“I am very, very happy to be in Hong Kong … thank you for giving me a sell-out,” said Morrissey, after greeting the local crowd with a hearty “ni hao!” The enigmatic British singer-songwriter, who rose to fame in ’80s rock group The Smiths, is renowned for his cantankerous outbursts, rather than cheeriness. But at the Macpherson Stadium, “Moz” seemed genuinely pleased to make his HK debut.
The entire show made the most of multimedia, with videos, imagery, and an intricate light-show that perfectly framed Moz’s dramatic, often very gloomy music. Instead of a support act, there was 20 minutes of retro punk show footage, poetry, dance and vintage comedians.
The Mongkok venue was the perfect venue for the former Smiths singer: from first song Suedehead, the music sounded crisp and well-balanced, every lyric snarled by Moz’s distinctive baritone voice could be heard clearly, and Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias’ phenomenal guitarwork gave fresh energy to a tight set of big hits, B-sides and Smiths covers.
The singer isn’t known for missing a soapbox moment, and uses his music as a vehicle for political statements. All the cameras went up when World Peace Is None Of Your Business was dedicated to Tiananmen Square, but the room fell deathly still and sombre as scenes of animal slaughter were shown alongside the controversial rock track, Meat Is Murder.
Ganglord used roving blue lights and a montage of police beatings to add extra punch as the frontman wailed “save me!” over and over, while the 2009 song I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris took on extra weight in light of France’s attacks. Walker bonged the huge gong towering over his kit for extra theatre, but the instrument was rather underused for the cost of shipping it around the world.
Fevered fans sang every lyric, clutched the singer’s hands when he reached into the crowd, and held up books, posters and records, which Mozza signed mid-show. The Smiths’ anthemic How Soon Is Now? sounded huge, with its heavy tremolo and Doppler effect wail ricocheting around the sports hall. After performing What She Said, the 57-year-old threw his sweat-soaked shirt into a sea of clutching hands.
For the encore, the band re-emerged (Moz in a new shirt!) to play a cover of Ramones’ Judy Is A Punk … for 90 seconds. The song ended abruptly, the singer gave a brisk “ciao”, the band ran off the stage, and the house lights snapped on, leaving everyone dumbfounded. Steven Patrick Morrissey: king of the trolls.