Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Morrissey goes to the Middle East

Tucked into his grumbling about the Olympics yesterday was also a brief word or two from Morrissey about his recent Tel Aviv tour.

Now, playing a gig in Israel is a highly charged thing for a foreign artist to do. The usual form is for a band to book a date, receive flak for doing so, and then invent a dentist's appointment or a plectrum shortage in order to cancel. (I'm looking at you, Pixies.)

Elvis Costello was acute when he axed his 2010 Israel mini-tour - he said that merely playing there would be "interpreted as a political act", that whatever your motives, whatever your personal beliefs, whatever the make-up of the audience to which you play, it does make you seem a bit ambivalent about what's going on in the occupied territories.

Morrissey is a man who can't talk about taking a stroll down the Old Kent Road without it ending up a years-long legal battle over whether he's racist or not, so he doesn't seem to be the best-placed person to navigate this region of raw emotions and subtle inference.

But he had a go, with Tablet Magazine recording his reasoning:

“There is no point punishing a nation for something that the leader of the country does or says. Look at Syria.”
That seems fair enough, although obviously Israel is a parliamentary democracy and Syria has only just thought of trying adding more than one party to ballot papers, which makes it a little bit different. There's a way for the Israelis to voice their disapproval with their government that isn't open to the people of Syria; it's just most of them don't use it.

But at least he indicates - although not in his usual, forthright, take-no-prisoners, I-say-it-as-I-see-it-Elsie-Tanner style - that there is a problem, that there's something the politicians are up to. But he is here for the people, not those in power. This isn't about fawning over those in power.

Hang about a moment, what was that he said in his statement?
Thank you to the city of Tel-Aviv for granting me the Keys to their city. I just might die with a smile on my face, after all.

But maybe it was the citizens who gave him the keys? Do you know, Huffington Post?
The former The Smiths star was in the city for a gig on Saturday and during his visit he was presented with the Key to the City by Mayor Ron Huldai.

Still, if there's one saving grace from this, it's that his earlier career slip-ups will have taught Morrissey to avoid going on stage and wrapping himself in a contentious flag sending out mixed and confusing messages in a tinder-dry atmopshere.



Of course, Morrissey couldn't spend very long taking advantage of his new-found freedom to prance around Tel Aviv draped in the Israeli flag, as he had to come back to Britain to warn us about the dangers of cheap patriotism at the Olympics.