Morrissey, playing the 3arena on a miserable, cold, wet, wintry Monday Evening. Some headlines write themselves… digression aside, Morrissey is standing right in front of us in what looks like a shell-suit top with a green stripe and a pair of jeans…Sporty Casual, but somehow carries it off. He is angry but also seems sad. Maybe sad is the wrong word. Perhaps just a little withdrawn, or perhaps it is weariness from his unending campaign against meat-eaters, perhaps it is all the mystery and controversy surrounding the is-he or isn’t-he nature of comments he made to an Italian magazine about his health. Perhaps it is his advancing years or yet another unsavoury experience with a record label. But what of the music, opening with ‘The Queen is Dead’ and ‘Suedehead’ followed by ‘Staircase At The University’ and ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’ it is clear from the outset that this is going to be one of his good nights. The band are on form and Morrissey’s vocals sound powerful, assured and rich; the best he has sounded in years.
The emphasis tonight is squarely on tracks from World Peace Is None Of Your Business; the album which Morrissey quips you might just find “if you have a degree in Anthropology or a spade and are good at digging” with no less than 9 tracks throughout the set. And just in case anybody missed the point, the band members wear t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “fuck harvest records”. The tracks he plays sound much better live, owing just as much to his delivery as the occasion. But tonight they positively come alive. The drums are pounding, the guitars razor sharp, its a heady concoction with Morrissey standing resolutely by the album.
‘Meat is murder’ arrives at the midpoint of the set, and it doesn’t disappoint, it unsettles. The backdrop being the documentary From Farm to Fridge showing scenes so harrowing and unflinching that many can be glad for the first time tonight that some people are partially blocking their view. By the end of the song the audience claps uncomfortably, unsure exactly how to react to what they have just seen and heard.
Towards the end of the set, the band launch into ‘Speedway’, with Morrissey spitting out lines and whipping the microphone cord viciously, when suddenly the song stops and the lights go down. He segues into ‘I didn’t know what to do’, a Gilbert O’Sullivan cover, in near darkness complete with barrelhouse piano. It is beguiling, surreal and you can’t take your eyes off it. Then as the song finishes, Morrissey cryptically wishes someone a happy birthday and the band go straight back into ‘Speedway’, picking up exactly where they left off.
Some audience members are overheard complaining about the setlist not having enough big songs and while some inclusions are strange, we get to hear ‘Yes I Am Blind’, a moving version of ‘Mountjoy’ sung in part to a giant image of Brendan Behan on the big screen and a version of The Smiths’ song ‘Asleep’, all of which are so heavy with pathos and feeling, that it might just crush us all with the sheer emotional weight of it.
Finishing with a rousing singalong of ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ we are left wanting more. But will we get any more? No record deal, no more gigs booked, rumours of him writing a novel. Who knows? All we know according to the man himself is that he is “very grateful for everything….and that’s that”.