Thursday, May 28, 2009

Panic on the Streets of Newport

When The Smiths played Newport Leisure Centre in 1986 it was a 2,000 sell-out. For about half-an-hour things went swimmingly until Morrissey approached the front row and decided to clasp the outstretched hands of his adoring acolytes. Whereupon, he was unceremoniously yanked from the stage and dragged into a teeming mob of adolescent miserablists. He didn't surface for about three minutes. In his absence the rest of the band played an instrumental. Eventually members of the road crew managed to haul him back up on to the stage but, clearly, all was not well with the flower-wielding star. He staggered around the stage for a bit holding his injured bonce but, unable to continue, he headed for the wings. The rest of the band followed suit.

The audience anxiously awaited the group's return - they'd forked out £6.50 per ticket and wanted their money's worth. After about 10 minutes it was announced that Morrissey was "catching his breath" and that The Smiths would return shortly. Meanwhile backstage Mozzer was being attended to by a doctor who advised him against continuing with the show. Apparently he had a black eye and was suffering from concussion. The Royal Gwent Hospital was alerted and told to expect a visit from the injured singer. When, after an hour, it was announced to an increasingly irate crowd that Morrissey was too injured to continue the scene turned ugly. A section of the mob started chanting obscenities and some of them climbed onstage and began fighting with the road crew. Attempts were made to smash up the band's equipment. Heaven knows they were miserable now.

I suspect that when police were informed that they had to break up a riot at a Smiths concert there must have been much guffawing in the back of the meat wagon. Fair play to Newport's sensitive young ruffians, though, they enthusiastically swapped punches with the cops but were eventually overpowered. 6 arrests were made for public order offences. The following day Newport Leisure Centre was inundated with calls from angry fans demanding their money back, but the venue denied all responsibility. Rough Trade, The Smith's record company, issued a statement. It said: "Morrissey is OK now and the rest of the tour will continue as planned. He was shaken up and although he wanted to continue in Newport he was advised not to. It was very unfortunate but just one of those things. I am afraid there will be no refunds."