The Smiths would take to the stage for one final time on December 12, 1986, a performance at the Brixton Academy and this footage that we have unearthed in the Far Out archives of Morrissey leading the band through an incredible rendition of ‘Hand In Glove’ is proof that the group were bowing out at the top of their game.
The show, in fact, was not supposed to be a Smiths send-off and the split was seemingly not on the horizon and, during the evening with Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce, they showed no signs of awareness that this would be the last time all four of them would ever play in public together.
Their Brixton Academy takeover was originally booked to take place for November but the event needed to be pushed back a month after Johnny Marr was sadly involved in an almost fatal car accident. It added extra suspense to the evening and made the proposition of seeing the best band in Britain all the more tantalising as fans had to wait even longer to see them in the flesh.
Before Marr’s accident, the band had spent much of 1986 on the road. It had meant that they were fatigued and, having the extra month to rest up ahead of the show, they as a collective managed to gather their mettle to ensure they were back to full fitness and raring to go come curtains up.
The Smiths treated the 5,000 adoring fans inside the legendary building to renditions of previously unplayed tracks ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ and ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ which would turn out to be their only airing of the songs.
The unquestionable highlight of the set, which saw the four-piece roll through an astounding round of tracks and blitz through their extensive back catalogue, was the performance’s tear-inducing music. It ended the set in epic proportions with a rare outing of 1984 effort ‘Hand In Glove’ which had previously been cut from the set and was a welcome return.
A few months after the performance, the Manchester band were once again back in the studio and putting the finishing touches on their album Strangeways, Here We Come — which would, of course, turn out to be their final output.
The non-stop touring made their relationships even more strenuous, a situation that forced each member to be inseparable from one another. With these tensions set to cause the end of the band, they still always managed to leave their off-stage stresses away from the live platform—especially during their last ever performance.
By the time Strangeways, Here We Come was released the following September, the band had already split. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey’s irritation by Marr’s work with other artists which came from Marr feeling like he had become trapped in The Smiths by Morrissey’s stubbornness to expand his musical horizons.
Despite these strained inner personal relationships between the bandmates, they still put in a live-show of the highest calibre and ‘Hand In Glove’ is the perfect incapsulation of everything great that The Smiths represented.
See the footage, below.