The British judiciary killed Oscar Wilde, and did much the same to Shelley, Keats, Byron and Yeats, while the British establishment hands out prizes to those who are mediocre, and hates those who are not mediocre. So says an in-form Morrissey towards the end of a largely excellent set, inviting the congregation to make the leap and put him into that poetic premiership before launching into a plaintive “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”.
Luckily his main backdrop is a large picture of Wilde with a speech bubble saying “who is Morrissey?” otherwise, you might make the all-too common mistake of taking him entirely seriously. His back catalogue in any case makes for a mightily impressive anthology. It is not all aired tonight, by any means: roughly one part Smiths, one part early solo and one part more recent material is the mix.
After a terrific opening salvo, the quality does vary a little. For instance, this may have been the best version of Maladjusted that he’s ever performed, but that still doesn’t make it a good track, and there are a couple of others similarly beyond saving. Overall, though, it’s a mostly top-drawer set with tracks like I Know it’s Over, Shoplifters of the World, Am I Still Ill, Ouija Board and Every Day Is Like Sunday sounding utterly glorious.
The band has a decent go at the Usher Hall rafters throughout, and Morrissey himself is in fine voice. The fans are typically rapturous throughout, no more so than when he rips off his shirt (one which he’d just put on for that track, perhaps undermining the spontaneity of the gesture) during Let Me Kiss You.
Even among the converted, he possibly stretches his welcome with a punishing Meat is Murder – complete with graphic infomercial – before signing off with a blistering rendition of How Soon Is Now.
If recent comments are to be believed, Morrissey plans to retire in 2014. On this form, he is a very long way indeed from mediocre, and there should be no hesitation in encouraging one more encore at least.