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MORRISSEY - Live At Earl's Court   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 20 April 2005
This light has never gone out.....

Even if live records are the refuge of the artistically redundant. In the days when everyone can - with a bit of careful tweaking - download pretty much any concert ever recorded, the idea of going to a shop and buying a show seems positively ancient.

Retro, even.

Still, Morrissey has always been, even from the day he was born, a determindedly old-fashioned soul. Not just for the fact that his music is a modern reframing of classic themes, from the wonderfully modern-yet-timeless rock backing of his band to the central themes within his work (the street urchin tough as idolised by the once-shy boy, the potent blend of Vegas crooner and intellectual exile), Moz is someone who is both timeless and out of time, as if he were a Pop Statue carved in an alternate universe where time itself ceased to be a frame of reference.

Not that you'd know it from this : Moz has always been contrary, and for his first live abum in twelve years (and recorded at his biggest ever British headline show), it's a determindedly perverse mix of old songs by his former band, b-sides from his (then) newly-reissued-with-extra-bsides-album, a couple of obscure 70's covers, and a handful of his solo hits.

Moz always likes you to know how many people were present when his live albums were recorded. Dallas 12,000. Paris 6,200. Earls Court. 17,183. So you know.

Taken purely on it's merits, mind you, stripped of all social context, the prosaic "Live At Earls Court" is a fabulous listen : an unending suckerpunch of brilliant songs (aside from a drab "You Know I Couldn't Last") that constantly cut through the fug of modern life and straight to the core of what it's like to be human. To hope, to want the one you can't have, and to grimly see the worth in even the most mundane of moments.

Life is made of moments : and the moment in "Irish Blood, English Heart" where it all suddenly explodes is a moment that betters many an other artists entire career. The songs and the quality of the performance are undoubted : the shoddy and suspect rationale behind the release of Yet Another Morrissey Live Album (the second in 18 years of solo work!) is less robust.

Ultimately "Live At Earls Court" is both essential to the fan, and utterly redundant to the casual buyer. It allows Moz to contextualise his favourite songs from his own career, celebrate his newly reacquired fame, and shift some CD's. As far as live albums go, whilst it undoubtedly sounds fabulous - and far better than it did on the night in the cavernous Earls Court Arena - one must ask why this document exists.

As a handy best-of, it fails. As a reflection of the vast riches of Moz's work, it merely scratches the surface. As a perverse reminder of Moz's singular vision though, it excels.

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