Under the grace of Splintr.com and Russ Davis I got this gig to shoot Morrissey in his Manila performance last 13 May 2012. This is actually my second actual photography gig for a client, and the exhilaration was already familiar to what coursed through my veins when I held a lens against Toe. The organizers only allowed the first minute of the first three songs to snap away at the performers from the space reserved for the photographers between the stage and the barricade. I took it as a challenge, immediately imagining myself frantically running—no, sprinting—around that space, stopping, then bursting shots for the entire minute.
This is going to be crazy, I told myself. I was actually expecting the photo session to last for the first three songs, but not within each their first minute. What if there was a magic moment in the fourth song, like Johnny Marr making a surprise appearance? What if something as spectacular as an elephant from Manila Zoo suddenly romping onstage happens at the second minute of the song? If I dare defy the one-minute rule, will the bouncers chokeslam me from the photo pit and into the back section of the World Trade Center? None of these questions were answered—neither did hypothetical spectacles occurred—when Morrissey took the stage.
My oldest memory of Morrissey is, presumably like most 90s kids, the song “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” playing in the radio. The song—as I told another 90s kid—is for Morrissey as what “Creep” is for Radiohead, although my ears were on alert for a member of the audience to shout out a request for that song and how quickly his breath would run out after a few repetitions of his plea. He will be ignored (ba-dum-tsss).
The next memory would be of “How Soon Is Now?”, of Shannon Doherty-era Charmed and its lead actresses’, uhmm, charms. So it was a mix of Pavlovian instinct and genuine fervor that I got excited as the vibrato guitar intro stuttered in contrast with the song’s lyrical eloquence. Right before that, Moz blurted out a “Kamusta kayo” with an unapologetic accent and theatrical gesticulation. And seconds before that, an endearingly snobbish Morrissey sauntered in while bells pealed through the sound system.
Pardon me for the sudden non-linear account, but my favorite image of Morrissey kept on replaying and rewinding in my mind’s eye, that endearing snobbery his aura as a performer gives out. It was the way owned the stage right on the very first step, a mix of inebriated stagger and princely swagger (a stwagger)! He sneered and anguished, pontificated and serenaded. He swung his microphone around both as a lion tamer and a whirling dervish—one in command, the other in prayer. He raised his eyebrows and rolled his sardonic eyes. His fans—those who waited for this moment, some for decades—shone for him a warm light of hopes fulfilled, one that never went out. And he basked in it.
And then my three minutes and three songs were done. Enjoy the photos! Again, thanks to Splintr.com (here’s their article) and Russ Davis!
Shots from Morrissey Greatest Hits Tour in Manila, a set on Flickr.