Our man about town Richie Rochdale was there for a hometown show by the mercurial mozzer and tests the oft repeated slogan that suggests “Manchester is Morrisseys town, we just live in it” Gladioli optional.
Good, old Morrissey. Good, old, fat, old Morrissey. ( And before you accuse me of being SIZIST, let me tell you I’m one of the few blokes that, actually, PREFERS fat birds! ). Our Hero always RETURNS to his hometown even though he affects disinterest. And we’re always here WAITING for him. Tonight, he’s back at the Manchester Evening News Arena, the scene of 2004’s “Who Put The M In Manchester?” Can this gig top that magnificent venture? Only one way to find out—. Innit.
First up, the rather, er, “unique” Kristeen Young. She’s like a kooky, fired up mixture of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. Her solo performance is both brave and provocative. I loved her statement about blowing up the Banks. Beautiful mover, too. She delights me in every department of my senses. Best Moz support act I’ve ever watched.
On to the Man himself, the miserable git. Actually, he’s in quite a talkative mood for this one, a Chatty Man like Alan Carr. We’re treated to the opening ceremony of Pete Wiley’s Shit-List/“Imperfect List” by Big, Hard Excellent Fish ( which sends shivers down my spine EVERY time and I don’t know why ) and ,then, it’s all systems go. He’s HERE, on the STAGE and we’re all WETTING our knickers! He’s off and launching straight away into— Patti Smith’s “Horses?” WHAT ??? No, he’s just teasing us, it’s really “You Have Killed Me” a song which RESONATES in my life on a deeply personal level. The band plays it straight but I’m wondering who is the female guitarist to the right of the Mozfather? And where is Boz? Replying to the screams of “MORRISSEY !!!” at the end of the song he says smartly, “At your service.” Et voila.
No pause for breath and it’s into “Every Day Is Like Sunday” , the Vini Reilly/Stephen Street CLASSIC from “Viva Hate.” We love it but there’s something naggingly FAMILIAR about this new lady in the band—. Can’t quite put my finger on it—. The throwaway “You’re The One For Me, Fatty” follows providing a chuckle with its “oo-er, missus” sentiments. Like Kenneth Williams in a “Carry On” film. Our man has better punchlines than dear, dear Kenneth, anyway, such as, “There’s no place like Hulme.” Groooooooan. Any chance of a Smiths song by the way?
Right on cue, the Morrissey group rip into “How Soon Is Now?” Their musical limitations can be apparent on some of the songs especially the ones that originally featured Johnny Marr. What they LACK in technique, however, they more than MAKE UP for in vim and vigour. Nobody claimed that this was a Smiths reunion did they? One song from “Years Of Refusal” has already been played and I’m DREADING the next one. “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” leaves me close to tears ( but that’s another story ). He sings it beautifully and I’m relieved when the set continues.
Our Leader berates the Olympics for not inviting him to sing there. “This was because my smile was thought to be too sincere.” Those dead-heads on the Committee, eh? Maybe you need another line of communication? Like a “Ouija Board, Ouija Board?” This particular performance makes me think of another time and another place. When The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays began their assault on our hearts and minds. At that moment, Morrissey was being written off on the back of this song. Yet here we are, twenty five years later. Oh, well, that’s the highs and lows of predictive journalism for you!
One from the so-called “garbage” years, next.Personally, I thought that “Maladjusted” the album just needed a little TWEAKING to make ita better proposition ( which, thankfully, did happen some years after its original release ). Here, “Maladjusted” the song is given Morrissey’s BEST vocal delivery so far. An absolute PLEASURE to listen to. He congratulates our survival of the “moronic” Diamond Jubilee with, “When will we be rid of that family?”, then it’s “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me.” Sometimes, he’s been a bit too much of a Drama Queen. Like John Inman in “Are You Being Served?” Or, indeed, like ME.
”When Last I Spoke To Carol” gives us another one from the last album. Its Mexican arrangement continues Morrissey’s fascination with differing musical sub-genres eg. rockabilly, skinhead music, glam rock. It precedes an unreleased ( I won’t say new ) song “People Are The Same Everywhere.” Can’t wait for the next album which will feature these tracks. IF it ever sees the light of day—. The band in their “We Hate William And Kate” tee-shirts is introduced and the mystery of our female guitarist is finally revealed. “Gaynor Tension” ( Gain Attention- geddit? ) is, in fact, Boz Boorer in full drag; a tradition dating back to the Manchester Apollo in 1992 if I’m not correct. He’s no Danny La Rue that is for sure but he plays a GORGEOUS “I Know It’s Over.”
I’m uncertain of what the next song is but it turns out to be Frankie Valli’s “To Give ( The Reason I Live ).” More like Frankie Howerd I’d say, ba-bum! It’s suitably dramatic in a James Bond/ David Arnold type of way and fits in nicely with the other material. A Jeff Beck-less “Black Cloud” features after this and one of my ONLY complaints of the evening is that Morrissey MISSED a trick by not inviting Kristeen Young onto the stage to do “That’s How People Grow Up.” Oh, well, we can’t have EVERYTHING can we?
Another unreleased song in the form of “Scandinavia” is up for our delectation now and I think it will have a sumptuous, orchestral arrangement once it’s recorded in the studio. Very, very nice. “Meat Is Murder” is the CORNERSTONE song of the evening given Steven Patrick’s well documented views on animal cruelty but experience tells me NOT to watch the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” film being played whilst the band perform it. Jesus, I nearly CHOKED on my burger when I first saw it! You can LOVE your Idols but you don’t have to blindly AGREE with everything they say. Still, fair play to the Moz. It’s HIS Party and he’ll show what he wants to. “Let Me Kiss You” even concludes with him getting his tits out. I don’t know which was WORSE—.
A brief audience participation bit ends in slavish, Belgian arse-kissing and we get the last unreleased song of the night “Action Is My Middle Name.” Dazzlingly delivered, I absolutely ADORE the next one ( because it sounds like a The The song ) “I Will See You In Far Off Places.” One intrepid invader is helped onto the stage to meet his Captain and we’re getting near to the end. I can SENSE the tension. “Speedway” is the giveaway and you know that you’re not too far off when this strikes up. It will always be a STORMING set-closer.
Morrissey finishes the show with a reading of Irving Berlin’s lyrics to “Let Me Sing And I’m Happy” before a touching rendition of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” He tells us that, “I love you,” and then he’s gone. Like the true Heartbreaker that he IS. We love you too, Big Guy. The solitary encore is “Am I Still Ill?” which follows our Lordship’s dedication of the night to his Manchester Tour Manager, John McBeith. It would have perhaps been a nice touch to have had a JOINT dedication for the actor Geoffrey Hughes maybe? Eddie Yates to readers of a certain age. And that’s IT. Lights up, as per.
And, yes, if I didn’t make the references EXPLICIT enough, I DO think that Morrissey is a camp comedian. As is evidenced by his comments on the lack of honours bestowed on him by Manchester City Council. Do you REALLY think he was being anything OTHER than ironic? Like Graham Norton in— oh, shut the fuck up, Simo! Fat, camp, opinionated or just plain talented. We all love you, Morrissey.