fri 10/04/2020

Morrissey, Wembley Arena review - reminders of greatness | reviews, news & interviews

Morrissey, Wembley Arena review - reminders of greatness

Morrissey, Wembley Arena review - reminders of greatness

Dangerous views are docked for a night of potent performance

“I’d like you to know that you can breathe as heavy as you like,” Morrissey declares, somewhat against government advice. “It really doesn’t matter.

“I’d like you to know that you can breathe as heavy as you like,” Morrissey declares, somewhat against government advice. “It really doesn’t matter. I can take it!” Like a cross between Elvis Presley and Donald Trump, this great, divisive pop star feeds off rallies of the faithful. If his upcoming, inevitable Vegas residency is among the mass gatherings we lose, it will leave both sides forlorn. “I love you and nothing, nothing will ever change that,” he adds of his relationship with his fans, near the end of a two-hour show heavily weighted to recent work. Much like Bob Dylan’s current sets, nostalgia is spurned for a bullish statement of continued range and relevance.

Of course, Morrissey can’t be separated from his toying with racist tropes, like a child with a matchbox, from his support for the far-right For Britain party to his confiding to Der Spiegel that refugees had made Germany “the rape capital of Europe”. Nick Cave’s recent suggestion that we hold those vile views to account, “but allow his music to live on, bearing in mind that we are all conflicted individuals – messy, flawed and prone to lunacies” offers a generous exit from the flinching fan’s quandary.

This Wembley gig at least shows off Morrissey’s enduring strengths. The onscreen iconography flicks from young Albert Finney to the great gay black writer James Baldwin, the latter sight showing the knottiness of a worldview which in so many ways favours radical freedom. Which other rock musician’s recent work observes, as he does on “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”, that “stuns guns” and disabling “tasers” are “what government’s for”? Then there’s the massive, machine-gun assault of “Irish Blood, English Heart”, with its blanket castigating of Labour and Tories, Cromwell and the monarchy. “I will die with both of my hands untied,” he insists during its tumultuous, tangled patriotism. The essentially autobiographical “Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On the Stage” turns its final chants of “exit” to “Brexit”, to wide cheers. As the referendum result proves, that view’s not a crime.

Backing-track brass meanwhile bolsters a sound built for thrillingly grandiose power. The bovver boy rockabilly fuzz and rumble of “Satan Rejected My Soul” is soon supplanted by the Pet Shop Boys-like cresting synths of “Once I Saw the River Clean”. “The time will come but it hasn’t yet/Somebody’s out to get me,” this new song declares. If there’s a more symptomatic Morrissey lyric, it comes straight afterwards, in The Smiths’ hilarious “Half a Person”. He loiters by a speaker like it’s a back-alley lamppost as he sings it over light, jangling strokes which recall a gentler sensibility. When the band broke up, his shrinking from their ideal community to an uglier, more suspicious “I” was as great a loss as Marr’s tunes.

Morrissey’s occasional kindness now comes with his careful signing of an Italian fan’s hurled record. Coquettish and peremptory as always, he ignores further fan entreaties. The arena is healthily full but not packed, and the fervid reaching towards a stage where he once invited invaders lacks previous years' hysteria. Still, fainting fans are regularly led away, as now happens at no other rock gig. The mature, regretful loveliness of “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” slows and drifts to allow for this.

When Morrissey stands straight-backed and pensive in hell-red light to sing “Some Say I Got Devil” with toreador melodrama, or becomes a tragicomic, Piaf-like chanson on “I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty”, his interpretive talent is inarguable. The man he has become means he will never be the widely beloved entertainer The Smiths’ singer might have grown into. His defiant art may though outlive his dangerous opinions. 

Which other rock musician’s recent work observes that 'stuns guns' and disabling 'tasers' are 'what government’s for'?

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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