Live at Earls Court
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Claiming that "It's either this or prison" but nevertheless capping his most successful solo year thus far, Morrissey performed to 17,183 of his faithful fans at London's Earls Court in December 2004 in a manner (Morrissey's name in big red lightbulbs) intended to invoke Elvis' 1968 comeback special. Thankfully, as Live At Earls Court testifies, Morrissey's life purpose is better served by rock than the jailhouse. Eremitic melancholia, mordant badinage and rancorous avengement. Nobody does it better. In fact, nobody other than Morrissey does it at all. Whether bemoaning surplus hormones on the breathtakingly immodest "I Have Forgiven Jesus" or wishing--rather self-servingly--that he'd been fashionably martyred in the Bavarian snow along with the Busby Babes, Morrissey never fails to raise an eyebrow. He may have spent his formative years with "three incredibly miserable people" but The Smiths' music endures, herein with slight concessions to modernity; Joan Of Arc now owns a melting iPod on "Bigmouth Strikes Again". Many of the titles are taken from the platinum-selling You Are The Quarry. Even the b-sides are grand. "Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice" sounds like The Pixies gone transsexual. Yes, the world is full of crashing bores but please strike Morrissey's name off the list. Again. --Kevin Maidment
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A note in the booklet reads, "Everything on this CD was recorded live. Nothing was added or replaced in the studio". It was recorded on 18 December 2004 at Earls Court in London (although the rest of the tour was recorded and some of the banter with the audience is said to have come from other dates, and it has been claimed that some of the vocals were "repaired" with vocals dropped in from the other concerts), in front of a typically appreciative 17,183 people. Unfortunately, the picture of Morrissey on the cover was taken not at Earls Court but in Las Vegas the previous April. The album was produced by Peter Asher, continuing Morrissey's interest in sixties culture as Peter Asher was one half of Peter and Gordon and brother of Jane Asher, both having Beatle connections.
Although seven of the songs came from You Are The Quarry, Morrissey was clearly keen to reclaim his past and peppered the set with Smiths-era hits, opening challengingly with a muscular performance of How Soon Is Now?, originally a B-side, and including Bigmouth Strikes Again, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Shoplifters Of The World Unite and a climactic Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me). He also featured a couple of his pre-wilderness solo singles (November Spawned A Monster, The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get) and dropped in an unrecorded cover of Patti Smith's seventies poem/song Redondo Beach. To round out the set were some more new songs that had appeared during the year on singles, the paternal Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice, Munich Air Disaster 1958 (which began with the same verse from a New York Dolls oldie that he had been using to launch Every Day Is Like Sunday earlier on the tour) and the sombre Friday Mourning. Two of the songs from the album were extracted as a double-A side single (Redondo Beach/There Is A Light That Never Goes Out).
Morrissey's voice had changed from Smiths days but was in fine fettle nonetheless and of course he wasn't onstage alone. Benefiting from a year spent touring, the band featured the mighty Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Mikey V Farrell (actually adding a dramatic trumpet to a couple of tunes), Gary Day and Deano Butterworth. There is no lack of confidence or panache in the playing and there is a lot of atmosphere in this snapshot of where Morrissey was in 2004, though the studio versions of these songs probably remain definitive.
I liked the way the instruments were played! It does sound a little different, but it works, or at least I think it does- and it gives quite a direct and assured sound, instead of the slightly muffled chaos of a bit too much going on.
Particular highlights for me here are "November spawned a monster", "Subway train/Munich" "I have forgiven Jesus", and "Bigmouth strikes again". Morrissey's voice is as good as I have ever heard it recorded.
Plenty of variety too - whether you like The Smiths, Moz's solo career, or even a cover song! It's all there.
Seriously get this album. You're stealing it at this price.