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Nick Lezard braves the Brexity crowds to see Morrissey on the final night of his tour
Naturally, before the gig, I found myself singing a song. I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a thing to wear … but seriously, what does one wear to a Morrissey review these days?
It was so much easier in the old days. Bunch of gladdies in the back pocket, shirt undone, hearing aid; job done. You looked like your hero, everyone else did, and everyone was happy. “Happy” being a relative term when the Smiths were playing, of course, but you know what I mean.
I must confess, I came here hoping for outrage
Now, though? Morrissey has become … problematic. Which is probably the politest way of putting it. I will mind my words, for we are in lawyer-infested waters here, and it is best to be careful. One thing I can say without fear of legal reprisal though: any suspicion that you might have had that he was a wrong ’un were confirmed in spades when he insisted on his autobiography being published by Penguin Classics. Although at least the publishers ended up looking more foolish than the pop star.
Anyway, to the gig, at Brighton Centre, a large venue of quite astonishing ugliness. I did wonder, Brighton being the kind of place it is, whether there might be some kind of protest outside; or whether he’d manage to get a decent audience. (No one wanted to go with me; well, almost no one.)
Well, there was no protest, and a large crowd. Not completely packing the place out, but nothing to be ashamed of. And all in all quite a feat when you consider that they must have managed to get every Brexit voter in Brighton to show up. I am pretty confident in my assessment of how everyone voted in the referendum, but I promise you I am not being mean or snotty.
That is why we’re here, after all, and it soon becomes clear that we are in Wagner territory here: in that someone with very murky views can still produce a good tune. And for the first half of the gig, they are very good tunes indeed. A mixture of Smiths and solo stuff. And the thing about them is that they are fast, and punchy, with a very tight band behind him. The slowest song is “How Soon Is Now” but that counts as fast because it’s so good. Sorry, but it was when it came out, and always will be.
The pace slows down about halfway through. At this point I remember why I was never the hugest Smiths fan: because so many of their songs are, essentially, dirges. The audience is happy though; of course they are. Shouts of “love ya!” happen every couple of minutes. At one point it looks horribly as those in the front are giving a straight-armed salute with unfortunate associations; but we’ll let that pass. However, the woman sitting next to me does ask why I am not cheering or waving my arms about; I let that go too.
I must confess, I came here hoping for outrage. I wanted Morrissey to say something incredibly inflammatory and regrettable. Damn it, I’d have been satisfied if he’d waved a Union Jack. But no: this was the final date of a long tour, and he was probably knackered. (He said his voice was “raggedy” towards the end, but I didn’t notice it.)
There was a mild irony in the way the crowd loved “Every Day Is Like Sunday” – another great song, but he can’t really have had Brighton in mind when he wrote it, for the place is quite jolly even in the off-season. I wondered if he’d play “The Queen Is Dead” but he didn’t. I also wondered if he was going to play “National Front Disco” which, until his views became clearer on the subject, always struck me as an extremely fascinating and poignant song. But of course, it isn’t any more, and playing it would be unwise, to put it mildly. So instead, we had Morrissey carefully and professionally safeguarding his legacy. It’ll be a long while before I see him again, but everyone else loved him; live and let live.
Nicholas Lezard has been a freelance writer since God was a boy. He writes the Down and Out column for the New Statesman, and lives in Brighton.
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