LIVE REVIEW: The Smiths Tribute @ Factory Theatre (24/09/16)

The Salford Lads feat. Christine Jane

Covering another artist can be either be an exercise in slavish re-creation of their music, an attempt to replicate it as accurately as possible, or an insightful reinterpretation of their songs, adding a new shade, a new flavour to the music. This night was a tribute to The Smiths, in honour of the 30th anniversary of the band’s album The Queen Is Dead and we got both those approaches with differing results.

img_7019Early on Panic Syndrome added a goth-rock sense of drama with ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ being a standout in their set. It highlighted the scope of The Smiths catalogue from rockist anthems such as this, right through to the introspective and moodier moments that would follow. Another band that played it pretty close to the chest but with a real sense of energy and enthusiasm were Mr Blonde. They perhaps best nailed the celebratory aspect of the night.

JMS Harrison and Cabin Inn took the atmospheric approach with an extended keyboard intro of ‘Oscillate Wildly’ and Harrison nailing the lonesome melancholy of ‘Asleep’, one of the highlights of the evening. Sonically they worked interesting textures into the songs, putting their own stamp on the music.

The Maladies tackled one of The Smiths’ most famous songs in ‘This Charming Man’ with Dan Marando putting his devilish and theatrical take on the song, adding intensity and tension to it. That was ratcheted up a notch with ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’ before they introduced Lisa Caruso who transformed ‘I Know It’s Over’ into a beautiful and sultry Mazzy Star-styled torch-song , dialling into the core of Morrissey’s swooning and tragic romanticism.

It was up to The Salford Lads (feat. members of Charlie Horse, Died Pretty and Panic Syndrome) who provided excellent backing for singers Christine Jane and The Church’s Steve Kilbey. Opening with instrumental ‘The Draize Train’ they proved immediately that they had a handle on the taut rock and groove-based elements of The Smiths’ sound. Jane showed she knows how to work an audience, urging participation and bridging the gap between stage and audience, something that most other acts didn’t really do. Vocally she was a bit hit and miss, enthusiasm trumping her service to the songs as she sang ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Boy With A Thorn In His Side’.

img_7018From then on the night took a turn into the weird and awkward world of Steve Kilbey and his mix of interpretive dance, yoga poses and stage messiah gesturing. It was as if he was in a rush to get it all out, missing lines, singing wrong lyrics, sacrificing singing for unbridled emotive vocal outpourings. It felt like a pending train-wreck and it was only the well-oiled band that kept their set on the tracks. ‘The Queen Is Dead’, b-side ‘Jeane’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ were given widescreen guitar heavy treatment yet Kilbey went for the grandiose when he needed restraint and spent far too much time on cardio vs audio. The audience visibly thinned during the closing set and were left with a single encore of, bizarrely, a cover of the only non-Smiths song for the night – Gloria.

In all there were some fine performances with only the end of night detracting from the overall success of the evening. Perhaps next time one house band with guest players and singers may have better suited the tribute format.

Chris Familton

NEWS: Rhino releases The Smiths deluxe boxset…

Fans of The Smiths will be salivating over this, though no doubt they will already own most of it. Here they can get it all in one limited edition (4000 worldwide) boxset for only $500 US. There will also be CD and LP only versions available.


  • Individually numbered collectible edition (4000)
  • All 8 albums on CD and Vinyl with replica packaging
  • Remastered by Johnny Marr and Frank Arkwright
  • Bonus 25 vinyl 7″ singles, DVD with music videos, 8″ x 12″ original cover-art prints, 36″ x 24″ collectible poster and 8 page booklet with expanded liner notes
  • Free cover art wallpaper download with every pre-order. *You will receive wallpaper via email within 5 business days.
  • Released on October 25th 2011



Steven Patrick Morrissey is best known as frontman for influential 80s band The Smiths yet many people know little else about the singer. He inspired a generation of disaffected youth with his literate and black humored lyrics and the way in which he reconstructed the image of the masculine singer in a rock band. Looking behind that persona gives some clues as to who the real Morrissey is.

Just like the song ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, Morrissey grew up primarily in Manchester after his parents emigrated to England from Ireland shortly before he was born. As a child his passions for music and film set him aside from other boys and he became fascinated with James Dean, Oscar Wilde and female singers such as Sandie Shaw and Dusty Springfield. In 1991 Morrissey told the New York Times “Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling that the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament.” As he entered his teen years those musical fascinations began to expand to the likes of T-Rex and the New York Dolls, bands with a decidedly glam and theatrical bent. Through the 70s he was even president of the New York Dolls fan club in the UK.

Morrissey’s rise to fame came of course as lyricist and singer for The Smiths. He had tried his hand in a number of punk bands but it was his partnership with guitarist Johnny Marr in 1982 that brought Morrissey well and truly into the public eye. A string of hits followed their signing to Rough Trade Records and from the start he was putting his quirky stamp on the charts with songs like ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ and ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’. He cultivated a stage image that was built on the sensitive masculinity of his hero James Dean and fey mannerisms that harked back to the Oscar Wilde influence. Flowing shirts, hippie beads, national health glasses and a hearing aid all became part of the complex imagery that Morrissey constructed in an attempt to set himself aside from his post punk and pop peers.

Amongst personal differences and growing tension The Smiths came to a crashing end five years later after four albums and two compilations that all reached the UK top ten. Within a year of the split he began his solo career with the release of Viva Hate which continued on from the chart success of The Smiths.

A long standing point of interest for the public and the media has been Morrissey’s sexuality. His gender neutral lyrics often touch on the torture of romance and doomed relationships which only contributes to the conjecture about his own personal preference. Over the decades Morrissey has hinted at being bi-sexual as well as pursuing celibacy as a kind of fourth sexuality; though many contend that homosexuality holds the greater place in his life. All this can only be supposed as he has constantly evaded and manipulated questions on the subject which in turn adds to the mystique and ambiguity of Morrissey the poet and ‘rock star’. As a teenager he worshipped iconic figures and in the public eye he has successfully created himself as a composite idol of those heroes.

Looking back on his career to date it is clear that Morrissey is a extremely intelligent man. He has used the media and his music to cultivate a myth and image that is unique and sufficiently vague in its intention. Since those teen years of obsessive worship of his own idols he has ensured that his notoriety is guaranteed and that his enigma in the cult of personality will continue to burn bright.

Morrissey’s latest album Years Of Refusal is out now.

NEWS: Morrissey in Australia?

The Morrissey fan website True To You has posted word that he will be playing in NZ and Australia early next year.  Could it be that he will be added onto the BDO or ATP lineups?  My first thought was that he would be perfect for the V Festival but that doesn’t hit our shores until March.

True To You posted – “Morrissey will play his first concerts of 2009 in New Zealand. January shows are booked in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin. From here, Morrissey will travel to Australia where concerts are booked in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide”.