as much a standout.
The singer stridently covers The Ramones’s Judy Is a Punk for the encore, much like the original, frenzied and furious, while Irish Blood English Heart is the political finale to an admirable and solid performance. A longer set including more Smiths tracks certainly would have been appreciated, along with Suedehead which was played in the London shows recently. If tonight proved anything, it was that Morrissey’s strength surely lies in earlier work circa the 1990s, but that the celebrated performer still remains true to himself, whether it be advocating animal rights or his take on free speech, and tonight’s performance was undoubtedly an electrifying one.
Photos: Selina Begum
For further information and future events visit Morrissey’s website here.
Watch the video for I Spend the Day in Bed here: