Morrissey @O2: A Poignant Farewell to the Fans?

Moz O2

“All I ask, is remember me and forget my fate,” intoned Morrissey as he emerged on stage for his encore at the packed O2 Arena in London last night. This quote from “Dido’s Lament”, a staple of funerals seems poignant in the light of the star’s recent cancer treatment, especially as he immediately launched into a rare rendition of “Asleep”.

“There is another world, there is a better world. Well, there must be…”

The tone of this event was very different from the last time we saw Morrissey at the Manchester Arena in July 2012. That was a joyous affair, resplendent with comedy miserableness; the audience cheerfully singing along to “You’re The One for Me Fatty” and Moz giving off the air of an indulgent chocolate Labrador lying on his back and letting the fans tickle his tummy.

This gig was a whole lot more sombre.

The set opened with old favourites “The Queen is Dead” and “Suedehead”. There was a Photoshopped version of the Queen on the big screen at the back of the stage, the band was decked out in “Fuck Harvest Records” t-shirts and Morrissey leapt in with his usual array of digs and tirades. “That was a track from our last CD album, which was immediately deleted by a very clever record label…” Yet at times he looked genuinely pained and appeared to lack the playfulness that usually characterises these performances.

Dressed in what looked like a medical jumpsuit, the majority of tracks were from his current album “World Peace is None of Your Business” – these were not crowd pleasers. “Trouble Loves Me” from the 1998 album “Maladjusted” was a high spot and interestingly, at nearly 30, “Meat is Murder” received a brand new makeover. This time round the lengthy abattoir clips intro – which was extended further in 2012 – had been sliced right back to ram more emphasis into the words, whilst the piece ended with a seven-minute film of shockingly cruel animal deaths.

The contrast to Johnny Marr’s Brixton Academy gig in October could not have been starker. Marr may not have the voice or personality of Morrissey, but he was bursting with enthusiasm as he belted out a full six Smiths tracks and mischievously sported a “Johnny Fuckin Marr” t-shirt. This year both former bandmates have, in markedly different ways, managed to funnel new meaning and life into already exceptional songs. Secretly we were hoping for a few crossover tracks to fuel our geeky interests, but there were none; and whilst Johnny is passionately enjoying a real renaissance in his life and career, Morrissey sadly appears to be more angry and lonely than ever before.

Of course Mozzy was still every bit the fantastic performer he always is. There is no need to eulogise on his beautiful voice and incredible ability to command emotion in a 20,000 capacity venue. His use of prose and verbal manipulation never ceases to astound, and between this event and the lyrical mastery exhibited in his 160,000 word autobiography, our anticipation for his novel only increased.

Moz 2

It is little wonder that as he launched into the final song “Every Day is Like Sunday” the crowd went wild. He had by now, of course, changed into his easy-rip blue shirt, and as he pulled it to pieces, flinging scraps into the screaming throng below, there was a glimpse of his old much-loved fun and verve that we had all been aching to see.

We were played out to the heart wrenching tones of “Dido’s Lament”…

First published on Searchlight Magazine Arts…

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