Meeting Moz aficionados is a blessing. At a bar in Lyon near the Amphithéâtre 3000, friends in their 40s, 50s and 60s enjoy the sun, lounging in an attitude that veers sharply between mild excitement and worked eccentricity. Not enough hair for the 80s quiff, not enough metabolism to fit into a tight sweater. But whatever, the impact of the years is nothing compared to a passion for a music that has not moved at all. Forget all the scandals, the awkward interview to a German newspaper, the Anne Marie Waters’ support. And forget the disappointment created by « Low in High School ». It made me think twice about a man’s admiration and his witty songs. Should I stop listening to him because of all these statements or continue to separate the views of the artist and his music? I must say that I was confused a lot. Morrissey is a philosemite, a lover of Mexican culture, a « bully » for bullfighters. He has also proven to be sensitive. Many qualities in his pedigree, a never-discussed veganism that honors him, and if the tango he briefly danced with the leader of For Britain didn’t last, can I forgive him? I’m happy to say yes. This very surprising marketing operation that consisted of signed records that are not his at a very unfriendly price made me laugh. Morrissey is sometimes weird but I tend to like this kind of weirdness. I was annoyed, to say the least, by all the polemics, let’s say that Morrissey’s speech in the press was maliciously polluting the societal debate on immigration for so many years (comments about the Chinese… related to their treatment of animals, comments about reggae long time ago…), I would now say that we need a more insightful Morrissey on the refugee debate, as Gary Lineker has done brilliantly. Personally, I like multicolored societies, but I’m a little sad that people get it wrong when talking about immigration and feel invaded by fundamentalist believers. Everything is mixed up, always. Moz is back, it’s like he never left for his fans. So at the last minute, when I realized the date was coming up, I bought a ticket a few hours prior to the Lyon show and went to the Cité des Congrès the next day to meet some fans who were going to see him for the first time, I’m talking about Marie and Guillaume, from Carcassone, in the south of France, a beautiful couple who had to come with a friend who couldn’t make it. The current passed immediately between us. I was very curious to know Guillaume’s reactions after the concert.
Lyon is the former capital of France, Lyon is a world famous place for its gastronomy, although it is neither vegan nor vegetarian. So far. I’ve seen Morrissey in Paris, several times, at the Olympia (good), at the Mutualité (not the most memorable), at the Zenith (my first time with my dad for the Your Arsenal Tour), in Lausanne (my hometown) at the Metropole, in Liverpool (Civic Center), in Leeds (Town and Country) and in Lyon. Frankly (Mister Shankly), I’ve never seen a Morrissey so punchy, defying age by shining his vibrato, yodeling on solo songs or on the Smiths’ ones like in the good old days, hammering his voice, not being ashamed to ask a lot from his two main guitarists and the rest of the Moz Crew. After saying a few words of introduction « I have found out that every Sunday is exactly like Sunday », Morrissey kicked off with « Our Frank », delightfully forgotten hit single among the best singles ever released (less popular than « Suedehead », « Everyday is Like Sunday » or « You Have Killed Me », though). The second album « Kill Uncle » that carried it was misunderstood like « Southpaw Grammar » and « Malajusted » were but they remain for me inspired and different from the rest of the discography, no Morrissey LP looks like any other Morrissey LP. A brilliant voice, a great feeling on stage and all around the venue, a growing crowd is gathering in the center of the room, people wanted to stand up and be closer to their hero, they did and danced all the way through. They sang also on most of the old songs. Morrissey talked about how the record industry continues to destroy his willingness to sell real two-sided records. But you know Capitol, Harvest and others have only dropped the ball very fast, leaving the artist’s demands unanswered and the public’s desire ignored.
« I Wish You Lonely » and « Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before » are played. The latter is one of the most brilliant songs in the history of the Smiths. Maybe because of its cinematic video in which a group of cyclists looking like Morrissey ride through a grey and red Manchester, a real masterpiece signed by Tim Broad, where we meet Morrissey’s inspirer Oscar Wilde at the very beginning. Wilde is also present, challenged by Morrissey as his triptych portrait is displayed during the performance of « Irish Blood English Heart ». The references are everywhere, as per usual. Moz and his heroes linger on. The highlights are numerous. There is « Istanbul » and its dramatic content of a father recognizing the body of his son, its intense, catchy melody. Then, the images of the bloody arena in spanish plazas de toros during « The Bullfighter Dies », disgusting, disheartening, human hell at its ugliest. « The World is a complete mess » says Morrissey again, before the encore « Jack the Ripper » is performed in a bright red cloud and it will come to signal the end of this world very close by making us keep in mind that as long as there is music, there is still a little hope. « Without music world dies » passes the crash test but the scansion of perhaps too obvious lyrics seems to me a bit weaker. I’m thinking of « Jim Jim Falls » (on I’m Not a Dog on a Chain) and « Sure Enough the Telephone Rings » and « The Night Pop Dropped » (on Bonfire of Teenagers for the one, on Without Music the World Dies for the latter) we need a plastic record to listen to those songs Morrissey, it is vital ! The return of Alain Whyte in place of Boz Boorer is a real nice and good satisfaction. The guitarist and music writer had never stopped giving life to the songs he had written with Morrissey in the 90’s and 2000’s, thanks to the socials, a loyalty rewarded in a way. The golden palm goes to the bitter-sweet punk hit « Sweet and Tender Hooligan » sent in a big stride in front of a crowd of fans who want to kiss Morrissey, the security team of the Moz and the one linked to the concert venue not letting these outbursts put an end to the show. Morrissey will throw a T-shirt with his name on it, ending in the most beautiful way a concert that started with a selection of clips showing Gene Pitney, Four Tops, the New York Dolls and many more, heroes once more. Morrissey got older, his voice got denser, he is the only indie crooner still active, Ian McCulloch or Guy Chadwick never having been able to follow the same path with their respective bands or solo. Morrissey is unique, don’t you dare ever miss a show again… or you will regret it. I talked to Guillaume and Marie, 46 years old like me. The smile in Guillaume’s voice says it all, he will always remember this first date.
For my previous texts and interviews on Morrissey, click on those links :
- Interview in English
- Interview in French
- Record review