As The Culture Show competition hots up, Mozzer comes to Birmingham’s largest leisure centre; Fatty’s the one for me, “Arise Sir Morrissey!”
The un-cultured among you may not know that BBC’s The Culture Show has announced its finalists in their quest to find Britain’s Living Icon. Nuzzled next to Paul McCartney and David Attenborough is Stretford poet Morrissey. Bearded blue-tit fancying Brummie and unfunny ‘Baddie’, Bill Oddie put Birmingham to shame the previous Saturday by spending more time slagging off the be-quiffed demigod than bigging up Attenborough. When Mozzer walks on and says “Brum” three times before launching into Panic, we know all is forgiven.
Before long, he’s talking about The Culture Show’s Living Icon “…So it’s Sir Paul McCartload, Sir David Attenborough and me. Maybe it’s only matter of time before the Queen calls me up to her palace and lays her sword on my shoulders – engraved with the name M-O-R-R-I-S-E-Y.” Oh-so deliberately making a spelling mistake before launching into ‘I’ll Never Be Anyone’s Hero Now.’ After this aptly timed song, he announces, “So if McCartload gets it it’ll be all over the world – front cover of Rolling Stone magazine. If Attenborough gets it, it’ll make the six and nine ‘o’ clock news. If I get it – you can guarantee that it’ll be dropped like a hot potato.”
Morrissey may not be as widely known as the Knights of the Realm but what Morrissey doesn’t make up for in population, his fans make up for in passion. This might just tip the balance for The Culture Show vote (an audience that considers itself a cut above the rest, to them everyday is like a Sunday supplement). As with all things passionate, it is either a love or hate with the man Moz. But if you hate him, he doesn’t really care.
A show of discernment is apparent because the jumped up leisure centre is only half full; the devoted fans are squashed up against the barrier dancing in front of Morrissey. There is a slight feeling of estrangement up in the seated press zone. In fact, hemmed in tiny seats with little padded arm rests I occasionally have to look down and check I’m not in a wheelchair. One sign of a true star is that the accomplished entertainer is still able to connect with the arena. Initially wearing a bold pink shirt he croons around the stage making declarations punctuated by the occasional bull whip of the microphone. Ably supported by his assembled group of troubadours, there is no doubt who the spotlighted bull is.
Smiths classics that only Morrissey can do well. ‘How Soon Is Now,’ ‘Girlfriend In A Coma,’ and ‘William It Was Really Nothing,’ are all superb renditionsTopping the encore is the tender ‘Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,’ and the arena suddenly feels cosy and intimate. Old solo favourites hold equal sway too, the biggest difference is that Morrissey goes against the grain of seasonal end-of-year-revenue-improving-big-band-gigs, and his new material sparkles. All the way from ‘I Will See You In Far Of Places’ to ‘Life Is A Pigsty.’ Compared to, let’s say, Paul McCartney – Morrissey is still producing great new tracks, in a language that still flourishes…and he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve more so than he ever before. The real reason he means so much to the fans, including myself, is that he taught all of us, repressed-bedroom-types, how to listen to music. He spurred an entire revolution that revolves rubber-ringed-round Britpop and still beats bands like The Killers, hands down with gladioli. At the finale he rips his third shirt open. The buttons fly into the audience, followed by the tailored Italian shirt. The arena swoons. Sex, intelligence, audience devotion and Morrissey’s dedication means there can be only living winner.