Morrissey, Brixton Academy, London
Tuesday 16 August 2011
The last time I saw Morrissey at the Brixton Academy, he was in The Smiths and lines of horse-backed police awaited our exit. The police are out in force in nearby streets as I arrive tonight, and the singer alludes to the weekend's unrest, wondering if David Cameron has ever been to Tottenham and pointedly playing "People Are the Same Everywhere". But Morrissey always carries a self-provoked micro-climate of trouble.
"All of the rumours keeping me grounded," he's soon singing during 1994's "Speedway", "well I never said they were completely unfounded". There were weary shrugs at his latest decision to say something outrageous, but Morrissey's need to be embattled is part of what keeps him musically alive. His band provide a rock sound of exciting attack, while throughout the crowd there is fervent activity and idolisation. The latter is fed by a star who needs and understands it, leaning down to shake hands and take gifts.
Two songs from the generation-defining Smiths album The Queen Is Dead are inevitable highlights. "I Know It's Over" awakens now nostalgic memories of virginal longing in the middle-aged, and every word of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out", that romantic ode to romantic defeat, is hymned by the crowd.
Morrissey has if anything lost perspective since those classics of adolescence, but retains potent confidence that he matters. He throws his shirt into the crowd at the end, a relic of a man who remains a sacred and profane star.
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