Rick Astley and Blossoms play The Smiths, The Forum, Kentish Town, 9th October 2021
In 2013 Mozzer reissued The Last Of The Famous International Playboys with a picture of him and Rick Astley, side by side and grinning on the cover. So when this gig was announced, you realise this is odd. Really odd. Or extremely prescient? Is this all some truculent Mozzer masterplan?
What does it all mean? Is this just the beginning? Next week, Marti Pellow and Circa Waves play The Fall? Adele and Sundara Karma play Bauhaus? Jason Donovan and Marsicans sing Echo & The Bunnymen? Glenn Medeiros and Ladytron play the songs of Pulp? It’s a whole new brilliant, twisted genre waiting to happen.*
There is a small army of us descending on Kentish Town - we get an evening of Smiths songs, a band we all adore, sung by Mr Astley, once mocked by The Wonderstuff (I confess to having bellowed along to Astley In A Noose in the late 80s - sorry Rick!). He’s now a national treasure, reinvented by great new records, appearances with Foo Fighters and a complete understanding of where he sits in the scheme of things. He does not give a toss, he just enjoys his life. How splendid.
My lovely friend Sam has long championed Rick. And long loved The Smiths. He is the living Venn diagram of tonight’s show.
They say all goodbyes should be sudden; 34 years ago The Smiths dissolved acrimoniously, before I could see them live (see Ten Bad Gig Decisions). Since then, I have seen Mozzer 19 times, though that is out of the question now given his appalling views (see When Heroes Go Down).
Until tonight, the best I could hope for is to see the wonderful Johnny Marr playing a smattering of classics amongst his fabulous solo material (see my recent review). It’s good but I don’t want him to just play old songs, I love his new material. So tonight is an unexpected and marvellous treat.
Back at the Forum after 3 days (Kentish Town, Here We Come my friend Simon quips), the crowd are very different from Wednesday’s Inhaler fans. Quiffs, beer bellies and greying hair dominate (or am I just looking in a mirror?).
The first Smiths song I fell in love with was What Difference Does It Make? - it was on Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 2, which I got for my 14th birthday in 1984. Mozzer doesn’t like it, but I still adore it. So when the show opens to its stonking riff, I am ecstatic. The band are waving gladioli, "Marry Me" is written on the bass drum - it's going to be lots of fun.
What follows is an almost dream Smiths set. Yes, there are songs you wished they had played, but it would be churlish to complain. 12 singles, 7 album tracks and b-sides. Rick does a storming job. He is beaming - back in 1987 as The Smiths abandoned us, Rick promised he would never let us down or hurt us and he delivers on that commitment. Meanwhile Blossoms show their musical chops, with their near perfect renditions of Marr, Rourke and Joyce’s musical legacy. They need to sort their hair out mind, they look like the stars of a shampoo advert.
The audience knows every word to every song - Panic and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out are probably two of the loudest crowd singalongs I have ever heard. And it's quite something to see Astley singing "slap me on the patio" or yelping along and flailing his microphone in the air to Barbarism Begins At Home.
The set ends with the lights up and everyone holding the lights on their phones in the air as we holler along to Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. It was quite moving and the venue looks amazing.
At no stage did I think "I wish this was Morrissey singing" - Astley is just a star in his element. There are a few dad-like jokes, but he is a splendid sport and clearly a real fan of the material.
As the show ends, gladioli are thrown to the audience and everyone is beaming and sweaty. It's been better than we could have dared imagine. We meet at a pub round the corner. One friend declares it a religious experience, another says it's the best gig they have been to. I insist we only ever refer to him as Astley hereon. He has been a legend tonight.
We head home at last, tiddly, hoarse from singing and smiling. Astley must be the same, having finally earnt the label of the last of the famous international playboys.
#MorrisseyNeutral - as is detailed elsewhere on this site, I believe in Morrissey Offsetting so I have made a donation to the Refugee Council to cancel any financial benefit Moz may get from tonight's performance and to counterbalance his support for bigoted parties like For Britain. I would encourage you to do the same!
*I may have stolen this from a tweet I saw, I genuinely cannot remember and much searching has failed to find the original - don't plagiarise or take on loan, as someone once said.... If this was yours and I have nicked the idea, my sincere apologies. I really don’t know if I dreamt that or you beat me to it!