EVERY Morrissey tour sees the iconic British frontman play setlist roulette.
He likes his new stuff better than his old stuff, even if the feeling isn’t always mutual.
Welcome to the mix of frustration and elation faced at each Morrissey show.
The main game? How many songs by The Smiths will their former singer play?
Just the three in Melbourne.
How many songs from most recent solo album World Peace is None of Your Business?
Four, which is down from last year’s visit for the Vivid Festival, where he was doing up to ten from the record, at the expense of his hallowed back catalogue.
In an interview with Australian site Faster Louder to promote this tour Morrissey said he would trade “the entire Smiths catalogue” for World Peace, an album that is now no longer available after his umpteenth fight with his umpteenth record label.
Given that attitude we should be grateful to hear any Smiths material at all, even if the ecstatic reaction to the few he deigns to air suggests that not everyone shares that particular trade theory. You can’t fight the power of nostalgia, even if you can drip-feed the dipping into your past.
At the moment Johnny Marr is playing more Smiths songs than Morrissey as they both tour the world separately (and, after Marr’s book next month, possibly never, ever together again).
Both men usually play How Soon is Now (and why wouldn’t you?) with Morrissey now stating “I’m still the son and heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar” in case you were unsure as he continues to be the torchbearer of loneliness and gloom, albeit with a wicked sense of humour.
Marr’s version is better musically — he wrote the guitar wizardry — but Morrissey’s has extra angst, strobe lighting and use of the mammoth gong perched behind his drummer.
Both men also play Meat is Murder, on this latest tour Morrissey has ramped up his tirade against any unsuspecting carnivore in the audience. There’s a video filmed secretly inside abattoirs that shows in graphic detail just how animals are killed for consumption, while the lyrics from 1985 are tweaked to include the line “the meat in your fat f---ng mouth is murder.” Morrissey questions “are you too busy, too fat, too macho to care” about how meat ends up on your plate over what may become his musical and political legacy.
Ganglord features a video capturing police brutality, including gruesome footage of a dog. The man knows how to get your attention.
Melbourne’s show ends with the Smiths’ What She Said mated with a bit of Rubber Ring; Marr’s frantic music still sounding incredible 30 years on.
Morrissey’s cherrypicking of his solo career for each show remains curious — and familiar.
You’ll generally hear hits Suedehead and Every Day Is Like Sunday (essentially book ending Melbourne’s show) but his prolific late ’80s and early ’90s period is criminally ignored.
There’s divisive single Ouija Board Ouija Board, the incredible Speedway (keyboardist Gustavo Manzur’s party trick of singing the end of the song in his native tongue still impresses) and You’re the One For Me, Fatty — which always sounds like he never quite finished the lyrics for the repetitive verses.
The last few tours have seen solo staples I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris, The World is Full of Crashing Bores (over images of William and Kate — the Royal King Dumb), You Have Killed Me and Alma Matters.
They’re good songs, far from his finest work, but there’s 20 post-Smiths songs you could instantly name you’d rather hear him play just to mix it up — the setlist does change each night, but usually just the order of songs with the ‘surprise’ tracks dropped rather than the more recent fixtures that sit in a similar musical comfort zone.
Even if you’re lucky enough to get any bonus Smiths songs (his last visit to Melbourne included the immortal I Know It’s Over) the song selection is starting to get a little predictable — being predictable is something you’d never expect from Morrissey.
He’s never going to reluctantly play songs he doesn’t love, but some spontaneity wouldn’t go astray.
There’s not even any stage invasion these days, with a security guard hanging onto the 57 year old every time he shakes hands with the front row.
This year’s rant is aimed at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “two silly people chasing a silly job and every step of the way you know they can’t stand the American public.” He’s got a point.
Maybe there’s a chance in the future he’ll do an album in full (Vauxhall and I anyone?) or sub out some of the regular songs for different album tracks or b-sides or even seemingly ‘lost’ singles like The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get, November Spawned a Monster or Irish Blood English Heart.
But Morrissey fans are used to not always getting what they want — aside from the one happy camper who walks out with the obligatory shirt removed and thrown to the crowd as a final gesture.
However this tour sees Morrissey dodging Sydney (who had him to themselves last year) and aside from a return to his beloved Festival Hall, he’s playing places he hasn’t been in a while.
So those fans will get to see him still in fine voice, with a thunderous band, and still enjoying his fulltime job of charming the faithful and irritating the rest.
Morrissey plays Thebarton Theatre Adelaide on Wednesday, Royal Theatre Canberra on Friday, WIN Centre Wollongong on Saturday and Civic Theatre Newcastle on Monday.