IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE from August 24, Morrissey 25:Live, a concert-film celebration of his quarter-century as a solo performer, arrives just weeks after a tranche of cancelled shows, most recently in South America. Morrissey’s timing, rarely impeccable, has nevertheless been better. “This really is the last of many final straws,” he wrote in a doleful July 19 online posting full of hints of retirement. “My apologies are now so frequent as to be somewhat ridiculous… the wheels are finally off the covered wagon.”
Which makes this concert, filmed at the Hollywood High School on March 2, even more of a surprise. There is no frailty in evidence in this dynamically realised film. Rather, the old campaigner is shown in powerful form, strong in voice and presence, backed by a tight, practised group.
“This really is the last of many final straws. The wheels are finally off the covered wagon.”
True, some might have issues with the setlist. There’s no The Queen Is Dead or How Soon Is Now?, but we do get less-momentous solo singles Ouija Board, Ouija Board and You’re The One For Me, Fatty – but there is still ample proof of Mozzer’s unique appeal, with titanic versions of You Have Killed Me and Speedway, and nape-raising thrills when he does Smiths songs, including the rock-injected Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want and Still Ill.
Such are the circumstances, some song choices gain heightened significance - “this is my life to wreck my own way” goes opener Alma Matters, ominously – while Action Is My Middle Name doomily observes, “everybody has a date with an undertaker - a date they cannot break.” Is he simply being melodramatic when, after introducing the band, he declares, “I have no past, no present, no future - so what?”
Several shirt changes later – a blue and white florid blouson and another flowery number both end up being fought over in the crowd – the show ends with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and a stage invasion involving a 9-year-old fan who wields an AT LAST I AM BORN placard hoisted up by Moz. “We can only hope that he keeps on doing more shows,” says a devout fan as the credits roll.
The suspicions of finality remain. Before Please, Please, Please… he becomes the veteran vaudevillian on the verge of breaking down, telling the superfan crowd, “I’d like to think, in the future, wherever it takes me, I can still hold me head up in the psychiatric unit, or wherever I may be. Please remember I love you…”
Is Morrissey 25:Live a prelude to his ultimate sloughing off of the outside world? Will he now, as he wrote years ago of the “Garbo-esque mystique” of Carry On film actor Charles Hawtrey, retreat into guarded obscurity? If this is a last goodbye, it’s a noble exit. Those watching at the cinema may still find themselves wanting to cheer in between songs.
Here’s the trailer...