23 October 2009|
Birmingham (UK), Symphony Hall
This Charming ManThis concert left most attendees with a certain degree of disappointment, as the chemistry between Morrissey and the audience didn't really happen. Some blamed the lethargic crowd, others the seated venue more fit for classical or acoustic concerts. Security was quite strict, and at times violent, which surely didn't help things. Morrissey looked tired, his heart was not much into the show, and his singing suffered at the beginning and towards the end of the main set at which point he looked like he had had enough and walked off (read further for details). He must have not been in good health because he did collapse on stage the following night in Swindon.
The set was somewhat similar to what it had been earlier in the year on the Tour Of Refusal, but because this new tour was put together to promote the b-sides compilation "Swords", it featured b-sides "Ganglord", "Because Of My Poor Education" and "Teenage Dad On His Estate". The former two titles had been done live before, but the latter one was played here for the first time. This being the first date of a new tour, it also meant that a few other songs were done for the first time. The people who attended this concert were the first ones to witness Morrissey doing "Nowhere Fast" and "Cemetry Gates". Those songs had been done live before when he was fronting the Smiths, but never since. "Death At One's Elbow" was also some sort of debut, as it had been done only once before, on a one-off date in 1988. Finally the return of "Is It Really So Strange?" should be mentioned here as it was played for the first time since the end of the Oye Esteban tour in 2000. The planned setlist very likely originally featured a few more songs that ended up being skipped.
As he came on stage Morrissey greeted the audience with a simple subdued "Good evening." Following "Ganglord" he added the slightly more extensive "And of course, of course, welcome to Sympathy Hall..." Besides a previously heard lyric change in "Because Of My Poor Education" he also sang "this stage is my bed and I must lie" and "I've lived my whole life without affection". After the song he announced "Because against all medical advice, on Monday, we release 'Swords' (holds up LP, crowd cheers) from which that song can be found, for those who care... Did you like it?" The crowd's reaction was rather mild, as Morrissey put the LP down on the floor and proceeded with the show. He would later give it to a fan who had offered him a collection of old 1950s/1960s British film magazines.
After "Death A One's Elbow" Morrissey thanked the crowd a few times, then added "Thank me!" He then told his favourite fan: "Julia, we're all still alive, Julia is here with the (?), and to have it (gets interrupted by other fan) What? What? Go on then! (fan: you're great!) Off! It's very very... I'd hate to waste a good beer... " After "Teenage Dad On His Estate" he had another exchange with fans in the front rows. He asked "Anything to say?" then successively passed the microphone to various people who greeted him and told him they loved him. He changed a line in "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" to "In the absence of your smiling face, I rollerblade all over the place".
For some unknown reason, before going into "The Loop", Morrissey said "In our world, tomorrow, in our world, is Sweden..." Shortly after, "When Last I Spoke To Carol" was introduced as "the single that never was..." When Morrissey tried to introduce "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell", he was interrupted and never managed to finish what he meant to say: "Everything in life (fan: yes!; Morrissey echoes) Yes! everything in life, he agrees, has its time and its place (fan: including you darling!) What?! What?" Besides the previously heard changes in the latter number, Morrissey also sang "and the smilly children, they tell you that you smell". The result was probably a half-distracted mix of 'silly' and 'smelly'.
Before going into "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself" Morrissey announced "The extremely unfunny thing is: we almost didn't make it tonight (fans ask why)...oh, oh... oh dear... and to you!" He changed a line in that song to "Some men here, they have a special interest in your little career". Before going into "Is It Really So Strange?", he echoed someone's shout of "marvellous!", with his own doubtful "marvellous?". Before "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" he simply said "Well?" He struggled to reach the higher notes on "Life Is A Pigsty" and gradually became reluctant to face the audience. After a number of failed attempts he decided to leave the stage with the band still playing. A roadie or a member of his security followed backstage then came back waving his arms and gesturing to the band. It was clear that something was wrong and many people expected this to be the end of the show.
As the band exited the stage, stunned silence was broken with only a few isolated pockets of cheers and chants of Morrissey's name. Then just as quickly, Morrissey and the band were all back for the customary line-and-bow, under roars of ecstatic applause. Morrissey said "Well the morphine is kicking in, so there is just time for me to thank you, and to say, for God's sake, hold on to your friends..." The singer looked reasonably okay, but encore "First Of The Gang To Die", usually the signal for mayhem, was a bit low key with only one brave soul managing to make it on stage. At the end Morrissey backed away acknowledging the crowd but looking a bit sheepish.
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