Last night I dreamed that somebody loved me…well, kind of, insofar that I found myself 18 rows back from the god-like genius that is Stephen Patrick Morrissey.
I’ve always thought of Morrissey as someone completely at ease with his (slightly snobbish) lot, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that his shows at the Royal Albert Hall (cancelled due to throat infection) and the Birmingham Symphony Hall (ditto) were followed by The Great Yarmouth Britannia Pier. Because Great Yarmouth doesn’t really have that high culture feel to it – to complete Norfolk snobs like myself it’s always been a bit of a tacky embarrassment, the bit that you visit once every couple of years to remind yourself how lucky you are not to have to go there more often.
Anyhow, by Friday, his master’s voice had cleared up sufficiently for an attempt at a gig, and thanks to my good friend DJ78 we had tickets clutched in our hot and sweaty hands. And as a result myself and Mrs Emu fair skipped along the pier to one of the more surprising venues on Morrissey’s world tour. As we queued, we passed under massive signs for forthcoming attractions – the Chuckle Brothers, Cannon and Ball, and (of course) Jim Davidson. Then a huge sign for “Long John’s Show Bar – where the stars of stage and TV enjoy a drink”. I’m not making any of this up. I did venture into the bar before the gig, hoping to catch a sight of Morrissey enjoying a pre-gig chaser with old ‘nick-nick’ himself, but no joy – they were probably in Long John’s VIP area.
Anyway, suffice to say the gig itself was fantastic – the band was as tight as ever and Morrissey exuded his rather bored coolness with a lot more self-deprecation than he used to manage in his younger years. Shirts were ripped off, the security bods on stage were kept busy by a series of reverse stage dives, and the venue suddenly seemed just the right mix of intimate and ironic.
But the most extraordinary thing was the audience. Having spent my formative years in the shadow of the Smiths, I thought I understood the importance of looking right at indie gigs. You need to work hard at not looking as if you’ve tried too hard, and look bored and interested at the same time. Ideally you will wear clothes belonging to someone now dead. But the audience at Yarmouth seemed to have missed these vital lessons in deportment. I witnessed a really challenging pair of elasticated velour trousers, and not sure that was the worst crime.
And yet, we should presume that every member of the audience had shelled out £32 on a ticket, so you’d think they must have been fans. So, either you can’t judge a book by its cover, or we are being overrun by morbidly obese philistines with too much money. Or both. To test this theory, the next time you see somoene lumber towards you in a massive pink velour leisure suit, try singing a couple of lines from ‘The Queen Is Dead’ or ‘Meat Is Murder’. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?