Album Reviews: Live at Earl's Court by MorrisseyA live album is the natural capper to Morrissey’s recent revitalization, kickstarted by 2004’s You Are The Quarry. What could have been a quick and easy cash-in, though, is instead a masterpiece of its own right, an essential catalog addition for Morrissey and Smiths fans. The initial surprise is the durability of the numerous selections from Quarry, which never sound out of step as they’re threaded right alongside a number of Smiths classics. Detractors of the last release will likely be pleased by the as-is nature of the recording (no studio overdubs) and, more to the point, by the absence of Hollywood producer Jerry Finn. Whether Finn is a deserving or merely convenient scapegoat, several songs ("You Know I Couldn’t Last," "I Have Forgiven Jesus") harness a much greater emotional depth in the live setting.
And that croon! Moz has never sounded better; it’s a singular performance. His comfort level as a silky-smooth middle-aged showman creates some compelling juxtapositions with the sharper edges and youthful melancholies of The Smiths back catalog. Lyrics are even tweaked to reflect the changing times (Joan of Arc’s Walkman is replaced by an iPod on "Bigmouth Strikes Again"). Age may bring some added perspective, but it isn’t wearing a sugarcoat, as his choice for a cover song makes clear. He plays Patti Smith’s "Redondo Beach" to the hilt, a breezy summertime song with a reggae beat -- that tells the story of a lover’s post-quarrel suicide.
Like Bob Dylan or Neil Young before him, Morrissey’s iconic status was further cemented by declarations about a "comeback" or "return to form." Live at Earl's Court is a triumph for a different reason: it presents a new form altogether. -Adam McKibbin
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