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CD Review: Morrissey – Live at Earl’s Court

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PM Rating System Grade: B+
Summary: This disk is a tasty appetizer to tide you over until you can dive into the actual experience that is a Morrissey live show.

Morrissey - Live at Earl's CourtBy now, anyone who has their finger on the pulse of music knows that Morrissey deftly resurrected himself last year with the release of the brilliant You are the Quarry. After seven years devoid of Moz that was preceded by two tasteless albums, the king of Manchester stormed back onto the scene taking a giant eraser to the past 10 years. Perhaps the only thing more exciting than breathing in this salient work was discovering that he would be embarking on his first extensive U.S. tour since the mid 90s, headlining Lollapalooza.

The leaking elation was short lived as we discovered weeks later that Lollapalooza had folded on the back of weak ticket sales. It would be a month before Morrissey would roll out a tour schedule to sop up our disappointment. That Atlanta evening in October, when he made the Tabernacle his home, would rank as one of the best shows I have ever experienced, and I have hundreds to draw from.

Usually, I’m not a big fan of live discs. It’s one thing if it was a show that you attended. Then you can effectively plug in each of your memories from that night into each feverish track. Otherwise, it’s a live show minus the live show. You don’t have that feeling of your nerves dangling as the performer stands a mere 40 feet away. Watching them cycle through their facial expressions, surveying their body gestures, spying as they feed off the sweaty energy pulsing from the crowd, allowing them to elevate the music to another level.

Then you have the crowd, which is a spectacle in and of itself. I’d say half were homosexual and the rest were perched just to the left of normal. The fine art of people watching was definitely in full swing.

This set was drawn from a variety of sold out dates that closed out his 2004 tour in the UK (London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Brighton and Dublin). It is really a strong collection of songs. It favors You Are the Quarry of course, but it also gives us several classic Smiths’ barn burners within (“How Soon as Now?”, “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”) as well as a healthy sample of B-sides and unreleased tracks from the Quarry era. The B-sides are certainly an interesting spectacle, but largely prove to be the weak links.

“Redondo Beach” should have been left buried in the sand. “Friday Mourning” is oatmeal on the counter you’ve forgotten about. All is not lost though as we look at “Subway Train/Munich Air Disaster” which is a classic Morrissey anthem that certainly should have made the cut for Quarry over the puzzlingly weak “All of the Lazy Dykes”.

While it’s cool to see him not shying away from performing the Smiths’ numbers, his best moments arise from his newest pieces. “I Have Forgiven Jesus” really writhes under his skin as he punches out the words, “Why did you stick me in self-deprecating bones and skin/Jesus, do you hate me?”

In this interesting lyrically cross current, he really shines and I’m sure he had more than a few Christians madly grasping for their Morrissey voodoo dolls on this one. He exploits the live element like an expert craftsman taking a handful of good songs (“Let Me Kiss You” and “I Like You”) and unveils personalities to these works we never knew existed. He redefines their essence with a passion and a juice that slick studio production can’t ever capture. Morrissey is off his leash, tapping into the wretched heartbreak that plagued his youth to perfectly blend with the wisdom that the turn of years has offered him.

As far as live shows go, this capture is about as good as it gets. At the end of the day, it’s still a pale carbon copy of the real thing. The music is only 20 percent of what was going on that evening. The remaining 80 percent is captured in the crowd that knew every word to every song. It was sealed up in his defining stage presence that exuded cool with the calm of age. It is falling in love with your favorite song like it was the first time you slid the cassette in the tape deck.

This disc is a tasty appetizer to tide you over until you can dive into the actual experience that is a Morrissey live show. It is something akin to what Ferris Bueller felt smuggling away the Ferrari, “I have to admit. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

For more music critiques by this reviewer, please visit PM Media Review. Also be sure to check out Morrissey’s “Bigmouth Strikes Again” along with the best cutting edge music on Internet radio featured on Live365’s Innovative Radio.

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About Mark Runyon

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Nice one Mark. I have this and the DVD ordered, should be here tomorow hopefully. Channel 4 in the UK showed an hour of the DVD on Friday night. It was sublime.

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Thanks. I’ve been debating whether or not to go ahead and take the plunge to buy the DVD as well. Throwing around comments like its sublime means it just moved way up on my list of priorities.

  • DAMO D

    Redonodo Beach and Friday Mourning are both brilliant songs on the live cd!

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Granted they are performed well. There is no letup in quality. I’m saying these songs are lackluster. Are you truly telling me that “Redonodo Beach” and “Friday Mourning” can hold there own against great Quarry tracks like “First of the Gang to Die” and “Irish Blood English Heart”? Every album by every artist has things that fall to the cutting room floor. I’m suggesting he should have left these there.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    woohoo! the cd and dvd arrived today. listening to the album now. fantastic!

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Morissey is now considered prog-rock? Man, I can’t wait to hear him tackle Tarkus!

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt

    The DVD is exceedingly better than the CD. I just think his live act works a lot better if you can see him perform. This may not be the case with all performers, but with MOz, I think its necessary.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    I am apparently the only one to question the “progressive rock” label being given to Morrissey here. Morrissey is about as far from prog as you can get and still be in the rock genre. I would love to know what qualifies Morrissey to be ranked among ELP, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and the million other prog acts. Everything I’ve heard of his and the Smiths was pure British pop-rock and nothing more.

  • Eric Olsen

    I would agree with Tom that as the term is used today, Morrissey is not “progressive rock.” Perhaps Mark can tell us why he made the designation. He might be using it as synonymous with “alternative rock”

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    tom, i found it odd too, but forgot about it by the time it came to commenting. I just presumed it was maybe a glitch in iTunes or whatever.

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Tom you seem pretty concerned about this progressive rock thing. I guess it all comes down to how you define progressive rock versus how I define it. I see it as rock that is off the mainstream, takes chances and cuts new paths. That’s not alternative rock which is the mainstream. Of course, Morrissey gets alt-rock play so he could be qualified as that as well. If it’s that big a deal, I can always remove it. Just remember that all categorization of music is a subjective experience. Great music shouldn’t have to make a case over what category it falls in.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    I am very concerned about this progressive rock thing. Gotta preserve ranks, man!

    Subjective as categorization may be, Morrissey is decidedly not progressive rock. I would think most Smiths/Moz fans would find that a terrible slight and indeed quite a joke to lump him in with the excessive and ridiculous nature of prog, unless he’s started taking to wearing capes and writing multi-part suites with multiple time-signatures and extended instrumental sections. Wait, he’s not wearing a cape now, right?

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Hold the phones. Capes are the qualifying feature? Morrissey is a prog artist after all.

  • Eric Olsen

    Mark, very fine review, much appreciated, by the way. The “progressive rock” thing is only an issue because the term does have a pretty specific set of parameters as now used. I am old enough to remember a time when “progressive rock” was used as loosely as you used it, but now it is an actual genre, which nowadays mght be closer to “symphonic rock” or some such thing

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Hmm…I guess it is time for a new genre of music then. We need something that falls into that gap between indie rock and alternative rock — the new alternative if you will. Maybe we just need to dump all of the acts currently thought of as alternative into modern rock then start over on a case by case basis. Actually I’d be just as happy if genres were ditched entirely. Too many people like me trying to pin innovative artists down into a mold.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i’ve even heard The Cure described as prog, so there’s been a sort of coopting of that word.

    still, i’d pay money to hear Morrisey sing “We Have Heaven”.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    mod-rock

    Progressive rock to me means 70s theatre rock.

    Anyway,

    I’m sticking my two Drachma here to let you know I posted your review of this to the Advance.net Web sites.

    The review can be found at a few different places on the Advance network around the country, but here’s one of them.

    Thank you
    Temple Stark