Thanks to the boom of social media and the presence of poor-quality fashion choices, audiences now know where Morrissey falls as a person. But his music has maintained itself rather nicely. His quality build of solo works and that ever-present backlog of The Smiths’ work has steered him successfully through that era as a solo artist. Vegas residencies, European tours, it all comes to a head when weighing up influence with action. 25 Live, the Morrissey live show, does nothing of the sort and is purely about his music. But when a man has two albums and cannot find a place to release them, it is important to look at where he once was, and where he is now.
Twee pop charms of latest track Rebels Without Applause was an obvious, acceptable rendition of The Smiths’ best bits. Intimacy marks this 25 Live set. Terrible black and white opening sections show Russel Brand and fans talking about how Morrissey fans feel. It is terribly unnecessary but there is much to be said of who the former frontman of The Smiths can attract. Still, Joaquin Phoenix appearing for a brief glimmer backstage does absolutely nothing for the context of the live set. Moz in an intimate and contemplative set is the dream for many, and here it is. Unhinged and particularly useless editing and directing from James Russell does little damage to the objective of this live set.
Still, this is a legacy performance. Not a legacy act. There is a difference and 25 Live defines that particularly well. Morrissey litters Alma Matters and Meat is Murder cuts throughout this set and gives a good perspective of his legacy as an artist. His voice has stood the test of time and he is an enigma of creation. Truly indefinable and not at all understandable. People are attracted to that. That much is clear in his stage presence here and the maddening fans who pass him posters, shake his hand and stretch as far as they can to get a swipe at the sweat dripping from him. Fan fascination like that puts the fear of God into normal people. Those same people crying for a touch of the sweating frontman are as bad as the people queued up for Harry Styles in the blistering heat of a Don’t Worry Darling premiere.
It is still a pleasure to see Morrissey perform, regardless of where he lies on the spectrum of opinions and media relations, he is still a talent for the stage. What is not passable is the editing, structure and approach taken by Russell, very static and unconvincing stage direction. A cut every couple of seconds, as though focusing for too long would kill either the momentum or magic. In turn, it gives little time to focus on what comes together so well. The band who are there behind their leader, the leader turning his hand to an audience willing to embrace his deep cuts and often intense status on the stage. It is still an interesting performance, Moz is still a guilty pleasure for many and it is clear to see why here, when the camera can focus itself that is.