Morrissey did not disappoint. He delivered a high energy performance from the moment he came out, whipping the microphone cord around and stalking across the stage, through several shirt changes, to the closing encore.
Since he is promoting his new album Ringleader Of The Tormentors, there was some speculation before the show that he might play all new material. But long-time fans were quickly reassured that older material would not be left out when he began with First Of The Gang To Die from You Are The Quarry and then went all the 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 the tone 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 further endeared himself to locals not just by promoting his new album but by showing his local savvy when he mentioned a well-loved local record store where it could be bought.
Not all was lovey-dovey, however. Morrissey introduced a note of controversy about 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 Off Places included the line, “…if the US doesn’t bomb you,” drawing an approving roar from the crowd and only a couple of jeers. In a voice dripping with irony, he continued, “So I heard the US bombed Iraq. They were looking for weapons of mass destruction….”
When he launched into Girlfriend In A Coma, many in the audience sang along. “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 in human nature.” In a musical contrast to the serious lyrics of the song, a band member 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 of Deep In The Heart Of Texas before switching to Trouble Loves Me from his 1997 Maladjusted album.
As he finished with an encore of Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, there was no doubt that love was exactly the emotion that hundreds of Morrissey fans in the packed house were feeling for him.