Morrissey (live in Leisureland, Galway)
Review Snapshot: Great set, shame about the venue . . .
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
I am in ‘the coastal town that they forgot to shut down,’ trudging along a drizzly Salthill Promenade. Welcoming lights beckon a few feet ahead. They belong to Leisureland: swimming pool, fitness centre, off-season funfair park, and the venue for tonight’s Morrissey concert. As I enter the grounds, I pass a heap of dismantled funfair ride equipment being rained on; perfect material for Morrissey. Perhaps he’ll see it and write a song about it. Heaven Knows These Waltzers Are RustyNow, or some such. The entrance has an A4 sheet of paper tacked to it that reads, ‘Morrissy’. Someone - a disgruntled fan perhaps - has used a biro to helpfully add the ‘e’.
Inside, I am greeted by the welcoming aroma of chlorine. I make my way past the ‘bar’, which is roughly the size of a hotel mini bar (a badly stocked one). I find a good spot; close enough to the front to get a good view, but far enough away to avoid being trampled by Morrissey’s more hysterical fan boys. The gig is yet to start, so I survey the empty stage. The backdrop is a huge black and white image of a sailor, proudly brandishing his muscles, as he smokes a cigar that dangles from the corner of his mouth. Great. There is a giant gong on stage. Brilliant. I can see a shelf offstage, lined with a row of those enormous silver exercise balls. Erm? It begins to feel like the audience is part of some leisure centre Morrissey flash mob. I look down, expecting to see a disgruntled pilates class squashed under our feet.
Thankfully, when Morrissey appears on stage, he more than distracts us from our shoddy surroundings. Nobody brandishes a tambourine quite like Morrissey and the way he manipulates a microphone flex is an art form in and of itself. He trails it casually, intermittently whipping it behind him like a charismatic ring master. He performs with a youthful vigour that convinces me there must be an ageing picture of Steven Patrick Morrissey hidden in some dusty attic.
Smiths fans are in their element as they are treated to several classics, including Ask, Some Girls AreBigger Than Others, and This Charming Man. ‘For a Wednesday night, I suppose it’s not bad,’ drolls Morrissey, as the crowd cheers in a slightly manic fashion. As he launches into How Soon Is Now? I begin to wonder if Morrissey gets bored, singing his hit songs from the 80’s night after night. After a while, wouldn’t it start to feel like karaoke? How does he keep it interesting for himself? My question is answered by an incredible red strobe light sequence at the end of the song, which accompanies some frantic gong playing by one of Morrissey’s band members. It is these details that add a whole new dimension to these familiar songs, elevating the show into a brave new audio-visual world.
The lights are worth singling out in particular. (I haven’t seen such effective use of stage lighting since I saw MC Supernatural supporting Jurassic 5 back in 2001.) The aforementioned sailor backdrop is intermittently drenched in yellow, green, red and blue light; or silhouettes of the band are cast onto it. The lighting cues are timed perfectly to the music; many songs ending in a pleasingly dramatic fashion with an abrupt black out. The one incidence of overkill occurs during Ask, when piercing yellow searchlights scan the crowd, as though trying to unearth the ‘buck-toothed girl’ from Luxemburg. I have to cover my eyes with my hand until the song is over. Shyness may be nice, but blindness is not.
Songs from ‘You Are The Quarry’ are well received, among them, Irish Blood, English Heart, How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?, and First Of The Gang To Die. The highlight is a particularly emotive rendition of Let Me Kiss You, with Morrissey ripping off his sweaty shirt and throwing it into the crowd during the line:
But then you look in my eyes
And you see someone
That you physically despise.
But my heart is open,
My heart is open to you . . .
Before playing his new single, he addresses us politely: ‘May I lodge a complaint? HMV in Galway refused to stock my new single.’ This is greeted with a chorus of pantomime boos and shouts of ‘Wankers!’ from the audience. I can only presume the decision by HMV isn’t due to any particular anti-Morrissey sentiment – it’s certainly the catchiest song about anti-depressants I’ve ever heard - but rather a general decline in sales of singles.
It is still raining as the crowd exits Leisureland, but nobody seems to care. The sound of excited chatter fills the air; a sound generally reserved for contented concert-goers. Not bad for a Wednesday night. Not bad at all.
Máire T. Robinson