Festival Hall, Melbourne, 19 December, 2012
For me, Morrissey will forever be associated with a bittersweet time in my life. I had enough shit going on in my early twenties to relate to his misanthropic lyrics, and his blatant condemnation of quotidian drudgery. His was a singular voice — literate, witty and iconoclastic. While never a die-hard fan, I played The Smiths regularly between 1984 and 1987, the year of their premature demise. For reasons unknown, I never bothered to listen to any of Morrissey’s subsequent work. My loss.
Last night, standing amongst a capacity crowd of Morrissey devotees in what has to be one of the shittiest music venues in the world, Melbourne’s Festival Hall, I made a belated acquaintance with the man’s solo canon. Morrissey was in fine form — the passage of time has not compromised his voice, which was strong and resonant. And he’s one of the most focused performers I’ve ever seen, delivering each song with the most apposite blend degree of passion, disdain, or humour. Morrissey’s material did not peek with The Smiths all those years ago, a self-evident fact to the throngs assembled to pay tribute to his genius. I recognized a handful of songs by The Smiths, but the crowd sang along with most of the tunes. And what an eclectic crowd it was — oldies from the eighties, balding and grey, youngsters who weren’t born until The Smiths were well and truly consigned to the past. The young guy immediately in front of me was having the time of his life stomping, jumping and pumping his fists in the air as though he was some kind of demented athlete. He knew almost every lyric, which he acted out while gazing sincerely into the eyes of his girlfriend. Kids! Oh, the enthusiasm of youth.
For a man reputed to be a curmudgeonly miserablist, he proved a charismatic if not charming performing despite keeping the chat to a minimum. He allowed a few fans onstage to hug him, and even passed his microphone to members of the audience, inviting them to respond to the performance. I was engaged throughout the performance despite the slightly mudding sound — the guitars lacked definition, sounding a bit too soupy. I think it’s time to buy some Morrissey CDs.