What would Edinburgh be without the rain?
Who knows...but it wouldn't be Edinburgh.
What would we be without Morrissey?
Happy, well adjusted, successful...normal?
Maybe...but I'm glad I've got Morrissey even if I lack those other things.
The crowd at the Usher Hall is the usual unusual.
Balding, middle-aged men desperately tugging the last few stray strands of hair to attention in an effort to make something that vaguely resembles a quiff.
Young turks with skinny jeans, fat egos and good shoes.
Pretty girls, pretty boys.
At least one skinhead in beautiful shoes.
People old enough to know better.
People young enough to know no different.
As the imperfect list blares from the sound system the atmosphere in the hall transforms us from this rag-tag bunch of misfits into one perfectly formed mass...we're all here because of the tie that binds.
Morrissey hits the stage looking fighting fit and able...trim, muscular, perky.
"Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" is, in any setting and at any time, one of the most beautiful songs in the popular music songbook. It's a bold move to open a concert with a song like this...it's haunting, affecting and full of yearning. Every line is bawled back at the master and when the roof nearly comes off the venue at it's close it all makes sense.
He then roars through "Everyday is Like Sunday" and "Alma Matters" with the band sounding tight and his voice getting stronger with every verse one can't help but feel that this could be a night to remember. Who else could take a single like "Alma" which barely made a dent in the charts and that features on an album that is, at best, patchy by his standards and make it sound like the only song you every wanted to hear?
When he hands the mic to the front row a Northern lass pleads with him; "Coom to Wigan Morrissey...please, coom to Wigan." Taking the mic back he barks "No" and then we are headlong into a clutch of four singles in a row; "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris", "You Have Killed Me", "Shoplifters of the World Tonight" and "You're the One for me Fatty". Before he introduces his band of "love hungry bachelors" we are given "Speedway" which is given a re-working but doesn't suffer as a result...if anything it sounds better than ever.
Casual observers and supporters of Morrissey would now be looking for "First of the Gang to Die", "This Charming Man" and "Irish Blood English Heart"...Morrissey isn't one for giving people what they want so instead we are given a blistering rendition of "Maladjusted" which is played with such aggression, such power and such ferocity that I am left reeling. Then it's the glory of "Still Ill", the demanding "One Day Goodbye Will be Farewell" and the hysterical but moving "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" before being emotionally assaulted by "I Know It's Over".
I'm not sure that before tonight any of those songs would feature in my personal "Best of..." collection but after hearing them tonight they won't ever be off of that collection.
At the end of "Let Me Kiss You" Morrissey strips to the waist...not an unusual sight at a Morrissey concert but one which, in recent years (if we are being honest) has resulted in a few downward glances as we have tried to avoid the fact that our personal saviour has fallen victim of middle-age spread. Not tonight. He looks fabulous. I'm saying no more for fear of plunging myself into some sort of homo-erotic coma.
"Todays lesson is that we are all, all of us, minorities..." is the introduction to the only unreleased song we hear tonight. "People are the Same Everywhere" sounds like it is cut from the same cloth as "All You Need is Me" or "Something is Squeezing my Skull". It's power-pop...rocky and raucous. I like it...so there.
The cover version of "To Give" by Frankie Valli is dedicated to Kevin Roberts a Morrissey fan given a mention by a friend in the front row. He passed away earlier this year, was a huge Morrissey fan and his friend wanted to have him remembered so when the mic came to him he told us all about him and Morrissey preceded the song with a simply "For Kevin". A beautiful moment and a none too subtle reminder of how important Morrissey is to so many of us.
"We all know that the British judiciary killed Oscar Wilde and that something similar happened to Shelley, Byron, Keats and Yeats by the establishment. The British establishment rewards mediocrity and the mediocre. It also hates people who are not mediocre so..."
"Please, please, please..." is so moving tonight that, genuinely, I am in tears by the time it ends. I'm confident I'm not the only one.
"I Will See You in Far Off Places" is thumping, loud, aggressive, blistering and rage filled. It's a glorious reminder of why Morrissey matters. Without a record deal, and stubbornly refusing to do the DIY thing, it is easy to see him as old news, yesterdays man. But when he can write songs like this, that have more to say about the world we live in than any public proclamation by the vile David Cameron ever could, it is clear to see why we need him now more than ever.
Most artists like to end on a high note...a romp through a few of the "oldies", the fans favourites...Morrissey chooses to end the set with "Meat is Murder" complete with a gruesome set of images that may well serve to convert yet another generation of fans to the vegetarian cause. It's powerful and political.
An encore of "How Soon is Now" seems like the only possible way a concert like this could have ended. A trip down memory lane, the greatest single his old band never released, a clarion call to the lonely...it's everything you need to know about Morrissey.
A cover version.
7 Smiths songs.
Album tracks from "Maladjusted", "Vauxhall and I", "Ringleader of the Tormentors", "The Queen is Dead", "The Smiths", "Meat is Murder" and "Strangeways Here We Come" (I'm sure I've missed or mistaken some of the songs...forgive me, it's late).
1 unreleased song.
People will complain no matter what Morrissey plays...there is always something you want, something you are tired of...but the truth is that 20 songs over 90 minutes with all sorts of treats packed in isn't really a set you can complain about.
The last night of the tour...questions over whether or not he will tour again, will he ever release another album, will we see his autobiography? For now though I'm glad I was there...I sang my heart out, I laughed, I cried and I felt part of something.
What more could you want?