Wrecking It His Own Way

Daily Telegraph (Dec. 12, 1997)
review by Simon Briggs

submitted by Naomi Colvin
comments/corrections also by Naomi

It was only a matter of time before somebody took the beached carcass of Battersea Power Station and turned it into a concert venue. That somebody turns out to be Midland Bank, which has installed searchlights and a video arcade for a 17-day festival of "family entertainment". As for the gigs, they include visits by Boyzone tomorrow, and the Prodigy on December 22. On Wednesday, it was the turn of Morrissey, himself a British monument that has seen better days.

"Yeah, I also thought it would be the whole
[sic. He said "old"] power station," he commented wryly. Instead he found himself in a big black tent with no-smoking signs on the walls. The gloom was unrelieved by his black suit, black shirt [I think it was purple, actually, but perhaps I shouldn't be so pedantic] and a light show that hardly deserved the name: his backing band were virtually invisible most of the time. The only decoration was the backdrop of a large, homoerotic picture of two men in a swimming pool.

Since his early days as frontman of The Smiths, Morrissey has portrayed himself as an ambivalent, contradictory character. He used to wear gladioli tucked into his belt as a tribute to Oscar Wilde, and claimed he was celibate. But as his solo career has developed - "Maladjusted" is his ninth album - his face has hardened to the point where he looks more like a middleweight contender than the effete young man who sang "Meat Is Murder" back in 1985.

The sensitivity in the voice hasn't changed, Morrissey's range is still narrow to the point of monotony, but his florid, conversational delivery brings out the lyrical content of the songs - a blessing, since they're often of limited musical interest. He has a weakness for inane puns ("Roy's keen, oh Roy's Keen / We've never seen a keener window-cleaner") as well as the sort of bedsit miserabilism for which he is so famous: "It's my own life to wreck my own way."

An encore - "Sorrow Will Come In The End"
[need I?] - caused havoc at the front of the tent as Morrissey allowed a series of wild-haired boys to kiss his hand. Spotting that the security men were a bit thin on the ground, they stormed the stage and mobbed their hero, though in an affectionate, unthreatening way.

I have never seen such a downbeat show inspire such excitement, but those who invested in Morrissey's ironic solipsism while in their teens never seem to let go. If you didn't, there's no reason to start now.