JUDITH BORGHOUTS reviews Morrissey’s recent return to form live at the O2 Arena.
“I am privileged, I am beyond privileged.”
These are the words Morrissey uses to introduce the night, and the feeling is mutual. Tonight is the only UK date of his tour. After a recent spate of health issues and an accumulating series of cancelled and prematurely ended concerts, it truly feels like a privilege to see Morrissey live and well tonight.
He opens strongly with ‘The Queen is Dead’ and ‘Suedehead’. After that, the set is largely focused on new material, with 12 out of the remaining 19 songs taken from his latest album World Peace is None of Your Business. While admittedly the album has some fantastic songs, it is a shame his impressive back catalogue is mostly forgotten.
Nevertheless, it is great to see the singer in good shape tonight. His characteristic voice is full of energy as ever, and does not reveal any signs of his recent battles with illness. Nor has he become any milder in expressing his notoriously outspoken opinions. As expected, there are no meat products available in the venue tonight. While performing ‘Meat is Murder’, cruel footage of animal slaughter is played on a big screen behind him. The royal family and Margaret Thatcher are not spared either with plenty of mocking videos and pictures, leaving no doubt you are at a Morrissey concert tonight.
One of his more recent enemies is his old record label, who removed Morrissey’s latest album online after a public row and left him without a label once again. The band members support his animosity by wearing not so subtle ‘Fuck Harvest Records’ T-shirts, which the label in question has since cashed in on by selling identical shirts in their own webshop.
Near the end of the night, Morrissey references Dido’s Lament and humbly asks the audience to “Remember me, but not my fate”. It leads into a haunting and emotional performance of ‘Asleep’ which almost feels like a goodbye, as if he were hinting at an early retirement. Given his recent ill-health, it may not be that far from the truth. The intimacy of this song leads into hit single ‘Everyday is like Sunday’, which leaves the audience craving more of the old hits. But Morrissey has never been one to conform to the majority vote, and bless him for that.