Morrissey's birthday just passed but the gifts keep coming. First we got the entire oral history of the man read by a robot, and now we've got something that's actually useful: Moz's first solo performance, which also happened to be a Smiths show, at England's Wolverhampton Civic Hall on December 22, 1988, filmed in its entirety and now streaming in all of its grainy glory on YouTube. Morrissey was 29 years old at the time and and had just released Viva Hate.
As the user who uploaded the 40-minute video explains, Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke, and Craig Gannon back Moz for the gig, which "was also meant as a farewell Smiths concert ... The set list was a mix of new Morrissey solo tracks with Smiths tracks from 1987, none of which had been performed in front of a live audience before. The concert was announced on the John Peel radio show [and] entrance was free to anyone wearing a Smiths or Morrissey T-Shirt."
As NME points out (via this old Uncut feature), the other players had at that point begun taking steps to sue the singer regarding royalties and the dissolution of their band. The article from 1998 goes on to say, "According to Joyce, '[The legal action] wasn't mentioned.' Morrissey would never play with either Joyce, Rourke, or Gannon again, dumbfounding the ex-Smiths to this day. Morrissey was still playing mind games, and getting rather good at them."
Call it whatever you like, seeing these four playing those songs is worth whatever weirdness transpired, or had to be endured (including all of those awkward but heartfelt hugs), to make it happen.
Morrissey (with the Smiths) at Wolverhampton Civic Hall:
"Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before"
"The Last of the Famous International Playboys"
"Sister I'm a Poet"
"Death at One's Elbow"
"Sweet and Tender Hooligan"