Outside the Bubble: Morrissey, Mad in Madrid

Mad in Madrid.

Man, messiah or maniac. Morrissey returns in a second coming, resurrected following a live hiatus after he was forced to cancel the majority of his US tour earlier this year.

If Morrissey is the messiah, the band are the madness. Mad in Madrid adorns the bright red t-shirts of Team Morrissey. The band’s uniform complements the main man himself. Morrissey goes all Rioja in one of his barely decent, 55 year old man open chested silken shirts. Of course, he whips it off at the end. Of course, this is to the weeping ecstasy of an entourage of mainly male worshippers front centre.

So it goes at every Morrissey gig. Or should that be concert given his status as a matured performer, perhaps not a crooner in the mold of a Bryan Ferry, but far, far from the NHS prescription spectacles of yore. Nonetheless, the clichés we have come to expect from the former Smiths’ lead man still dominate the set.

The continental setting does nothing to put off his typically British ravings, ranging from monarchy to meat. The main set is framed by The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder, giving a full, dripping flavour of Moz’s message. The man is nothing, if not consistent. 30 years on, and these songs still accompany the same ‘ethical’ ideology; the part-time misanthrope, the full-time chicken Kaliph, bangs the same political drum.

And quite some drum it is too. The drum kit would not look out of place in the hands of Lars Ulrich. Alongside the remainder of Morrissey’s merry men, drummer, Matt Walker provides the propulsive edge to the wall of noise that drives the sound to complement that so familiar voice. It echoes around the cavernous corners of the Barclaycard Centre with that uniquely haunting quality intact.

The event space is a problem. Frankly, it feels like a total sell out; complete with Barclay’s employees harassing the crowd with credit card offers, heavy advertising and €30 t-shirts. Is this the ethical Morrissey flaunting his wares for one last hurrah, milking his fame for every last bit of fortune?

In truth, the man is unchanged. Despite the unlikely venue, he spews the most surreal of political agendas. From an anti-St Andrews, United King-Dumb headline to accompany the smiling faces of the happy royal couple, Kate and Wills, to the vintage Margaret Thatcher bashings that made his name, Morrissey is unfazed by his European audience.

He mixes irrelevance with the spikily presumptuous; mounting his high horse to protect the bull and bring death to the matador. “The bane of Spain”, he announces, as new song The Bullfighter Dies is accompanied with flag waving and gory video shots of matadors being gored.

Such material drawn from latest release, World Peace is None of Your Business, sounds angrily fresh and adds bite to the older sing along classics, including Everyday is like Sunday and Speedway. At 90 minutes, the set is impressive from a cancer patient.

Morrissey’s revealed the severity of his ill health this week in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. As he rewards the crowd with an encore for “treating him almost like a human being tonight”, his illness is forgotten and the voice takes hold.

A heart wrenching rendition of The Smiths’ ballad Asleep, all vocal purity and acoustic simplicity, contrasts so perfectly with a loud and glaring, How Soon Is Now. The song brings Morrissey in direct competition with his former musical partner, Johnny Marr, who has been touring the song alongside his new material over the past year.

It is a pity that you can only collect the Morrissey and Marr set and not the full experience of the voice and the man behind that unique guitar sound. Nor does a reunion ever look likely with the evergreen Marr running into a post-punk pop future and old man Moz, even with his messianic resurrection, suffering the premature signs of mortality.

More man than messiah, but most certainly mad, Morrissey mania persists and his legacy will surely live on beyond the Cemetery Gates.

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