Morrissey made a triumphant first visit to Dunfermline and he and his band laid on a sparkling set, sprinkled liberally with solo favourites, a triumvirate of new tunes and an armed raid on The Smiths back catalogue to a packed Alhambra Theatre.
Support band Brother came and went without really stirring much more than polite applause from an audience with thoughts elsewhere. Before the main event we were treated to a video pick ‘n’ mix of songs and film clips dear to Morrissey’s heart, which filled the half hour wait very nicely. Personally, I’d rather have watched more of this than Brother, who wouldn’t have been out-of-place in the second tier of the Britpop league of 1991, fighting for mid-table obscurity with the likes of Salad, Fabulous and Marion. Among the footage we were treated to appearances by drag artist Lypsinka, The Foundations (Back On My Feet Again), Vince Taylor (Whole Lotta Shakin’), Nico (I’m Not Saying), Joe Dolan (You’re Such a Good Looking Woman), Fabian (Tiger) , Diana Dors, Sparks (Never Turn Your Back on Mother) and the New York Dolls (Give Him a Great Big Kiss/Looking for a Kiss), as well as interviews with Lou Reed (more on him later), Edith Sitwell and civil rights activist James Baldwin amongst others.
I’d never been to the venue before having been put off by a number of things, not least the debacle at one of their earliest gigs when the cloakroom went into meltdown and all the coats were laid out on the venue floor for people to claim. Their association with Ticketbastard doesn’t exactly endear me to them either. There are other niggles but I must proceed…
Arriving promptly at 7.30pm the venue doors were already open and I was soon able to add another complaint to an ever-growing list. The airport style security upon entry was, in my opinion, over the top and wholly unnecessary. I don’t know what they were looking for – there’s hardly a knife culture in Fife, people eat with their hands – but they didn’t find it on me. If the search had been any more invasive I’d have had a rubber glove tickling my tonsils, from the inside. Every pocket was emptied and then refilled. I’m only surprised we didn’t have to remove our shoes as well and hand over any suspicious toiletries. Good job too as I can’t go anywhere without my Almond Body Butter.
If you have a ticket, with a detachable ticket stub, why do staff then need to make a tear down the ticket? And then – yes, there’s more – we get our hand stamped. Why? The ripped ticket is proof of entitlement to be there, is it not? So remember the next time you visit the Alhambra down Dunfermline way make sure you bring your passport, driving licence, two utility bills and a copy of the Woman’s Weekly. Well, you’ll need something to read during the extensive cavity searches. As she-who-must-be-obeyed pointed out, “we never had this at Peter Pan on Ice”. The only thing that was missing was a monologue on those legends of comedy, Health and Safety.
Notwithstanding the continuing search for Taliban soldiers at the front door, and in the interests of fairness, I have to say that the inside of the Alhambra is amazing and I highly recommend the virtual tour on their website. The acoustics are very good, giving an excellent sound. A sloping stall section and stepped areas leading towards the bar at the back make it a viewer-friendly venue and there’s also a balcony area too. Being not a kick in the arse off 6 foot 4 I’ve never really had a problem seeing at gigs although it could’ve well and truly kicked off the night Gertrude Shilling stood in front of me at a Teenage Fanclub concert.
“We are very, very simple and we are very, very happy” opined Morrissey after an opening threesome of I Want The One I Can’t Have, First of the Gang to Die and You Have Killed Me. It seems he hasn’t been as verbose on this tour as on previous outings but no-one was complaining as another three big hitters in the form of Shoplifters of the World Unite (I hadn’t seen this live since The Smiths’ final gig in 1986), Every Day Is Like Sunday (I managed to get a small bit of grit in my eye during this one *sniff*) and sing-along-a-Moz favourite There Is a Light That Never Goes Out were rolled out.
Alma Matters, a 1997 Top 20 hit, and Speedway, closing track from 1994’s Vauxhall and I continued the onslaught. One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell was one of only two tracks from his most recent album, 2009’s Years of Refusal, although when the next album is likely to be is anybody’s guess as he is currently sans label.
The band, who were tighter than two coats of paint, were introduced before we heard the three new ditties. It seemed that many of the crowd didn’t know these latest offerings as they had been snuck out into the world at an ungodly hour on Janice Long’s Radio 2 show as a session, although, thanks to Auntie Beeb, they were made available to hear for a week afterwards.
The one and only cover of the night came in the shape of Lou Reed’s 1972 single Satellite of Love, a track from the Bowie-Ronson produced Transformer album. Morrissey even threw in a namecheck for BBC Newsreader George Alagiah, although what “Easy George” had done to raise the singer’s hackles we’ll never know.
I Know It’s Over was quite magnificent with Morrissey crooning beneath a single spotlight. My own personal sing along moment came with the inclusion of I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris, which may explain a rather sore throat this morning. No pain, no gain. The hits kept on coming with Ouija Board, Ouija Board up next before we were brought back down to earth with a conscious-pricking thump.
I became a vegetarian in 1985 and, yes, the track Meat is Murder was a contributory factor. (After 20 years, for health reasons, I returned to my carnivorous ways). The performance of it first time round, 26 years ago, was powerful enough to turn heads and bacon-filled stomachs but the footage of the treatment of battery hens and veal calves last night, projected large on to the backdrop*, really hit home. The blood-red lighting only enhanced the message. Food for thought indeed.
As eighty minutes had been the standard performance time on this mini-tour we knew it was almost over. Irish Blood, English Heart, a firecracker of a single and a personal favourite, closed the main set before the band returned for a single encore of This Charming Man.
At this point I have my final quibble. While, in true newspaper review style, I would afford this gig five stars out of five, I really feel that …(puts tin hat on)…he shouldn’t be playing This Charming Man. I appreciate that on the basis of that statement a fatwa is being taken out on me as I speak/type but Morrissey’s current band, as good as they are, simply can’t do it justice. Such an iconic song shouldn’t be mucked about with. There are any number of Smiths tracks I’d have preferred to hear but this one sounded a bit, well, stodgy. I know it’s a crowd-pleaser and a great way to send people back to their day jobs but it was the one song that just didn’t do it for me.
My bunch of gripes aside, Morrissey (and his band) showed that he still has it, whatever it may be. Sure, he wasn’t as vocal between songs as he once was but all those quirky mannerisms and grimaces and whip cracks on the microphone cord were still there in plentiful supply.
Never having been to Fife before I’m sure the welcome Morrissey got will ensure a return visit soon. We certainly hope so.
I Want The One I Can’t Have
First of The Gang To Die
You Have Killed Me
Shoplifters of the World Unite
Everyday Is Like Sunday
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
Action Is My Middle Name
The Kid’s A Looker
People Are The Same Everywhere
Satellite of Love
I Know It’s Over
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Ouija Board, Ouija Board
Meat Is Murder
Irish Blood, English Heart
This Charming Man (Encore)
Morrissey – vox humana
Boz Boorer – guitar
Jesse Tobias – guitar
Solomon Walker – bass
Matt Walker – percussion
Front of house security: **
* The backdrop for this gig was a change to the one used on the first three gigs of the tour in Perth, Inverness and Dunoon. The new backdrop is taken from the 1962 Italian movie Senilità, which starred Claudia Cardinale and Anthony Franciosa.