Morrissey at Hammersmith Apollo 19.3 2023

Morrissey seems to have derailed himself in some people’s eyes. His individuality means he doesn’t sing to everyone’s tune these days but I won’t desert this lyrical genius at this late stage. His shows still sell out in minutes and there is an encampment of fans waiting under Hammersmith flyover, opposite the Apollo by lunchtime. It’s still big news when Mozzer is in town.

No support band tonight – Morrissey and his band. Before they go on, some handpicked records with black and white photos on the screens to illustrate – icons of screen and stage. We are in the centre, half way up the balcony. The huge balcony in this 5000 capacity crowd. In all my visits here I have never seen a band from the balcony, always preferring the stalls, without the seats if possible. I don’t mind my seat. I’m knackered. This is day three of a three-night run of gigs in the capital.

The Hammersmith Eventim Apollo

We’ve had a trip down to the pubs upstream from Hammersmith Bridge: The Old Ship, the ever popular Dove and the friendly staff of The Rutland Arms. Always lovely. After the longest snake of queue I’ve ever seen here (half way down to the Riverside Studios)  we’ve had a beer in the beautiful Apollo art deco bar and paid a hefty price for it. I’m now happy to sit.

Downstairs bar  at  The Apollo

Excitement, real excitement, as the 63-year-old starts with Our Frank from the Kill Uncle album, and not much of a wait before the first Smiths song: the urgent Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.

Morrissey and band in Hammersmith

While the band is lit by wandering spotlights, Morrissey appears to be performing in near shadows. This must be by design – a sheepish intro? A man tired of the knocking and gently reintroducing himself?

Irish Blood, English Heart and Mozzer is getting going. The mic lead is being whipped out. I Wish You Lonely: what a wonderfully mean lyric, sung with such glee. The man’s voice still has all its strength. I grab a video with my pocket zoom – steady, perched up here and not in anyone’s way – Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings (on my YouTube Channel).

“Sure enough, the telephone rings
Who wants my money now?
Otherwise the telephone never would ring
No oh oh oh”

Is that how Morrissey sees himself now? Only there to be exploited.

Balcony view – pretty good

Quite a mix tonight. No one album has much focus – a few songs from many. Four Smiths songs in total. Girlfriend in a Coma brings a short blast of pop-misery. They don’t write them like that anymore (link is to a video stored on my YouTube channel). Half a Person – still the height of genius.

It’s two anthems from Viva Hate, that first solo album, that pump the atmosphere up most. Half way through, Everyday Is Like Sunday (is that the retirement singalong that awaits me I wonder) and nearing the end with Suedehead. I’ve played that song so loudly and so often over the years – often driving. By this time Morrissey is in full flow. Most of the huge, seated balcony crowd are on their feet. The front of the stalls crowd are grabbing, leaping and being restrained. Just a grasp, a touch and over the barriers and out they go.

He reminds us that this is ‘Mozzer’s Day’ while giving a nod to Mothers everywhere.

He returns to the roars of appreciation with one more Smiths number: Sweet and Tender Hooligan from the Louder than Bombs album. He rips his shirt to reveal his maturing torso – not too old yet for those rock and roll theatrics.

I’ll be back. Behave yourself Mozzer.

Back in the day – Morrissey and The Smiths

Back Autumn 1983 I moved into a shared house in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, with some student mates. On the back of the front door in a letter rack was a seven inch square cardboard envelope for  a previous occupant – he used to review records for a magazine. We left it there for weeks and eventually opened it – we had no forwarding address. It was This Charming Man by The Smiths. Me and one of the guys (Nige) loved it and we agreed to buy a second copy and go halves so we could have one each.

After that came What Difference Does it Make, then albums and my first Smiths gig in 1984. It was a free outdoor one in Jubilee Gardens on London’s South Bank, put on by the GLC (Greater London Council). Morrissey with his fake hearing aid, NHS specs and flowers in his back pocket. That was the start of The Smiths for me and I’ve never left Morrissey and Marr alone since.

My ticket from an early Smiths gig

Later in ’84 I saw them at The Tower Ballroom, next to a reservoir, in the North of Edgbaston, Birmingham. Next gig was after The Queen is Dead album was released in Summer 1986.

NME reports from G-Mex 1986

The event was at the G-Mex Centre and celebrated the tenth anniversary of the start of punk. The Smiths came on at 6pm. It was still light but with a late-night drunken rowdiness. Morrissey waved that Queen is Dead placard around in a frantic celebration. That must have been their height I suppose.

My ticket from Festival of the Tenth Summer

I stuck with it after they split up and Morrissey went solo, going to Leicester to see him in 1991 but left it another 14 years before I bought a resale ticket and drove down to Plymouth, from East Dorset, to see him again. He still was a huge draw. By 2015 at Bournemouth BIC and 2018 at The London Palladium, Morrissey had become a more mature showman but going to these gigs was still a big event.

Here we are again. This time Hammersmith – this would have been the handiest venue in my school days and early pre-Smiths gig going. Back then it was always seats downstairs and the ability to strip them out these days is most welcome.

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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