Morrissey - Marina Barrage, Singapore, 17/10/2016

Morrissey – Marina Barrage, Singapore, 17/10/2016

On the surface at least, and if you don’t look too closely, Singapore looks like the future. As I leave my Airbnb apartment, enter the state-of-the-art underground system, emerge into the sci-fi architectural dick-measuring contest that is Marina Bay, and flash the digital ticket on my phone screen to enter the venue, the fact that I’m here to see Morrissey, with his pervading, enduring whiff of 1970s Manchester – the bombsites, the fairgrounds, the Victorian schools – feels like stepping back in time.

But it’s nice this; the feeling that, whatever the unexpected directions in which life may shoot you (in my case, nearly 14 years in Vietnam & Thailand), when you no longer have a home or family to go back to, music is there as an anchor. It’s comforting to be standing here, plastic beer glass in hand, surrounded by strangers in Smiths t-shirts, waiting to see a singer who has been part of my life for so long; in fact apart from the phone in my pocket, a few extra kilos and the terrifying beer prices, it could easily be 30 years ago.

Back then, of course, Morrissey wrote that brilliant line, at once personal and universal, about how, if you go out tonight, you might just meet the boy/girl of your dreams, but you probably won’t, and you’ll come home feeling miserable and suicidal. He delivers that line tonight, and whilst a lesser artist might see such a lyric from their distant past as embarrassing juvenilia and either sing it tongue in cheek, update it, or leave it out altogether, Morrissey has too much respect for his own youthful angst and that of his audience and he belts it out with all the passion and commitment of old. It’s a fantastic moment that shows what’s great about him: he’s never grown up, never mellowed, never sold out, never gone acoustic, never gone for the Uncut/Mojo/Rolling Stone demographic. In his head it’s still the mid-80s and he’s still competing with Pete Burns, Ian McCulloch, Boy George; still hamming it up for the press and then wondering why everyone gets upset with him (as he sings during a brilliant, hysterical performance of the arch, self-referential ‘All You Need Is Me’, “There’s so much destruction all over the world, and all you can do is complain about ME?!”) He plays a video of Anne Sexton reading her suicide poem ‘Wanting to Die’ before taking the stage and it’s so gauche, the kind of thing a 5th-form school band would do, that you just want to hug him.

Yes, he’s brilliant tonight is Moz. Health problems clearly behind him, he looks fit as a – I was going to say ‘butcher’s dog’ but that wouldn’t be appropriate – a greengrocer’s rabbit perhaps, coping manfully with the Singapore humidity; and his voice is utterly magnificent, better than it’s ever sounded. And he’s angrier than he’s ever been, railing throughout his set at the violence, poverty, inequality and racism that are currently blighting the 21st century and sending us back to the Dark Ages. So ‘World Peace is None Of Your Business’, slight on record but achieving genuine anthem-for-a-generation status tonight (“Each time you vote, you support the process…oh, you poor little fools“), is performed in front of a video of war zones across the world; ‘Meat is Murder’ is accompanied by stomach-churning slaughterhouse footage; ‘Ganglord’ by truly shocking, appalling clips of US police brutality, human bodies thrown around and brutalised like animals in an abattoir, that create palpable anger both in the crowd and onstage. The Tories, the royals, Clinton, Trump, the BBC, CNN, KFC and the music industry (“We tour around the world, playing songs people can’t buy…”) also feel the rough end of Morrissey’s tongue, and here, in the centre of one of the world’s most conformist, capitalist cities, in the shadow of one of Asia’s prime temples to Mammon – the hideous penis substitute that is Marina Bay Sands – it’s genuinely subversive and unexpectedly confrontational, and you wonder why so few younger artists have the balls to do this.

For me, seeing one of my musical heroes in the flesh for the first time (no idea why it’s taken me 30 years, but it has), it all gets a bit much. The opening ‘Suedehead’ has me yelling and jumping around like a teenager; ‘Every Day is Like Sunday’, released when I was living in one of those coastal towns they forgot to close down – Morecambe – has me weeping for the lost years; and by the time he’s finished an intense, rumbling version of ‘How Soon is Now’, and encored with a ferocious ‘What She Said/Rubber Ring‘, I’m relieved that noone who knows me is here to see the sweating, emotional mess to which Moz has reduced me.

It’s a set not without its longueurs – Morrissey is clearly considerably fonder of his 21st-century back catalogue, particularly his latest album, than I am, and I wish his band could show a lighter touch sometimes – but even the few less than stellar moments are still compelling enough to keep me from the bar, and I even find myself singing along to the God-awful ‘Ouija Board, Ouija Board’, and you’d have got pretty long odds on that 25 years ago. But that’s devotion for you. Whenever I find myself laughing at religious fundamentalists, I remember that The Smiths are the closest thing I’ve ever had to a religion and I think of how angry I still get when I meet someone who claims not to like them, and I almost understand. But Morrissey is real and, tonight at least, he is God once again. Death to unbelievers.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.