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Thursday, 23 July 2009
This Charming Man


The Youngest and I went to see Morrissey perform at the Brixton Academy this evening. An amazing performance, that exceeded my expectations. I came to Morrissey late, although I owned some Smiths stuff from ‘80s compilation albums and I have always felt that his best is behind him. On the other hand his live performance tonight seemed to recapture an excitement that I felt had been missing since Suedehead. His backing band was also impressive and their contribution to the energy of the performance shouldn’t be overlooked.

Update: 25 July 2009 I wrote the above rather hastily and late at night, after arriving home from the concert so I will add a few more words here.

It all started when the aforementioned Youngest came to me on Tuesday morning, while I was working from home, and suggested that we should go and see Morrissey that night. She said it could be my Christmas present (Christmas in July?), but that unfortunately she could only afford my ticket so would I pay for her to go too.  I was interested, but as the concert was on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Brixton Academy I suggested we go the following night. So she ran upstairs to write down the details of the website, and by the time she returned 5 minutes later I had looked up the details, and bought two tickets for the Wednesday night.  On the way I had asked the Eldest if she wanted to come along (she declined) and established that the forthcoming Royal Albert Hall concert was already sold out.

So it came to pass that on Wednesday at 5:30 pm the two of us left home and drove up into London. According to my SatNav it is a 40 minute drive, which usually means (for urban roads) that it will take double the time, and this journey was no exception. We were tempted to stop off at Chennai Dosa on the way but decided it would be better to get to the concert in time and then take care of our stomachs. We parked at the multi-story parking lot and walked a couple of hundred metres across to the Academy.

On the way we passed the tree of remembrance for Sean Rigg outside Brixton Police Station.  Sean Riggs died on 28 August 2008 in police custody.

A physically healthy man in mental crisis comes into contact with the police and dies within a short period of doing so, possibly whilst still in police custody. In those circumstances, we his family are entitled to an explanation of how and why he was detained; how he was restrained; and what happened in those crucial minutes between him being forced in a police van and his arriving at Brixton Police Station.

At the Academy we joined a queue, got our tickets and then went across the road to get a quick bite and drink before the concert.  There were a number of people outside scrounging for tickets and at the box office we felt sorry for the people complaining that they had bought tickets for the cancelled gigs (Morrissey cancelled some shows earlier in the year due to illness) and that the publicity was bad for these concerts so they didn’t find out in time to get replacement tickets.

In the queue:

View of the Academy from across the road:

Inside the venue there were a number of merchandising stalls - I bought a t-shirt and a sticker - as well as a forlorn/less popular Peta stall:

I know Morrissey is a supporter of theirs so I wasn’t surprised but it seems that his fans are not such big supporters.  All the while we were hearing the warm-up act, Doll & the Kicks (a local Brixton band) and it was good. Eventually we made our way into the arena and caught the last 3 or 4 songs of their set.  Then, while the roadies rearranged the set for Morrissey and his band we were entertained with a montage of videos including people such as Shelagh Dealney, New York Dolls, Lou Reed, and Spark’s Lighten up Morrissey.


Then the show began, and Morrissey came on and launched into This Charming Man. I must say I prefer his “new” version to the original. Many of the songs (I lost count and cannot name them) were “oldies” and I preferred the way he does them now.  And as I wrote above the rest of the show was pure energy with one song after another.  In between numbers he did engage with the audience.  For example at one stage he told us that no UK music magazine had attended/reviewed his London concerts and added “what a surprise”.  Another time he mentioned that The Times had written a review the previous week where they accused him of being offensive without stating what he had said or been offensive to. He added that this was typical of journalists and that “the world is full of crashing bores” (cue the song). I see now that the review in question no longer accuses him of being “offensive”. The review does say that

Skull-rattling volume and adventurous instrumentation helped to electrify the lacklustre new album tracks, notably the fiery flamenco-punk gallop of When Last I Spoke to Carol and the bass-heavy bruiser I’m OK by Myself. Giant gongs, crashing kettle drums and blazing trumpets brought an extra layer of melodrama.

As I have already written I was impressed by the talents of his band, who performed this “adventurous instrumentation”, although I noticed precisely one giant gong and one trumpet during the entire show.


Another time Morrissey remarked to us that we might be surprised that there are fans who follow the band to all the shows in different countries on their international tours. He thanked all of us earlier, but he gave them special thanks saying we don’t even know your names [woman’s voice from the back of the arena: “Anna!”] but we recognise your faces from the scars. I also appreciated the way he reached out to touch the hand of all the fans who made their way “over the top” to do so, knowing that they would be evicted by the heavies in front.


I had thought that almost half of the songs sung on the night were “oldies” but according to the Times it was a third.  Besides for the “vamped up” oldies, I felt the live performance of the “newies” was better than the CD versions, and if I had gone to the Tuesday night concert I would probably have tried to go again on Wednesday too. Irish Blood, English Heart roused me in a way it never had before. At the end Morrissey and his band were taking their time to return for the encore, and the Youngest ventured to suggest that the show might be over. Having a bit of knowledge as to what was going to happen next, I assured her that they would be back to perform First of the Gang to Die, which is her favourite Morrissey song. It was a good way to end, for all of us.


Posted by bigblue on 23/07/2009 at 12:14 AM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (2) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

Correctly or not Morrissey has a reputation for complaining about the media. In 5 minutes I found a review of his show by the NME. The review is of the very same show you went to, and they also mention that he paid tribute to another innocent who was shot by the police, Jean Charles de Menezes.

Posted by Janet  on  26/07/2009  at  09:35 PM

I was reviewing this posting, where I mention a victim of police violence, when I wrote my post today on National Police Memorial Day.  Several thoughts struck me:

(1) There are only adhoc memorials (like that pictured above) and adhoc church services for the people killed by police.
(2) Is anyone keeping a tally of the number of people killed by the police in suspicious circumstances?
(3) The NME article that Janet links to states that Jean Charles de Menezes was “mistakenly” killed by the police, whereas he was quite deliberately executed (by all accounts).

This led me to the following:

(a) Police have shot 33 people since 1995, yet only 2 marksmen have been named (Daily Mail).
(b) The Campaign Against Police Violence and their petition for an independent judicial inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody.

I decided to post this as a comment here, rather than on my Hug a policeman day entry.

Posted by bigblue  on  06/10/2012  at  11:48 AM

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