Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Was Morrissey right to walk offstage?

Luck is not on Moz's side these days, but the episode highlighted how gigs are often spoiled by aggressive, hyperactive idiots.

You may have heard about this already: after he collapsed on stage in Swindon two weeks ago, mid-way through his second song in Liverpool, Morrissey was smacked on the head by a plastic bottle of beer. This prompted him to say "goodbye" and walk off stage (see video here).

Websites have been debating whether Morrissey was right to storm off or whether he overreacted and let down the thousands who'd paid £35-plus to see him.

The Guardian opened an online thread: "Was Morrissey right to walk off stage after being hit by a bottle?". Amidst trite puns based on Smiths song titles (he obviously thought he was being terribly original), a journo called David Simpson found the time to write that Moz's "refusal to carry on does seem a bit excessive". Some pointed out that it's not fair that up to 8,000 had their night spoiled by a single idiotic bottle-thrower. Others wrote that that's the "spirit of rock'n'roll" and that you've gotta take it on the chin etc.

I say good on you, Morrissey. If there is something I've never understood, it is all those ejits who spend money on gigs only to act like the girl in The Exorcist on speed. Seriously. Fair enough you're excited (that's the whole point), fair enough you feel some adrenalin running. But the moment some people make it into a gig they simply turn into demented juvenile cavemen with little actual interest in the concert itself.

It's always puzzled me. And sometimes put me off going altogether - though luckily only for a few seconds.

I always conceived going to gigs as a rare (and expensive) chance to see your favourite artists in person. To savour their music live. To see how they play those songs without overdubs. To watch them on stage and study their movements, appreciating each moment.

And yet, there's always a sizeable minority that spoils it for everybody else, acting like absolute twats, trampling on people, kicking and pushing Heysel-style, chucking bottles into the crowd and various other acts of barbaric aggression.

And I'm not talking about gigs where you expect this as routine (I expect someone to make the point that old Sex Pistols' gigs were defined by such actions, "rock'n'roll, duuude"). Morrissey live is hardly Napalm Death material.

According to some people, it doesn't matter you've forked out £40 or so. You make it into a gig and you're expected to give up your basic rights not to be elbowed in the stomach, pushed or shoved around like a sack of shit.

And funny how it's always the males, have you noticed? Good old testosterone pumping through the veins, right? Perfectly in line with the old delusion that being manly equals acting like some Hyperactivity Disorder-ridden dickhead with anger management issues on top.

So this time I don't blame Morrissey for getting pissed off. And as for the objection that "it's not fair that Moz let one person spoil it for 8,000 fans": how many would it take then to justify his storming off? Would twenty bottles be acceptable, or would his critics still blabber that 7,980 fans suffered from the action of 20 idiots?


PhilH said...

Worst gig experience?

Getting covered in the contents of bottles and cups thrown at an Oasis gig at Lancashire Country Cricket Ground (they refused to call it Old Trafford) in 2002. It wasn't beer in those containers.

Luckily my brothers lived around the corner so we could shove our piss-soaked cloths straight in the washing machine and have a shower.

And Oasis were really average too.

claude said...

Your fault for going to see Oasis ;-)

Only kidding!

While I was always lucky enough not to end up soaked in other people's piss, I do remember thinking I was going to die of organ implosion while watching The Cure in 1992. People were pushing forward like it was the end of the world.

I also remember being put off by the amount of absolute dickheads at a Morrissey gig at Nottingham Rock City in '99.

Calmest most enjoyable gigs: Richard Hawley 2007. Roxy Music at the NEC 2001. Morrissey at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002.

Note that by saying "calm" I don't mean like a funeral or lacking in emergy or atmosphere. Just not dumbly barbaric.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

He was totally right to walk off, just because you're up on stage doesn't mean you have to take abuse.

I also agree with your feelings about those that pay a fortune for a ticket and then dick around, I can never get my head around that as a behaviour.

As someone whose been on stage with dicks in the crowd I've never walked off but I have threatened them until they've left or quite simply got the audience to peer pressure them out.


PhilH said...

Yes, I did think at one point I was going to be crushed to death - everyone moved forward when they started, and then people towards the front started to panic and tried to move backwards. Not a good combination.

Okay, best gigs then.

Misty's Big Adventure in 2006 and 2007. I'm From Barcelona in 2007. Oh, and Gay Blades/Spinto Band in 2009. All in quite small venues, and extremely good natured as well as energetic.

I'm From Barcelona win extra points for giant balloons.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

My best gigs are allhere.

claude said...

Well said Daniel (btw I'll reply to your prviate email abt Poles Apar later on!!!).

And Phil...Misty's Big Adventure!!! They were ace! I supported them with my old band at the Joiners Arms in Southampton. Almost five years ago. Absolutely brilliant band they are.

One thing though I remember: that night they kindly shared with us the free food they were being given by the venue.

Result? 3/5 of us (and our driver too) got the shits within ten minutes. Memorable.

PhilH said...


"I got the shits with Misty's Big Adventure."

One for the grandchildren.

Helen Highwater said...

The behaviour at Morrissey gigs is astonishingly bad. Unfortunately, he doesn't help matters by praising people who crowd-surf to the front to hold his hand. At Hull this year, some sweaty, drunk tosser pushed to the front and I thought my ribs would crack - then Morrissey handed him the microphone. THANKS!

A musician friend of mine has had people throw rocks at him onstage and he said how anything like that with an aggressive audience really puts him off his stroke. He said if he was a big enough name, he'd walk off when he gets abuse! So Morrissey's decision became clearer to me then. Until he'd explained how it actually feels to be that musician on stage, I was really in two minds about the whole thing and felt sorry for the audience whose gig was spoiled, but sorry for ol' Whingy Knickers for getting a bottle on his conk.

Helen Highwater said...

Lecture, 'In The Days When You Were Hopelessly Poor, I Just Liked You More - The Smiths and Socialism' at Socialist Workers Party Conference on Marxism in Dublin, Sunday 22nd November.



claude said...

Hey Helen, thanks for posting the link.