The last time State witnessed Morrissey in action was on the far side of the country, when he graced the stage of Galway’s Leisureland complex earlier this year. A Dublin date was not part of the tour schedule then but it was inevitable that he’d return at some point to make up for it. And so tonight we find ourselves in the National Stadium, a venue he’s well acquainted with. Looking at the crowd as they walk through the doors, there’s the usual assembly of staunch devotees sporting quiffs and thick-rimmed glasses; but what’s really striking is the contrasting age groups of the concertgoers. Morrissey’s enduring popularity is glaringly evident when you see a sizeable contingent of teenagers and twenty-somethings mingling amongst the old campaigners clad in faded Smiths t-shirts.
Once again the opening slot is filled by Doll & the Kicks, who’s humdrum indie stylings failed to make much of an impression on the Galway crowd some months back. This time, though, they’re making more of an impact and they sound much improved but you still get the feeling they’re more concerned with style than they are with substance. On their departure the audience is treated to a series of video projections, including an interview with Lou Reed dating from the 1970’s, as well as music videos from Shocking Blue and the New York Dolls. Even Joe Dolan gets a look in and in a somewhat surreal moment the auditorium echoes to voices singing along to ‘Good Looking Woman’.
Soon enough the screen is whipped away from the stage front and ol’ Moz makes his entrance. ‘Goodnight Baile Atha Cliath, we are here!’ he announces as his band launches into a punked-up version of ‘This Charming Man’. That’s the first and last Smiths number to be heard for some time, as he follows up with stalwarts from his solo career, including ‘When I Last Spoke to Carol’ and ‘I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris’. Then there’s a quick return to the Smiths catalogue for a rendition of ‘Ask’. The crowd are loving it, holding their arms high in the air as they sing along. ‘Ganglord’ gets an airing soon after before the audience cheers in anticipation as the band strikes-up the intro to ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’.
Behind it all it’s obvious Morrissey is not approaching tonight’s performance at full tilt. He’s not moving about with his usual gait, even preferring the uncharacteristic use of a mic stand towards the end of the show. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since the exertions of touring lead to him collapsing on stage recently. Still, it doesn’t prevent him from delivering fantastic versions of ‘How Soon is Now’, ‘Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice’ and ‘I’m OK by Myself’. It hasn’t affected his humour either as he finds time to aim a snipe at Johnny Logan’s participation in a certain fast food chain’s TV ads, saying that ‘this world is full of crashing bores’ before tearing into the song of that name.
As he returns for his encore, Morrissey reminds everyone of his family connections with the city and finishes up by telling his fans they’ve been, ‘feckin’ lovely!’ After signing-off with ‘Something is Squeezing My Skull’ he flings his shirt into the crowd, where it’s promptly set-upon by a group of frantic die-hards. Tonight’s concert may not have been performed with the vim and vigor we’ve come to expect from him but there’s no denying that, despite this, Morrissey can still put on a show to match the best of them, the old trooper.