First off, let me start with a review of the show. I had intended to write my own review, but this morning I read a review on Morrissey-Solo by somebody who goes by the name, Joe Frady. Joe's review pretty much says everything that I want to say, so to save me approximately four hours, I have decided to use Joe's review, but I have edited it to amend a few mistakes; with Joe's biggest mistake of all being his mis-hearing of Morrissey's opening words, and the words are VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.... not that Joe or any of the others in attendance would have realised.
Joe had wrongly believed that Morrissey opened the show with the words, "I belong, I belong, I belong", but what he actually said was, "I live on, I live on, I live on" - a reference to my blog entry of Saturday, in which I ended the piece by likening Morrissey to the nightingale from The Nightingale and the Rose, and saying that as this was the end of the tour, Morrissey was dying. It's YET ANOTHER of those HUGE coincidences.
I have also removed some other irrelevant details from Joe's review, whilst adding some bits of my own - particularly about the song, World Peace Is None of Your Business. I do all this without permission from Joe Frady, but that's me all over. Plagiarism begins at home.
I particularly like what Joe writes about the Low In High School songs, and wholeheartedly agree with him - with the exception of Who Will Protect Us From The Police, which Joe describes as 'paltry' - there is too much passion in the vocal for this song to be described as paltry.
This is going to be an extremely long blog entry, so you may want to go and make yourself a cup of tea first.
And so, The Palladium expects...
And The Palladium gets...belief and joy. An Event. Truly, a very special concert, in the sense of Morrissey 'in concert with' us ~ a shared endeavour. I go where you go, indeed.
His opening yawp tonight ~ 'I live on...I live on...I live on'.
The difference tonight for me, can be felt most keenly in the 'LiHS' songs; there is a force of feeling at play that kicked them to another level. Whether it was the superior acoustics, the greater physical proximity, but I had an immediate and imminent sense of the inspiration and impetus of each new song. It did what you hoped any live verison of a song would do ~ a concentrated expression of the recorded song, opening up emotional vistas simply impossible from grooves in vinyl or MB per second.
It seems entirely appropriate to this night and to the exalted surroundings to open with Elvis, in song and imagery, cloaked in an aura of classicism and crooning. And yet a canny move to deploy a lesser known Elvis song - 'You'll Be Gone' - as Moz can make it resolutley his own. Which he surely does.
His lyrics are powerful enough, but the way he enacts them physically on the live stage is an endless fascination and pleasure, and what sets him among the unique. The fact that this facet is less honed and considered than a written lyric is what nudges it in the direction of magic; it's the living, breathing, teetering moment, dependent on a host of myriad varied factors.
Perhaps the specific style of some of Morrissey's lyrics allow and enable this performative aspect to his art. They are 4 minute dramas, potent enough on the cold page, but given even more lifeblood in the stage embodiment. Or is it the personal nature of the lyrics that facilitate it? I dunno.
'I Wish You Lonely' is the first of the 'LiHS' tonight to get the boost I mentioned before. One of the things that I loved across the span of 'LiHS' was the very particular clarity of delivery of the vocals. He wants these lyrics to be heard. This is not always the norm. On record, it didn't just feel like a question of vocal style, but a question of intent behind the style. Tonight, 'I Wish You Lonely' expands exponentially on this aspect of the record, and not only can you hear it, you can see it in his gelignite peepers. This is what I had hoped for with the live versions of these new songs. My only disappointment is not being able to witness same with 'In Your Lap', 'All the Young People Must Fall in Love' and especially 'Israel'... (Ed - me too, Joe!)
The 'Tombs are full of fools..' triptych of verses are flung to the gods with gusto. One of my favourite verses on the whole album is the closing one of 'I Wish..': 'the last tracked humbacked whale' finalé. From first listen, it immediately gripped me as an only-Moz metaphor of skewed poignancy and power; I loved just the sound of the words placed against each other, alongside the sound of his voice singing them, as well as the imagery it set forth. Tonight it is all that I hoped for.
MORRISSEY SINGS I WISH YOU LONELY AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM - PHOTO TAKEN BY....ME! - FROM THE FRONT ROW
As paltry as '..Police' may be, in comparison with its classmates on 'LiHS', it is here delivered with a passion that is surely impressive.
'How Soon Is Now?' finds Jesse having some trouble with his Wah-Wahs, so while he and his tech work on the problem, Moz does a little comedy turn listing the lost and best who've graced the Palladium: 'Our lives are enriched'...cue wahs. Sort of. Jesse appears to continue to struggle with his guitar for the duration of the song, but the rest of the band more than make up the gap, especially Moz, who fills the apparent gaps with many giddy vocal additons to the standard lyric, even if just falsetto flourishes, screams or melody lines. For me, it lacked the usual heft and sonic dizzynes, but Moz injected it with an added vibrancy.
'November Spawned a Monster' is greeted like an old friend. And with screams. (And we've all had friends like that). Screams seem appropriate for the rather shabby, sickly light show, bringing to mind summer memories of 70s Blackpool ghost trains. But, the rendition is utterly majestic; you have that heady sensation of hearing an old favourite, that winning mix of warmth and certainty, sung as if Moz had just written the words yesterday, so utterly present is the desperate passion. And I have missed Boz's clarinet. (Ed - this was the sixth time I had seen NSAM live, the last time being in Brooklyn in 2013. )
'The Bullfighter Dies' is the same old song. 'Munich Air Disaster 1958' is a tad more restrained, respectful and tidy, than the messy passion in evidence three nights ago at the RAH, but the delicate subtlety of the musical backing is revealed by the Palladium acoustic.
'Home Is A Question Mark' was the first lyric & vocal that wrested my heart into my mouth on first listen, and tonight is an undiluted pleasure to bear witness to this level of skillful expression.
'I Bury The Living' was a gradual intoxication on record, but once it had worked it's strange, dark magic on me, I became obsessed. It is simply incendiary, and bursts free in every way imaginable from its recorded iteration. The fury, fear and fire of his vocal, and the physical embodiment of the words, the look on his face, the way he directs his body around the stage, send shivers up my neck even thinking of it now.
The 'Our John' mother coda is one of the most piercingly beautiful moments in a night riven with beauty, and it features, even now, a vocal texture that I had never heard from Morrissey. The path from the eerie opening to the heartrending close leaves me awestruck. Awed at the true power of a music that no other art-form can truly equal. Music, at moments like these, is undoubtedly the most direct communication between human beings, in its most concerted form. Tonight, for me, this is the glistening dark jewel of the set. I thought that I had this song all figured out, but this made me re-think alot of things.
'Back On The Chain Gang' and 'Spent The Day In Bed' are like the glorious sunshine after the darkest night, united by a joyous unity. Both songs feature rousing singalongs, both are greeted with roars of love. With the former, it is a no-brainer; everybody loves that song. With the latter, it's quite astonishing. I can't think of any other Morrissey song that has been so quickly taken up in peoples hearts as 'Spent the Day in Bed'. And I know that there are more than enough who can't abide, but tonight the Palladium crowd greeted it like an old friend, rather than a 6 month old newbie. People love this song; its sense of impudent life, any serious intent drawn as lightly and lovely as net curtains.
'Jack the Ripper' - Somebody had gone silly buggers with the Palladium dry ice machine, rendering the whole mis-en scéne just the wrong side of invisibility. When Morrissey did emerge intermittently from the inferno, it was chilling ~ like a bloodied ghost, with deep black caverns for eyes. At times , it did seem to feel that the stage was on fire. My skin still reeks of dry ice! I think this may have been the song that featured the first of the stage invasions, although how anybody found their way to Moz was a miracle. The crowd greeted it as just reward.
'World Peace Is None Of Your Business' is rousingly and skillfuly done, but to no particular end that I could divine. Similary so with 'If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me'
(Ed - I have to disagree with Joe about these two songs. Some people may be getting bored of 'WPINOYB'; and I have to admit that as I witnessed the song live for my fifth concert in a row last weekend in Brighton, it drifted over my head somewhat, but on Saturday night at the Palladium, Morrissey sang it with absolute passion and meaning. The reason it gripped me particularly was because it was preceded by a very wide-eyed and passionate Moz claiming that freedom of speech and democracy are coming back, which was surely a reference to Brexit - he obviously hasn't been petered by Theresa May-be's dreadful handling of negotiations. Likewise, 'If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me' was sung with as much passion and finger-jabbing as it has been all the way through the tour, and is a very clear message to the haters.)
'My Love, I'd Do Anything For You' is, like the other fresh tracks, increased in rigour, especially, this time, musically. In the second half of the song, the band builds beautifully and are united perfectly in a thrillingly nuanced and balanced display of purity of intent. It was just rockin'. Tight as a drum.
I am again stunned by the tender warmth of the vocal on 'Hold On To Your Friends', a perfect song for the Palladium. It rises and falls, chastises and advises, all in a lovely and loving fashion. Whilst gleefully shaking hands with the front few rows during the climax of the song, Morrissey can be seen frequently looking upwards to the boxes, searching beyond the spotlights. After the applause fades, he explains 'If...you have noticed me smiling at the Royal Box...it's not because I've gone silly...but my Mother is in there...' cue loving glorious roars. Betty's beaming boy recedes into the blue, as Gustavo tinkles his ivories to usher in what I can only honestly describe as the zenith of all 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' renditions. The lights of heaven could not look as glorious as the house lights do tonight as they flood each thunderously sung chorus. Stage invaders is the very least this song deserves tonight.
MORRISSEY'S MOTHER IN THE ROYAL BOX - BLURRY PHOTO BY ME. MS DWYER LOOKS INCREDIBLY YOUNG, AND WITH HARDLY A WRINKLE ON HER FACE. THIS IS NOT AT ALL HOW I IMAGINED HER TO LOOK.... MY IMAGE HAS ALWAYS BEEN OF A LITTLE OLD DEAR SHUFFLING AROUND IN HER DRESSING GOWN
'Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage' is given a new life that it never quite achieves on the record, but it pales in comparison with what preceeded it and what is to follow. (Ed - Jacky was one of the highlight songs of the evening for me)
'The Last Of The Famous International Playboys' is just wild abandon, and even better as a closer than as an opener, which is always amusing when one recalls that there was a time, briefly, when he disavowed it somewhat. One would never know it tonight, such is the joy and pride and passion surging through the song. Despite the know-alls predicting failure there were plenty of stage invaders (some more staged than invade, if you catch my drift) but there were enough genuine, tender rushes to render this an utterly unforgettable night in many a life.
On such nights as these you get to see every flicker and fibre of the passsion and intent at the point of the creation of these songs. As Morrissey posited to Linder a few years back, "live music is the strongest art because it combines so much—sound, words, physicality, movement, amplification, style, sex, dance, instant audience response". A perfect summary of this night! With the added anchor of all these aspects are at play in the one teetering moment, and the next, and the next. Time, do as I wish.
It's a pleasure and a privilege to bear witness here this evening, and why, as long as he can, and I can, I will return for more.
So, now to my little bits. I travelled to London on the 16:15 train from Portsmouth Harbour, and as I reclined in my seat with earphones in, listening to Moz on shuffle, I took to Twitter to see if there was any sign of life. To my pleasant surprise I found that Morrissey (as Dawn) had re-opened his Twitter account (having denied on Friday that he uses Twitter) and had tweeted, "You'll find me in a heightened state of Victorian torpor."
I took the tweet to mean that he was having a bit of a lie-down - probably on a chaise lounge - in his dressing room at The Palladium.
Having arrived in London, myself and my travelling companion, Spud, headed to Oxford Circus by tube, and set about searching for a red rose. I already had a blue silk one with me; which I was wearing on the lapel of my denim jacket, but as I had written on Saturday, I really wanted to offer Moz a red rose, as a nod to the concert being the last of the tour, and the nightingale's work being done. A red rose selling street vendor was located in Portman Street, and three pounds were handed over. We then headed to HMV, and did the obligatory thing that ALL Morrissey fans do in a record shop, look to see what Moz and Smiths albums they have in. It's not as though we are expecting to find some unknown release that we didn't know existed, it's just....it's just....well, who knows why we do it, but we do! For the record, there were all the Smiths LPs - as there always is - plus two or three of Morrissey's solo albums. There were five copied of LIHS, priced at £18.99. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to HMV's pricing system, with every album on display having a different price - just make them ALL fifteen quid.
We left HMV and headed to the Palladium, where many people were gathered outside, mostly taking photos of the exterior - the whole of Argyll Street was packed with Morrissey fans, and there was a real buzz about the place. I bumped into our very own Girl Without (GWO), who I had previously met very briefly in Bournemouth in 2015. GWO tried to deny being GWO, and insisted that she was only ever on Twitter as @mmedestaelghost, but she isn't fooling me - you have to get up extremely early to piss in a rat's ear.
Spud and I then wandered up the street to get a bite to eat, a beer, and to people watch. We had heard that The Palladium security weren't letting anyone enter with flowers, so as we sat drinking our beer, I hid my red rose inside my brolly.
When we went to enter the theatre, we were told to empty our pockets, and were then scanned. The most ridiculous thing about this, is that those doing the scanning don't actually look to see what is in your hands once you have emptied your pockets - I could have been holding anything. Also, my brolly was completely ignored, and that too could have had anything stuffed inside it.
Once inside, I made my way to the merch stall. The only thing I was interested in buying was a pink 'Trouble Loves Me' t-shirt, but they only had them in either Extra Large or Large. I figured that an Extra Large would probably be OK, especially as the Large sized 'Mozziah' shirt that I bought a couple of years ago was more like a Small, but when the Extra Large was handed over, it was the size of a three-man tent. I handed it back, and remain Trouble-less.
Spud and I then parted. He headed for his seat, and I headed for the rail at the back of the stalls, where I watched everyone come in.
My seat was in the very back row, but I had no intention whatsoever of sitting in it. Having seen Morrissey at the Palladium twice before, I knew full well that as soon as the lights go down, the diehards rush to stand at the front, and I was going to be part of that throng. As I watched and waited, a familiar figure walked behind me - tour manager, Donnie Knutson. I called after him, and was greeted with a smile, a handshake, and then an embrace. I asked if he recognised me, and he replied, "Sure, New York." I said that I bet he had gotten a lot of stick over that photo of him with a blue rose, and he laughed through gritted teeth. I asked for a photo of me and him together, but he pointed straight at the blue rose on my lapel and said, "With you wearing that thing? No chance!" I tried to convince him it would be funny, but he was having none of it. To be honest, I was lucky he was so nice to me, because he was clearly agitated, and when he left me, I observed him going mental at one of the guys in the sound/lighting booth, as he said, "Just fucking do it" about half a dozen times.
The pre-concert videos were now coming to an end, and at this point, my movements were all about timing. There is only room for about 50 people to stand at the front of the Palladium, but if you try to stand there too early, the ushers; or bouncers in this case, move you away. As Lypsinka started to scream on screen, I started to amble down the aisle. The others who were stood at the back saw me going, and tucked in behind me. As we reached the front, a bouncer cried, "Back to your seats", but just then, the lights went down, and we all slid past the hapless security and into place. I edged along as quickly as I could to the very centre, and those who had been sitting in Row A thinking they had the best view in the house, suddenly had the second best view in the house.
As I wrote in my opening paragraph, there is something very intimate about being in the front row, and you are blissfully unaware of the thousands of people behind you. In fact, it feels like a concert for 50 people, because the only other people you are aware of are the ones in the same position as you, and what a mix of people these diehards are. Each and every one of them, male and female, spend the whole concert just gazing at Morrissey - their eyes only very rarely looking at the band members or the screen at the back.
Most in the front row are desperate to touch Morrissey or get a handshake, whilst others are armed with pens, desperate for Morrissey to sign the record or book they are holding. The girl who was stood next to me was desperate to have her arm signed, so that she could then get it tattooed - it didn't happen. And then there are those who are bearing gifts, desperate to get Morrissey's attention so that they can hand it to him. There are also those who have letters that they are desperate to get to Morrissey - as if he really wants to read what 'Stan' has to say.
Finally we have the guy with a red rose, who doesn't get it out until Hold On To Your Friends is played, and isn't desperate for it to be taken, but merely offers it (twice) - in case it is wanted.... which it isn't.
Following the rejection of the red rose, I waved it about a bit during Everyday Is Like Sunday (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34f8sLf_S4s), and then launched it towards the stage, but it slipped down into the gutter, which was all rather fitting. At the encore; which included Morrissey singing a snippet of Willie Nelson's You'll Never Know, I offered my blue rose (see here at 2 mins 40) but that too was rejected, so I tossed it to the stage where it was duly stomped on - again, rather fitting.
The concert ended with the front two rows fighting for Morrissey's shirt, and in the melee, seats were broken. What other artist has fans invading the stage just to get a hug, and has them fighting over clothing? NO ONE!
For the record, just before How Soon Is Now was sung, Morrissey addressed the audience saying, "I should tell you that on Thursday, I was bored stiff. Knowing that I was going to come here I made a list of the ten most incredible people who've stood on this stage. I was very impressed with the list, it was:
Number One: Frank Sinatra (Cheers)
Number Two: The Beatles (Cheers)
Number Three: The Rolling Stones (Cheers)
Number Four: George Raft (Not so many cheers, so Morrissey announced him again, and there was a louder cheer)
Number Five: Noel Coward (Cheers)
Number Six: Ken Dodd (The loudest cheer of all)
Number Seven: Dorothery Squires (Cheers)
Number Eight: Marelene Dietrich (Cheers)
Number Nine: Tony Bennett (Cheers)
Number Ten: Mrs Shufflewick (Laughter)"
Morrissey ended his list by saying, "Our lives are enriched". Those of us who have been lucky enough to see Morrissey at The Palladium feel the same - "I go where you go".
Rather poignantly, it was announced this morning that Ken Dodd has died. There are very few British icons still alive.
And finally, on Friday I wrote how Morrissey had mentioned that I may be "officially commended", and that he had invited me to submit a set for the concert at The Palladium. Needless to say, he didn't play my set list, but thirteen out of the twenty-two songs I requested were played, including my favourite Morrissey cover of all time, You'll Be Gone, and also I Started Something I Couldn't Finish, which I had never seen live before. The inclusion of November Spawned a Monster was quite possibly/probably a nod to the most recent BRS recruit, Caitlin (@a_m0nster), who took blue roses to both Leeds and the Ally Pally.
As to me being "officially commended", well, that was just a miserable lie.
*Goes off singing* I look at yours, you laugh at mine, and love is just a miserable lie, you have destroyed my flower-like life, not once - twice...