When you are introduced as the “world’s greatest living Englishman” asMorrissey was at his South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival appearance inAustin, you have a lot to live up to.
Morrissey did not disappoint. He delivered a high energy performance from themoment he came out whipping the microphone cord around and stalking across thestage, through several shirt changes, to the closing encore.
Since he is promoting his new album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, there wassome speculation before the show that he might play all new material. Butlong-time fans were quickly reassured that older material would not be left outwhen he began with First of the Gang to Die from You Are The Quarry and then went allthe way back to The Smiths‘ 1984 debut for the second song of the set,Still Ill. Next came You Have Killed Me from his latest album, setting thetone for a night that continued to provide a mix of old and new.
Morrissey seemed happy to be at SXSW, commenting after the first song,”Finally, finally, we made it to Austin!” He furthered endeared himself tolocals not just by promoting his new album but by showing his local savvy whenhe mentioned a well-loved local record store where it could be bought.
Not all was lovey-dovey, however. Morrissey introduced a note of controversyabout halfway into the show by referring to the recent US bombing runs in Iraq.The heavier sound of a powerfully moving I Will See You in Far OffPlaces included the line, “…if the US doesn’t bomb you,” drawing an approving roarfrom the crowd and only a couple of jeers. In a voice dripping with irony, hecontinued, “So I heard the US bombed Iraq. They were looking for weapons ofmass destruction….”
When he launched into Girlfriend in a Coma, many in the audience sangalong. “She didn’t pull though,” he quipped at the end of the song.
He introduced Life is a Pigsty by saying, “This song concerns my faith inhuman nature.” In a musical contrast to the serious lyrics of the song, a bandmember played the tune on water glasses.
Morrissey even showed a playful side, saying “And now let’s get serious,”before the band launched into a seriously-less-than-serious few seconds ofDeep in the Heart of Texas before switching to Trouble Loves Me from his1997 Maladjusted album.
As he finished with an encore of Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody LovedMe, there was no doubt that love was exactly the emotion that hundreds ofMorrissey fans in the packed house were feeling for him.