Morrissey - First Direct Arena, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Morrissey - First Direct Arena, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2012-01-22

Having been thoroughly obsessed with The Smiths and Morrissey for years, it’s fair to say that I’d lost touch with his career a little of late - a shocking admission for any Morrissey fan to make, I know. Yet the idea of finally seeing Morrissey live reignited the ever faithful fan in me and it was a genuine excitement that preceded the month long wait between ticket purchase and gig night.

As any Morrissey fan who has had to endure the tired old debate of whether his music is miserable or not knows (it really isn’t by the way), it isn’t everyone who appreciates the Mozfather’s unique appeal. Even I struggled with the page-after-page of Mike Joyce/courtroom based bile in his 2013 autobiography (I loved the rest of the book though, obviously). Yet where else but a live show could a fan go to really reconnect with one of his musical heroes. 

 “The pleasure/the privilege is mine” yells an energetic Mozza before the band launch into a thunderous rendition of ‘The Queen is Dead’ (backed by a picture of the Queen raising two middle fingers). When they follow this with the ever-swoonsome ‘Suedehead’ I’m well and truly a fan in his element. Watching the swarm of devotees below (I’m sat further back, trying to ignore the vertigo) it becomes obvious why such a big venue is needed. This isn’t about bedsits and awkwardness anymore but a communal release, a little group therapy if you like.

Songs from the latest album sound defiant and vital; coupling some of Morrissey’s most engaging lyrics with some of his most vibrant musical accompaniment. The eastern-tinged riffs of ‘Istanbul’ swagger and swoon with the best of them while the blunt yet sincere ‘The Bullfighter Dies’ marries a glorious, sun-flecked jangle to a typically direct Mozza lyric.

The track ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’ is something of a showstopper, with Moz crooning “World peace is none of your business/so would you kindly keep your nose out/the rich must profit and get richer/and the poor must stay poor/Oh, you poor little fool”.

Songs are enhanced by the bands musical muscle and impressive flexibility, with flourishes of Spanish guitar, piano, accordion, trumpet and clarinet. Oh, and one crash of the huge gong sitting behind the drum kit.

The highlights keep coming. The scornful, powerful march of ‘Scandinavia’ (“let the people burn/let their children cry and die”) serves up some dramatic intensity while ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ is an unexpectedly joyous communal singalong. The almost Bowie-like ‘The World Is Full of Crashing Bores’ reminds me just how great You Are the Quarry was while a storming ‘What She Said’ makes a Smiths reunion entirely unnecessary.

If there was any doubt amongst the faithful I can reassuringly report that Morrissey is still very much an artist on form. The new songs sound as passionate and vital as anything in his back catalogue while old favourites are delivered with the flair and vigour they deserve.

The show peaks with the dark heart of The Smiths cannon and a personal favourite, ‘Meat is Murder’. The song sounds as terrifying as always and coupled with some particularly gruesome abattoir footage hammers its crucial message home with all the appropriate force. That Morrissey is the only artist of his kind making statements on the subject (particularly in arenas) makes it all the more potent.

The band come’s back for a one-song encore and the song I’ve had in my head for the last month finally bursts into life with a euphoric rendition of ‘First of the Gang to Die’.  Bows taken and shirt ceremoniously flung into the outstretched arms of the crowd, Morrissey leaves the stage.

It’s a fantastic performance and I leave the venue with my Mozza obsession firmly back in place. As the man himself once sang, now my heart is full.  

Comments (9)

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Massive Smiths fan but never a big Moz fan. Never seen him live either, just couldn't bring myself to go to a stadium gig. He is a bloody legend though.

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Not usually a fan of stadium gigs either, most I've been too have been disappointing but this (like the Flaming Lips) worked....

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Although a gig at the Brudenell would have been better, obviously, haha

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I don't mind big outdoor gigs, maybe it's just the seats that put me off. Going to see Flaming Lips in Liverpool in May.

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Lips rule! Probably the best 'big gig' I've been to

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Moz live can be awesome. Your Arsenel was so brilliant. Rank was such a disappointing live Smiths recording. Have to resort to bootlegs for anything decent .

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If only they'd packed up their egos, and got together for one live effort. Who'll be first of gang to concede that ?

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Have you read Morrissey's autobiography? There'll never be a Smiths reunion, he hates Mike Joyce.

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Yeah. I don't think he and Marr are that cosy either.

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