Words & pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe
I never truly clicked with Morrissey’s music, I’ll admit – as a youngster, my dad was much fonder of playing me bands such as The Clash and The Jam as opposed to the man in question.
However, I can remember my best friend in sixth form playing me a handful of tracks from Viva Hate and they’ve been imprinted in the far corners of my brain ever since. So, when the opportunity arose to catch Morrissey at the Genting Arena, performing tracks from his latest album Low in High School, I knew I had go. Back to school it was. Plus, it’s not often you get to see musicians of this standing so up close.
And up close it was. Making my way through the sea of blue jeans and quiffed hair, I picked up my pass and waited to be escorted through to the photo pit. Swarms of fans, who all somehow looked identical, were buzzing into the arena. But not to catch a support act; a video was being played on stage showing highlights from Morrissey’s career.
I’ve taken lots of photos of artists over the years – from shows in tiny rundown venues, to sold out arena concerts with thousands of people. But standing at the front of Morrisey’s near Genting Arena crowd, I don’t think I’ve ever shot a show where an audience has been this absorbed and entranced by a performer.
So, as the curtain drops and Morrissey glides on stage, I am expecting his near 15,000 strong fans to go hysterical. But instead, it’s a subdued sense of wonder that encompasses the room for the following hour or so. Yes, some scream and shout as he wanders over to them, clutching their hands while singing Elvis Presley’s ‘You’ll Be Gone’ – but the majority stand still and stare in blatant wonder. As someone who is used to crowd surfers and mosh pits, it’s a bit bloody odd. But it’s odd in the best way. Tonight is true appreciation.
Morrissey’s setlist reflects the man himself too – uncompromising; a complete mixed bag of covers, newer releases, and some of his earliest work. The show itself is as blatantly political, with a video screen at the back showing brutal animal cruelty during ‘The Bullfighter Dies’ which causes even the hardest of men in the room to wince.
A tribute to the likes of Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne and David Pegg is played during ‘Munich Air Disaster 1958’, while clips of police brutality are aired for ‘Who Will Protect Us from The Police?’ Each track is interspersed with a picture of Morrissey deep in thought, a cigarette poised between his fingers.
Yes, for me some parts of the evening drag slightly. Morrissey’s newest work doesn’t send the room into stupor quite like ‘I Started Something I Can’t Finish’, and there’s something slightly nauseating watching him sing ‘When You Open Your Legs’.
However, tonight’s show at the Genting Arena is, overall, a success. It’s annoyingly impressive. Morrissey makes the stage his own in a way that few ex-front man ever can, with a five figure crowd united in ardent appreciation. And whomever your musical idols may be, from whatever era, that’s something not many will ever achieve.
Morrissey @ Genting Arena 27.02.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe – Birmingham Review
For more on Morrissey, visit www.morrisseyofficial.com
For more from the Genting Arena, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk