Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday 21 January 2008

There has been such a painful story attached to the acquisition and execution of the tickets to this show, a story befitting a MORRISSEY adventure.

At the beginning I bought the tickets for the show all the way back in November (on the 23rd) when I purchased four tickets for the opening night of this six show residency at the Roundhouse. The tickets were bought without anyone in particular in mind. It was perhaps this confident swagger that later that day (in the evening) saw me falling into bed with one of my work colleagues who soon attached her name to one of the tickets. Then she proceeded to turn weird on me.

Over the course of the following week I easily found homes for the remaining two tickets and as things began to turn weird with the lady who I fell into bed with there remained the one date I could rely on: MORRISSEY at the Roundhouse. A few weeks later after our company’s Christmas bash it happened again and I wound up falling in bed with her again, this time to the eternal declaration: “this doesn’t mean we’re going out.” Once more things were weird but away from all the nonsense there was always going to be the MORRISSEY gig even if she did enjoy referring to him as the “racist vegan.”

Somewhat inevitably she decided against coming to the gig, choosing the day before we ended work for Christmas to lend it a heavy dose of drama. Such is life.

Thankfully almost immediately I had a replacement in a person called Swapna who jumped at the ticket. Being of Asian descent this was probably an even better person to be bringing along to a MORRISSEY show considering the apparent racist reputation attached to the man himself.

The new year started in exciting fashion with the gig providing the first big show of 2008. With this in mind it was then perhaps somewhat quizzical as the now frosty work colleague apologised to me (“don’t hate me”) telling me that she would not be able to come along to the gig. After re-reading the email a couple of times I scratched my head in full knowledge that this had already happened once. What was this gesture about? Was she rubbing it in? Did she suddenly want to come along after all? All I knew was that it was a head-trip of the highest order.

Now with today being the night of the gig last night the semi inevitable occurred as Swapna unfortunately had to pull out of the show as the curse of the MORRISSEY tickets kicked me in the balls yet again. In her defence it was down to her mum suddenly being taken poorly but with the track record so far of these tickets unfortunately it was something I was expecting to happen/occur.

Cue today and a mad scramble this morning to find a new owner for the ticket. Bless her heart Swapna has offered to still pay for the ticket but that seems gauche to me. Upon arriving into work at Baker Street I immediately sift through my email list of friends and to anyone that might want to come along this evening.

Surprisingly I get little response. Junko responds with an apologetic but definite no but then Carol replies asking me if it is good and whether a non-fan would enjoy the gig. Fortunately with little persuasion suddenly she is in and things begin to look up again. With this in mind I am able to exhibit a rare smile as the person that initially caused this hassle sits in my eye line.

After another drab day at work of stretching out to fill all seven and a half hours I arrange to meet up with Racton and Eleanor at Chalk Farm with view to getting drinks beforehand. We head around the corner from The Roundhouse to a pub called The Pembroke. It’s a nice place with a buzz, we are not the only Morrissey fans here.

Eventually Carol joins us and with it a new kind of energy. In her heavy Italian accent she goes off telling us what she has been up to and how she is off to Los Angeles on a work trip later this week. All sounds good in her world. She orders some food and all in all the whole situation begins to weird me out slightly. How would this have worked out if either of the other two had come along instead? Not as sprightly as this I would imagine.

We head over to the venue where stood outside are people with animal welfare literature. Yes this is very much a Morrissey concert. I fire out a couple of text messages to Iain with view to meeting up but amongst the throngs there seems no chance of finding each other. Shame really because part of me feels as if I cannot believe my luck as Carol turns out to be a much better person to be with at this time than the previous two options. As we get to the bar she immediately offers to buy drinks which prompts Racton to make comment that I am being cheeky as it is my turn to deliver. He is right but I am indulging. That said does he realise that I am not bothering to needle her for ticket money? It adds an interesting vibe.

Inside the stage area we find ourselves confronted by a huge screen behind the stage playing videos of obscure French music from the sixties and old New York Dolls and Lou Reed footage. This is better than anything a DJ could ever come up with.

Around us I spot the infamous chanting Morrissey fans, those weird guys that act like heavily masculine football supporters who are actually worshipping a fey man saying and doing strange things. These truly are people with issues and they are stood next to us.

With much anticipation in the air suddenly the lights go down and the video screen falls to the floor to reveal a majestic backdrop of three matching photos of Richard Burton. Quite literally the roof goes off The Roundhouse as MORRISSEY bounds out onstage announcing “good evening West Ham” before the band tears into “How Soon Is Now” and a true surge occurs as the man fans attempt to get closer to their hero. This is a truly incendiary song to open with, such a defiant gesture that floors the audience before the set has even really got started. Obviously his band does not play it as well as The Smiths but the message still comes seeping through and as it reaches its hardy conclusion suddenly the huge Rank gong sat behind the drummer gets ritually employed and has earned its fee before the first song of the night has even been completed. Afterwards I pull my chin off the floor struggling to consider ever having witnessed a stronger opening.

From here proceedings turn modern as the band launch into “First Of The Gang To Die” which is a song the band are more adept at playing as the version is spot on, possibly more suiting of the occasion.

Onstage MORRISSEY still cuts and commands an impressive stature remaining a handsome and domineering figure that has managed to endure after years of barrage and criticism. With confidence he wheels out new single “That’s How People Grow Up” in full knowledge that it is a classy joint intended as filler on an upcoming Greatest Hits compilation. Contradiction will always be his theme.

It almost out of necessity that tonight he performs/covers “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” as it acts as some kind of reclamation of the song, grabbing it back from Mark Ronson and his rent-a-singers, showing him that this is how the song is supposed to be done. With relative ease MORRISSEY swoops the song back up in his arms, flexing his muscles displaying that the song will always be his own.

So there you go after only half a dozen or so songs into my first MORRISSEY show I am exhausted. To our right the football crowd continue to hail. Even new songs such as “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” and “Throwing My Arms Around Paris” invigorate proceedings and arouse the most staunch of heterosexuals.

As ever things have to take on a dark tone as “Life Is A Pigsty” and “The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores” slow proceedings down to an almost gothic pace as bitterness swirls and his followers find themselves reminded of how they arrived her in the first place. Churning out “Nation Front Disco” doesn’t necessarily up the tone either.

Things come to a close with a defiant climax in “Irish Blood English Heart” and another baiting moment placed for anybody who wants to take offence to get offended. This feels like such an important song now, so vital in the renaissance and return of the man, the song that put life back into his blood and brought him home back to England after his spell of Los Angeles in the witness protection scheme. With this reality in full acknowledgement the song contains even more punch than ever resulting in another shirt being ripped open and more hearts swooning in the process.

The response is rapturous as he and the band leave the stage with nobody wanting to head home. These are the moments that intelligent and sensitive people savour. Obviously they return for an encore where they tear into “The Last Of The Famous International Playboys”, basically they had to do something classic Morrissey. Then when it ends all is over for the evening.

I leave feeling slightly subdued. It was not how I would have imagined it to be. What however was it that just stopped it from being over the top fantastic for me? Was the drama and effort that took me to get to this point? Was it the fanatics around me that I found unsavoury? Was it my concern for Carol and whether she was having fun?

Leaving the venue the four of us head straight to the tube station where everyone seems high in spirits. Tonight the other two are heading North which leaves Carol and I to ride the train South together (her to Kings Cross, me to Liverpool Street). While we wait on the platform an excited fan comes up to us to expound how great the gig has just been. We do not feel his frenzy but we indulge him all the same. He then launches into “you guys look great and I could never get a girlfriend like you but that was amazing.” Briefly Carol and I look at each other with a sense of the awkward, even if I echo his sentiments on that score I don’t necessarily think she does.

Eventually a train comes along and we head South. When she gets off at Kings Cross she thanks me for the evening and heads home. There is no invite for me but I didn’t expect one. From here onwards I head home on my own just how Morrissey would have wanted it. There was a solemn element to the evening but also one of excitement and victory. Sadly my natural instincts are only as ever able to focus on what didn’t occur rather than what did. This I feel is why the music of Morrissey appeals to me.

Set list (according to the internet)

How Soon Is Now?
First Of The Gang To Die
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy
That’s How People Grow Up
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
Sister I’m A Poet
Something Is Squeezing My Skull
All You Need Is Me
The National Front Disco
Death Of A Disco Dancer
Life Is A Pigsty
The Loop
Billy Budd
Mama Lay Softly On
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself?
Stretch Out And Wait
Irish Blood English Heart
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys

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