Morrissey At The Palladium: Art Always Wins
As I climbed into the black London cab outside Victoria station, hefting my overnight bag into the backseat beside me, I buckled up and was relieved to finally be on my way to the Palladium, a 2300 seated auditorium in London’s West End. It was Sunday October 9th and I’d been travelling for eight hours.
“Who is playing tonight, then?” the cabbie asked, catching my eye in the rear-view mirror. “Morrissey,” I piped up over tooting horns and bustling traffic that whizzed around us.
“Morrissey?! I love Morrissey! He’s really good, isn’t he?”
I nodded, in agreement.
“Everyone loves Morrissey, don’t they? We all love him,” the driver added as he swerved and careened his way towards the venue.
This man (perhaps in his late 60s, with a greying beard and chequered cap atop his head) was a stranger to me. Yet he represented then what I so love about Morrissey’s fanbase — they are to be found everywhere, of all ages and backgrounds, and they love their hero deeply. I spent the remaining few minutes of our journey listening to his opinion on what Morrissey’s best work was, and how he often enjoyed watching the artist’s performances online. There was no talk, no referral, to the media’s version of the icon, just pure love of the man and his music.
The show that evening was sold-out. As I entered, I saw people at the box office trying to get last-minute tickets to the show — they were turned away, disappointed. The Palladium was filled to capacity.
Inside there were teenagers in their Morrissey tops; glammed-up woman in designer gear and heels; men in tattered band shirts raising their pints to each other. Men cried and launched themselves at the stage, women sang along to the songs, all self-consciousness lost in the moment.
As Morrissey took to the stage that evening, one thing was clear to me — the audience (electrified by the atmosphere and in awe of seeing their hero up close) could not be categorised by age, race or gender. The crowd was an eclectic mix of passionate concert-goers united by music, brought together by Morrissey. In the venue, on that cold October evening, the world outside (often filled with division) was temporarily suspended, momentarily forgotten. Everything felt — for at least a little while — like magic. Pure escapism of the kind not easily attained.
That evening, Morrissey performed much-loved tracks such as How Soon Is Now?, We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful, Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want and Everyday Is Like Sunday. Yet his performance of several new tracks from his upcoming album was met with deafening cheers. Sure Enough The Telephone Rings, Rebels Without Applause and Bonfire of Teenagers (an atmospheric and powerful track about the Manchester arena bombing) were amongst the new songs Morrissey delivered during the show, giving fans a hint of what’s to come in his latest project.
An hour and a half later, it was almost impossible not to leave the show feeling smugly satisfied that, despite repeated attempts by the mainstream press to criticise, undermine and pull-apart the artist’s reputation, Morrissey is going stronger than ever. After years of being condemned (for nothing more than thinking independently in this Orwellian age of conformity and uniformity) Morrissey remains a dynamic and honest front-man who draws in crowds from across the world. Against the backdrop of an increasingly bland, manufactured music industry, he remains one of the greats.
It is with a kind of strange humour that Morrissey fans can look upon the criticisms levelled at the singer, their tired claims against his character and his opinions, all the while knowing it is, in fact, the press and social media who are the curators of cruelty and division. Where certain pockets of the press have been outspoken, savage and brutish, Morrissey has been quietly dignified. While certain journalists have repeatedly published hateful diatribes, the artist has been diligently getting on with what matters to him most: making music, and the preservation of the animal kingdom through his tireless work for their rights.
For many entertainers, the level of scrutiny that Morrissey has faced would be too much to bear. Many, if they found themselves under the same level of misrepresentation and criticism, would either wither away into scrutiny, or instantly conform themselves into what is supposed to be the fashionable “take” of the time, in order to satiate the mobs of keyboard warriors and bored office journalists. Morrissey never shaped or moulded himself according to anyone, and it is likely this strength and honesty that resonates with his fanbase, that pocket of the population left who still desire raw authenticity and talent.
Morrissey once said that he “didn’t recognise himself” in the many articles written about him. He has been so mythologised as a person that he has become an easy “pick n mix” target for the critics who can quickly pull out any version of him they wish to use for clickbait and sensationalism. They will seek out eight words from a three-page interview and create their own out-of-context drama, indeed, sometimes they will go out of their way to misrepresent him. They will lie. It sells, don’t you know?
Yet, the fanbase’s satisfaction is still there. The love for Morrissey is not waning. Standing amongst the audience that night at the London Palladium, those headlines, those childish reprimands from a dying mainstream press seemed far, far, far away. As Morrissey stood centre-stage, energized by the crowd before him, singing songs from forty years ago as well as tracks penned only months ago, he was every bit the artist we needed. He sounded as fresh and inspired as ever.
At the Palladium this week, the audience saw with their own eyes that true art does the loudest talking. It lasts, it’s meaningful. It is our true purpose. It outruns social media movements; it outruns any headline. Morrissey has formed a career of over 40 years in the business, releasing some of the greatest songs ever to hit the music world. Whilst misrepresented articles about him will perhaps continue, he remains one of the most significant artists of our time — and for a reason. The art itself has surely always been the truest reflection of Morrissey, and no report from the biased media will ever overshadow this.
See Morrissey live when you can, whenever you can, because it serves as a great reminder of what truly matters.