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'Morrissey 25: Live' review: Really just for the hardcore

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Released on Friday, Aug 23 2013

Director: James Russell Starring: Morrissey, Jesse Tobias, Solomon Walker, Gustavo Manzur, Boz Boorer, Anthony Burulcich; Running time: 92 mins; Certificate: PG


Anyone watching Channel 4's recent One Direction documentary who thought such obsessive fandom is anything new has clearly never visited the Morrissey-Solo.com fansite or monthly Smiths Disco at Manchester's Star & Garter. It's not just tweenage girls tweeting their heroes. Hardcore Moz fans are of both sexes and often old enough to be parents to children who themselves are old enough to know better.

But only in a few, fleeting moments does this film manage to capture either that fandom or the flawed genius that inspires it. Director James Russell does a solid, sterling job of recording a live show, but not much more. It feels like there's as many cameras as there are people in the 1,800 capacity Hollywood High auditorium so you never miss a thing.

Behind the drums, back of the crowd, stuck on the monitors, and all over Morrissey's face from every conceivable angle, the hour-and-a-half film is stuck together in an efficient, slick montage of half-to-five-second cuts. The sound is wonderfully mixed - properly (a)live but deliciously chunky and never lacking clarity.

Morrissey 25: Live

© Scott Uchida

Morrissey 25: Live



The setlist spans from 1984's 'Still Ill' to the as-yet-not-studio-recorded 'People Are The Same Everywhere', and 'Action Is My Middle Name', with a smattering of the years inbetween. As he ages Moz edges ever nearer crooner, but that croon is in very fine form on this occasion.

Playing at what feels like an almost languid 85% pace these days, the band is tighter-than-tight, but that's to be expected. Boz Boorer has been Morrissey's right-hand man for a whopping 22 years. To compare, Johnny Marr only worked with him for five.

The slightly-too-faithful presentation matches the slightly-too-faithful arrangements. It makes for a fair document, but it means Morrissey 25: Live lacks the spark or the edge that would make this a real cinema experience and not just A Good Live DVD to pop alongside the Manchester comeback and a battered transfer of Rank.

There are exceptions. On a snarling, menacing 'Malajusted' you get pulled left right and centre. And whatever your thoughts on the politics or abattoir blues melody of 'Meat Is Murder', you get a sickening lurch in your gut as Moz drops to his knees and Russell mashes up his prostrate star with images from his backdrop in a fast-cut frenzy. The a capella segue into 'Asleep' during the breakdown in 'Speedway' is another special moment.

Morrissey 25: Live

© Scott Uchida

Morrissey 25: Live



Otherwise, and unlike Stop Making Sense or The Stone Roses: Made of Stone, this really is just for the hardcore. They can add an extra star on to this review without any problem. Those who have never been enchanted by Morrissey or his former band can easily knock off two. Speaking of hardcore, if you find popstars retweeting praise irksome, you'll want to look away when Moz passes the mic down to some fans who tell the singer just how wonderful he is.

Egged on by the man himself, even superfan Julia Riley - who has probably been to more Morrissey gigs than most of his band - gets in on the act. The awkward, strained gushing fails to get across any of the real emotion that genuinely exists in either direction.

Much better are the to-camera splurges that bookend the concert, the tattooed fists and arms, the waving roses, and the sporadically successful attempts to evade the burly security and make physical contact. The mini-brawl for one of Moz's sweaty shirts cast into the throng would put the non-speaking characters in The Walking Dead to shame.

As Morrissey seems to hover uncomfortably between unemployment, illness and retirement, the concert sometimes feels more like a farewell than an anniversary. As the man himself says, the microphone is his tombstone. Morrissey 25: Live isn't really the send-off he deserves. But fingers crossed he's got enough in him yet that he won't be in need of a better one for a very long time.

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