Morrissey - Royal Albert Hall
Who'd be Morrissey? From the outside, it must look like this is a former star who is clinging desperately on to the last frayed fragments of stardom. Ask almost anyone in the street about Morrissey and you'll get a response asking if you mean "that depressing bloke who had a bunch of flowers stuck up his a**e?". He's been without a record contract for over four years and, if rumours are to be believed, he spends most of his time holed up in his LA hideaway, which just happens to be the house that Clark Gable had built for Carole Lombard. In his spare time, again according to the rumours, he hounds local record executives about giving him a new deal.
So - all washed up then? Not if you ask any members of the audience here at the first of two sold out nights at the Albert Hall. The two shows sold out within 24 hours, so maybe the lack of new releases hasn't diminished the adoration in which his fans hold him. This certainly seems to be the case when he opens the show with The Smiths' "I Want The One I Can't Have". Grown men who really should know better rush towards the stage and the air is filled with waving gladioli.
Even though the years have passed (he is 43 now), Morrissey hasn't forgotten a thing about how to please his audience. "Hello, Kensington. We've come to give you a good thrashing," is his opening salvo. He gyrates his hips, feigns boredom and admires his fingernails, flings himself to the floor whilst singing. Every member of the crowd will have seen this before, but every single one of them laps it up fervently. There are even new songs to be aired. In the absence of a record deal, Morrissey is keen for us to know that he has not been simply resting on his laurels and living off past glories. And they're not half bad either : "Mexico", "I Like You", "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" are slipped in between old favourites. But there are two truly outstanding new tracks "The First Of The Gang To Die" is introduced as being about some "friends of ours from back in Los Hangeles" (sic) and "Irish Blood, English Heart" is described as being "autobiographical, in four words". Both songs could easily have come from either of Morrissey's brace of early 90's albums, "Your Arsenal" and "Vauxhall and I", when he was truly at the top of his game. The lack of a record deal seems rather laughable when these new tracks are aired.
"Sister, I'm A Poet" heralds the arrival of the first stage invader. These fanatics used to be a regular fixture at Morrissey shows, when the man himself would be mobbed from the moment he stepped on stage until the moment he stepped off. Nowadays, security is much tighter and what once was a tide of fans has been reduced to a mere trickle. It is, however, a stage invader that provides the evening's highlight. During the encore of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", a very determined fan leapt on to the stage and ran at breakneck pace towards the far end of the stage. Unfortunately, he reached Morrisey just as his hero flung out his arm, just in time to catch the interloper flush on the chin and knock him to the floor. Two security guards were needed to take the fan from the stage. The singer paused just long enough to say "Whoops" before continuing with the song.
But from the twinkle in his eye, I think he enjoyed it more than he was letting on. Someone give this man a record deal - Morrissey is just getting interesting again.
I Want The One I Can't Have