Wellington Town Hall
Is it the new cool to wear Morrissey style glasses, or are these just the diehard fans? I don’t know, but there are a lot of them around tonight. These fans are coffee drinking public servants by day, but tonight they’ve traded in their black and white uniforms for floral shirts and jeans. A peppering of ACDC t-shirts reminds me that for this crowd, tonight is all about them. The eighties is their era. I’m a late convert to Morrissey. When I listen to his older stuff, it’s the familiar background of my childhood, though I was too young to be a fan. But for this crowd, Morrissey was the soundtrack to the best days of their young adult lives. These aren’t hard rockers, they’re not hippies, they won’t die for their music. They’re an overlooked generation of introverts and this is their time to shine.
These fans are an eclectic bunch. What’s eclectic about them? Perhaps it’s not so much that they look eclectic, it’s more that they must be if they’re here, because eclecticism is a necessary part of being a fan. You don’t just like Morrissey’s music, you choose to like Morrissey the man and you choose to continue liking him even when you don’t agree with what he says. And because this is a crowd of thinkers, I like to believe they’re making an important statement by being here. They’re saying “See, I can be rebellious too.” They’ve spent their whole lives rebelling in their own quiet way.
I’m confused as I look at the old man who was once Morrissey. Is this really the same man I’ve been watching YouTube videos of when he was with The Smiths? The problem with coming to an artist late is that we have grown old separately. I feel a strange sense of jealousy towards the crowd. This man hasn’t been part of my life in the way that he has been for most of the people here. He’s a stranger: an old guy with a microphone. But all of this is quickly forgotten as he croons out ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ to the expectant crowd, like the professional that he is, and I know that this really is him.
It’s an impressive set we’re treated to. Seven Smiths songs (‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’; ‘How Soon Is Now?’; ‘I Know It’s Over’; ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’; ‘Meat Is Murder’; ‘Sweet And Tender Hooligan’ and ‘Still Ill’), as well many others spanning his solo career including ‘You’re The One For Me, Fatty’; ‘November Spawned A Monster’; ‘Ouija Board, Ouija Board’; ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’; and ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’. A highlight was the drum solo bashed out on a gigantic bass drum towards the end of the classic Smiths hit, ‘How Soon is Now?’ to the delight of us all. If there is any lingering doubt about who this grey haired bloke in front of us really is, it’s banished for good when he breaks into ‘Meat is Murder’, the vegetarian anthem. Who else would flash images of animals dying horrific deaths while gently chanting “kill, eat, murder”?
What else can I say about Morrissey that hasn’t been said before? His band tonight is wearing All Blacks jerseys. That’s new. Was it his idea? I argue with the guy standing next to me about the significance of this. He thinks the band has decided to do it to win the crowd over. I think there’s more to it than that. These are international stars, what do they care what we think? One thing we do both agree on is that Morrissey sounds great.
In one of several addresses to the audience, he says, “I return to the city of Wellington tonight to prove I’m still the same, which of course is bad news.” Which, of course, is great news for his fans. This is a Morrissey who is still at the top of his vocal game, still preaching his message, still funny and ironic; still encouraging us in our quiet rebellion. And tonight it’s now part of my history too.