Morrissey : Santa Barbara Bowl

It's all too perfect

Somewhere during the drive north from LA to Santa Barbara, it seems we stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Who’d have believed it – Morrissey! Live! Onstage! Tonight!

Despite having little even resembling a career in 2002 (“I’ve been turned down by every record company in America… twice!” he wails), the prince of maudlin is still remarkably chipper. He immediately debunks his miserable bastard reputation by strutting onstage grinning, proclaiming to the assembled Latino rockabilly kids (replete with West Ham replica shirts) “hello Santa Boo Boo! My name is Stinky! Stay on your knees…”

Stealing an assortment of moves from late ’60s Elvis, La Moz proceeds to dumbfound us by, well, being quite good actually. The hits are here intact – from ‘Suedehead’, through ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ and ‘November Spawned a Monster’. More amazingly, there are some Smiths tunes. ‘Meat is Murder’ bubbles with a sublimely noisy fire, while ‘There is A Light That Never Goes Out’ sparkles brilliantly. And just to add to the otherworldly nature of tonight’s show, he even unveils a new song! ‘The First of the Gang to Die’ is classic Moz – the jangling guitar, the obtuse lyrics about “Hector” who is – needless to say – the first of the gang to die (and such a silly boy).

It’s all too perfect: even after almost 20 years, the hammy act is still appealing. He’s even wearing a cardigan.

Still, even in the Twilight Zone some things never change.

Jason Reynolds