Perhaps the single greatest thing about going to see Morrissey on stage is the chance to watch a living legend put on a performance. In recent years, those performances have been mostly stunning - especially in the tiny venues such as Paisley Town Hall, Stirling Albert Halls and Greenock Town Hall. A performance at the appalling Edinburgh Corn Exchange a few years ago didn't come up to par - but I still reckon that was down to the venue more than anything else.
The 2008 performance was one of the best but I know there will be some who wouldn't have liked it due the fact that the awkward old sod played a set list that was in many parts, pretty obscure on a tour that is supposed to be promoting a greatest hits issue. More on that in a moment.
One thing I noticed right away. Much of the hysteria that builds up pre-gig, something that has always been there stretching back to the days of The Smiths, was missing. And all because pre-show there was a series of short films played to a seated audience who sat and watched them rather than get themselves worked up with the inane "Morrissey, Morrissey Morrissey etc etc etc" chants as if this is going to bring forward the starting time of a tightly organised show.
The great man took to the stage at 8.55pm. He and his band gave us 20 songs, nipped off for 2 minutes and came back for a one-song encore. There were new songs as yet unreleased, some crowd-pleasing Smiths covers, past singles, album tracks and b-sides. A real rag-tag of a set-list that never once lost my attention.
And a word or two about the band. A while back - maybe 12 years or so ago - I stopped going to see Morrissey in concert because of his band. At the time, I thought they were no better than a glorified pub outfit, only comfortable playing some of the rockabilly stuff he was churning out, and totally destroying the slow-tempo moody numbers. Worse than that was the way they destroyed the old songs by The Smiths. But credit where it's due - the band last night were hugely talented, energetic and exceptional. And Morrissey knows this, for they all got their couple of minutes in the spotlight to show off their skills without it ever turning into an orgy of self-indulgence.
But it is of course in the end, all about the main man. The fact that he had cancelled a couple of London shows a few days ago and looked and sounded rough during a TV appearance on the Jonathan Ross show had me a bit worried beforehand. The voice largely held up - in fact it got better as the show went on. There were a few crowd-pleasing sing-a-longs at the very beginning during which he seemed to purposely miss out a few lines. But before long he was in just about full voice and full flow on stage. He had his customary dig at Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, he playfully slagged off an obscure Scottish town (Falkirk) and even encouraged a little bit of stage invasion towards the end.
The set-list in full:-
1. Last Of The International Playboys
2. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
3. I Just Want To See The Boy Happy
4. How Soon Is Now?
5. That's How People Grow Up
6. Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed
7. Billy Budd
8. One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
9. Irish Blood, English Heart
10. Death Of A Disco Dancer
11. Life Is A Pigsty
12. The Loop
13. Sister I'm A Poet
14. All You Need Is Me
15. Stretch Out And Wait
16. Something Is Squeezing My Skull
18. I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
19. The World Is Full of Crashing Bores
20. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
21. First Of The Gang To Die (encore)
By my reckoning, that's 5 songs from the days of the Smiths, 5 songs as yet unreleased, 5 songs from his most recent couple of albums, and the remaining 6 songs a mix of well known singles and things you just would never have expected.
Highlights? Playboys was an inspired opening track - reviews of the London shows that had taken place had reported this as being the encore song so it certainly took me by surprise. Death Of A Disco Dancer and Please, Please, Please were the best of the old Smiths songs. Above all else, just like the last time he came to Scotland, it was the performance of Life Is A Pigsty that will be remembered.
And yet is was different from the last time round. The second half of the song was a lot more hushed with Morrissey's vocals to the fore - last time round it was a real crescendo of drums and percussion - this time it faded into a gorgeous keyboard part which segued into an impromptu Auld Lang Syne. It brought the house down.
The one sad thing to say is that I wasn't accompanied by Mrs Villain, my usual companion at Morrissey gigs. She was double-booked on a weekend break away with a group of friends. Instead, I was lucky enough to be in the company of Matthew Young, better known to many of you as the talent and brains behind Song, By Toad. And I'm sure he'll put up his own review in due course. It should make for interesting reading as Toad doesn't really regard himself as a Morrissey fan, but I know he enjoyed it.
Oh and before the gig, I met Kate - aka Mrs Toad - for the first time. She's fairly perfect in every way and far too good for that green-toed reprobate. But I digress.
Here's a couple of cover versions just to round things off:-
mp3 : Morrissey - That's Entertainment
mp3 : Morrissey - A Song From Under The Floorboards
There's some Morrissey stuff over at The Video Villain.
And while I'm doing cover versions, a couple of requests have been made in recent days, so here they are:-
mp3 : Pete Wylie - Stay Free
mp3 : Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins - Pale Blue Eyes
I reckon that's about the fourth time I've posted Paul & Edwyn here at TVV. If you really like it, check out what I've done at The Video Villain.
Ciao for now.