To buy or not to buy. That is the question facing Morrissey fans as tickets go on sale for his next UK dates in March, despite the fact that at the end of his last British jaunt he said it was unlikely he’d ever tour this country ever again. Would you expect anything less from the man who once sang, in the song ‘Disappointed’, “this is the last song I will ever sing / I changed my mind again.”
There are arguments on both sides, of course. The Moz has been making some fairly questionable statements of late about UKIP, Jean Marie Le Penn and other dangerous undesirables, not to mention his seeing obsession with attacking London mayor Sadiq Khan. But on the upside, his last long player ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ is probably his most interesting, varied and lyrically gifted album since ‘Vauxhall and I’, his current band has added a touch of South American gringo attitude that has pepped up his sound and the recent single ‘Spent The Day In Bed’ was a corker.
So, to help you at least make an educated guess before parting with not inconsiderable sums of cash required to get in, here are ten clues from the televised Berlin concert on German TV last week to help you make up your mind.
- It might take his band a little while to warm up
It’s early days of course, but the band sound a bit rusty and rough around the edges in this gig, before they suddenly burst into life on ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’ and maintaining a higher intensity until the end.
- The Smiths songs are taking a bit of a back seat again
There’s only one included in the whole of this hour-plus set, the seemingly here-to-stay and really very powerful rendition of ‘Meat Is Murder’ that regular fans will already know. His normal sets are considerably longer, but you’re probably wise to assume there won’t be a deluge of previously unaired Smiths classics in the setlist.
- ‘Low In High School’ has some corking tracks on it…
As well as the inspirational ‘Spent The Day’ in bed, with its Stevie Wonder-esque keyboard plonking, there are a couple of great new songs in the set. ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’ is an apocalyptic sounding revelation, and ‘All The Young People Must Fall In Love’ taps into the rich vein of glam rock that informed ‘Panic’, ‘Glamorous Glue’ and ‘Certain People I Know’. ‘When You Open Your Legs’ isn’t half bad either.
- …and a few also-rans too.
The current single ‘I Wish You Lonely’ doesn’t have much going for it – he’s always been terrible at choosing the right tracks for singles – and neither does ‘Home Is A Question Mark’.
- There’s a new song in the obligatory cover version spot
He’s done Sparks, Buzzcocks and Ramones in this traditionally near-the-end slot in the set recent years, but this time it’s ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ by The Pretenders, which is no surprise in one sense, namely that Chrissie Hynde is a friend and fellow animal rights campaigner. But it’s certainly the first time he’s covered a song by an act that Johnny Marr played with post-Smiths, which might suggest a bit of a thawing of the icy relations between the pair.
- He’s still playing a few solo tracks he should have dropped ages ago?
‘Alma Matters’ and ‘Speedway’? What, again?!! Really? Why?!!
- He can’t resist a swipe at Trump
“Presidents come, and presidents go,” he sings in ‘All The Young People…’, clearly a subtle swipe at Donald Trump, without mentioning names. The song, which at times bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott The Hoople, also contains the fantastic opening lines “Spend more on nuclear war if that’s your chosen illusion / Incinerate innocent men and women and children…”
- He’s still obsessed with chart positions
Anyone who’s read his ‘Autobiography’ will know that a disproportionate amount of time was spent moaning about how certain tracks only made certain positions in the UK chart. Which continues here, we’re sorry to report. It doesn’t matter – you’re Morrissey, FFS!
- Some of the best songs from ‘World Peace…’ may have been dropped (but hopefully not)
No sign in this set list of ‘Kick The Bride Down The Aisle’, ‘Smiler With Knife’, ‘I’m Not A Man’ or ‘Staircase At The University’, all of which were highlights of the previous tour although tended to come in and out of the set rather than making themselves permanently at home. We’d take them over ‘Istanbul’ and ‘The Bullfighter Dies’ any time.
- Moz has learnt to say ‘thank you’ in quite a few languages.
German, Spanish and French by our reckoning! He also does a bit of a ‘Brit abroad speaking English in an unspecific foreign accent’ - which will go down a treat at the UKIP conference.
Watch the Berlin concert here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ITe_TAXAbo:
Text by Ben Willmott 2017