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Morrissey: Usher Hall, Edinburgh


Unless we were mistaken, Morrissey appeared to be signing off his latest tour with a hint that the Queen should consider him for honours. After declaring that the British judiciary more or less murdered a roll call of free-thinkers including Wilde, Shelley, Byron and Keats, he concluded "and nothing's changed. The British Establishment still give prizes to the mediocre – and they hate people who are not mediocre." Which might not seem like evidence in itself, but when this noted contrarian followed it up with "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want"… 

It wasn't so much what he said as the wounded whimper in which he pronounced it, which is all part of the Morrissey his fans accept with love and occasional confoundment. Does he really think it's about time, at the age of 53 and with his announced retirement plans giving him 22 months of a career left, that he should gain official recognition? Or was his speech merely tongue-in-cheek, drawn from the same school of impenetrable impudence that had him introduce his dragged-up guitarist Boz Boorer as "Gaynor Tension" or appear before a graphic of Wilde himself emblazed with a speech bubble containing the words "who is Morrissey?" 

In a strident "Shoplifters of the World Unite", the ever unbowed "Speedway", a noisily chopped-out "Still Ill" and the revived "Ouija Board, Ouija Board", there was an old, fierce annoyance with life and Britain that hasn't dimmed, and this transferred itself to an international context with new song "People Are the Same Everywhere".

Most contrary of all, however, were the moments of tender and unrehearsable emotion that emerged: the crowd's participation with the spotlit balladry of "I Know It's Over"; Morrissey handing over his mic to a fan in the front row who paid tribute to a late friend, "the biggest Morrissey fan", before his idol belted out a version of Frankie Valli's "To Give (The Reason I Live)".