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Review: Morrissey @ The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)

Morrissey played The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane) on 8 December, 2023 - image © Bill Prendergast
Bill has a love of music (especially Australian), surf, photography, food and family. Favourite countries: Australia, Japan, Italy (in that order!). Favourite music genres: open to everything!

The 40 Years Of Morrissey tour arrived in Brisbane on Friday night (8 December), at The Fortitude Music Hall.

Not only is Morrissey influential in terms of the music industry, but he has written some beautiful music, which is just as relevant now as when it was originally written, in some cases decades ago.

There is clearly an awareness that Morrissey has also been a highly controversial figure, publicly stating opinions on a range of political and social issues.

His last tour of Australia was seven years ago, and some fans remember the Brisbane show was cancelled with little notice. Indeed, on the '40 Years' tour, he cancelled Perth less than a week ago due to unforeseen circumstances, and it is something for which he has developed a reputation.

It was with the music in mind that I attended the concert; and I was not – in any way – disappointed.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

Morrissey or 'Moz' as he was referred to by members The Smiths in happier times, played without a support act. Even as they entered the venue as the doors opened, punters sensed a higher culture with beautiful classical music booming out of the sound system (a Beethoven violin concerto, played in full).

In place of a support act, there was an eclectic range of images and short movies played on the stage screen (ranging from Eddie Cochrane, through to the Divinyls, Stinky Toys, and The Stooges).

The vision and music kept going for awhile, and the crowd was clearly wanting it to fade in order to see their hero appear onstage. This segment probably went for exactly the right amount of time, as he really had the crowd desperate to see him when the moment arrived.

The show kicked off with 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful', then kicked into two of the huge crowd pleasers for the evening. 'Suedehead' was followed by the 1997 hit, 'Alma Matters'.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

The lyrics of 'Alma Matters' are not cheery, as with much of his music, but the song is a signature of his, and melodically a lovely piece (although critical reviews have been mixed).

Moz and his backing band played a few more hits, including the first Smiths song for the evening, 'Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before', before reaching the pinnacle of the show, with 'Irish Blood, English Heart'.

Again, not cheerful, but full of great riffs, fantastic lyrics, and the image of Oscar Wilde as a backdrop behind the band. Wilde – like Morrissey, born in Ireland, or of Irish parents – lived in England at times unaccepted, and I assume Morrissey has had similar feelings.

Between verses, Moz faced the image of Wilde, yelling "Oscar, Oscar". The Wilde references bought yet more high culture to the evening, and really left a great impression.  

Following 'Irish Blood, English Heart' Morrissey moved into two big pieces from the Smiths, 'How Soon Is Now?' and 'Girlfriend In A Coma'. In the former, the bass dominated, in a very good way, with Juan Galeano's playing sounding like multiple basslines, and this was definitely my pick of The Smiths songs of the evening.

In 'Girlfriend In A Coma', the lyrics keep asking 'do you really think she'll pull through?' – and each time Moz sang the line, he looked more disinterested in the answer to the question; he played it beautifully!

At this stage of the performance, Moz had his shirt fully open, showing a strong physique for his 64 years, and he noted between songs: "I don't always get the best press," in a huge understatement.

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Image © Bill Prendergast

Moz almost apologised when playing a song off his latest album; it was a much heavier song in 'Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings', and came to an abrupt end, by design.

'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want', was another of The Smiths' songs which drew huge appreciation from the crowd, followed by one of his other best-known solo hits, 'Everyday Is Like Sunday'.  'Jack The Ripper' closed out the set.

Moz and the band came back for a one-song encore and a final Smiths song, 'Sweet And Tender Hooligan' closing out the 90-plus-minute show. This was done after each of the band members had personally thanked the crowd, mainly in Spanish.

Overall, I felt the support in the crowd was greatest for The Smiths songs, perhaps given the crowd, but for me, by far the greatest impact was delivered in the three solo pieces as previously mentioned.

A final point of note was the sheer quality of his backing musicians. Looking at their biographies, some are from Latin America, or have played in Latin bands. The quality of their backing was sublime, from drummer Brendan Buckley, Colombian bass player Juan Galeano, guitarist Jesse Tobias, Camilla Gray on keyboards, and very highly regarded Carmen Vandenberg on lead guitar (who has played with the late, great Jeff Beck).

The quality of their backing really added to the singing of Moz, and provided a strong visual contrast. As noted Moz has hit his 60s, but the music has not aged at all – I found this one of the best gigs I have seen this year.

More photos from the show.

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