Amidst the packed Wembley arena, it is hard to believe that we living in a coronavirus pandemic or that the ongoing boycotts against Morrissey were taking place. There was no support act, instead, fans watched a motley of music videos from artists including David Bowie, The Who, Paul Jones, Lou Reed, Ramones and Morrissey himself. Wearing a jacket covering a t-shirt and jeans with a large silver cross key chain; Morrissey entered the stage singing the chorus to Skeeter Davis’ The End of the World in true ebullient style before sneezing, then pausing, to then play The Smiths song “London”. Fans were not frightened but excited since “London” had not been played live since 2007.
Following “London” the set from this point consisted of up-tempo rock tracks including the opening song from Morrissey’s new LP I Am Not a Dog on a Chain “Jim Jim Falls and “I Wish You Lonely”, “Satan Rejected My Soul” and “At Amber” from Low In High School, Maladjusted and My Early Burglary Years respectively. Things only slowed down moderately with his cover of “Lady Willpower” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap taken from Morrissey’s 2019 covers LP California Son. Whilst California Son is a recent recording, it was surprising to see Morrissey disproportionately plug this material especially as he had a new acclaimed 2020 LP I Am Not a Dog on a Chain to promote. Morrissey would also play “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders, “Some Say (I Got Devil)” by Melanie and Wedding Bell Blues by Laura Nyro. Even if you weren’t familiar with these covers; it was nonetheless easy to tell which song were covers as his were the more fatalistic tracks. With Morrissey’s perfect diction the ambience of the songs could not be ignored.
With now thirteen LP’s under his belt Morrissey deserves praise for being able to curate tracks from all these LP’s except Vauxhall and I. Furthermore the majority of these songs were not his most prominent and commercially recognised. Opening with digeridoo “World Peace is None of your Business” was unexpectedly poignant as Morrissey sang “World peace is none of your business so would you kindly keep your nose out. The rich must profit and get richer and the poor must stay poor” proved to be one of the heavyweight tracks of the night. Low in High School received much coverage with “Home Is a Question Mark”, “I Wish You Lonely”, “Never Again Will I Be a Twin” and “Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage” where Morrissey often substituted the word “exit” to “Brexit before the encore.
There was frustration that apart from “London” Morrissey only played one other The Smith’s songs “Half a Man”. It was evident that fans expected more songs from his pre-solo career. Additionally, whilst fans were elated at hearing a broad range of Morrissey’s back catalogue and being wowed by his more esoteric gems; it would have been nice to have heard more of the hits. Apart from “Irish Blood, English Heart” Morrissey played few instantly recognisable hits that non- Morrissey fans would know. What was most perplexing was Morrissey plugging just three tracks from his latest LP I Am Not a Dog on a Chain. The songs he played went down well and he didn’t play “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?” featuring Thelma Houston, the first track he released from this new LP.
Whilst Morrissey is not known for giving many face to face interviews; his rapport with the audience and adroitness as an entertainer were second to none. Instead of taking a “Don’t mention the war” approach to coronavirus; Morrissey embraced the virus as if he was its sole proprietor from telling audience members that they could breathe as heavily as they liked because “I can take it” to signing an Italian fans’ Morrissey record and giving it back to them. The backdrop of Morrissey wearing a face mask with “You Are the Quarantined” for the opening song “London” goofing his own You are the Quarry LP made people forget about the current pandemic.
As well as entertaining with coronavirus, flowers were thrown onto the stage that he threw back into the crowd. Morrissey even got philosophical saying “They say when the body dies the soul is liberated. I don’t believe that” which earned him comedic laughter. He also joked that he wrote a song called “Man Loses Leg in a Woodchopper”. When Morrissey asked “Do you really think I would write a song called that” the unbashful audience answered “Yes”. Furthermore, the choice of backdrops to each of Morrissey’s songs were not only different (and naturally controversial) but also captivating. The image of a young Oscar Wilde as Morrissey played “Irish Blood, English Heart” was mesmerising. Heaven knows whether fans were miserable before they entered Wembley Arena; they exited elated with many releases of serotonin.