The Palladium is the place of Royal Variety performances, of long running musicals, of showmanship, of entertainment legend. Where better then to showcase that consummate showman Stephen Morrissey’s latest work?
Tonight, the first Sunday of a weekly residence at the opulent yet surprisingly intimate London venue, our hero is dressed as A Serious Artist. In common with his backing band he’s decked out in black and looks lean and keen to put on a show. Behind him on a rostrum sits an enormous gong and an equally outsized drum.
Wasting no time at all he got underway with Ringleader of the Tormentors lead single You Have Killed Me, later followed by next single The Youngest Was The Most Loved and the powerfully dramatic I Will See You In Far Off Places (the gong used to fabulous effect). Dear God Please Help Me was not offered – perhaps it’s just too personal.
A highlight from the current record was the epic, sprawling Life Is A Pigsty. The outsized drum thudded like a Druid device of the dead, lighting up each time it was struck as Moz lamented the dramatic horror that is “falling in love again”.
Longtime fans’ fears of witnessing a new album showcase bereft of back catalogue classics were soon dispelled by the shimmering, timeless How Soon Is Now and a fair portion of You Are The Quarry – energetically highlighted by First Of The Gang To Die and the Nancy Sinatra collaboration Let Me Kiss You, and throughout the sound balance seemed good and Moz in vintage form. A quick shirt change recast him in frilly white, quite the dashing romantic lead.
But between tracks it became increasingly clear that here was a man not happy. A hapless American fan in the front row was asked how he could afford to attend every night of the tour, gave embarrassed, non-commital words in reply and was rewarded with his hero telling him off for his “typically American evasive answer”. It was unkind, cold, unfeeling and unthinking – strange, from a lyricist so often lauded for his songs’ intellectual considerations.
There was more. Repeatedly the audience was asked to make him feel appreciated – apparently mere applause wasn’t enough. He informed us that he sounded horrible, complained about his vocals monitor and generally behaved like a brat in need of a slap.
Despite all this, the faithful fawned, cheering and howling for more as Moz threw his shirt at them and departed. As the set began to be dismantled, realisation hit the crowd – whose tickets had cost in excess of 30 – that the short set was all they were getting, that there would be no encore despite their requests for one, and that Moz was in a huff. Fans, hacks and the odd celeb – comedian Russell Brand stood gaping nearby – alike were dumbstruck. Then the unthinkable happened. Morrissey was being booed at his own London gig. His behaviour absolutely merited it.