Kristeen Young seems to be fighting a losing battle. She is a slight figure and her image and music seem to be a PJ Harvey / Kate Bush / Bjork type mix, which may sound a bizarre mix but for me, at least, it worked really well. The shouts of “Morrissey” are already filling the air from the arena and she looks over to the crowd mid-set and sighs wistfully “yeah, I know” …obviously knowing when she took the gig on that the crowd would take a lot of winning over. All that said, by the time she leaves the stage she has an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd.
Before we know it the moment has arrived, 15 minutes before he’s scheduled to come on ( never one to conform in any way at all which is why we love him) the lights go down, and if it wasn’t for the long spoken word intro of the Big Hard Excellent Fish‘s ‘Imperfect List‘ then I’m sure that there would have been even more people stranded at various bars around the arena as the man himself strides onto the stage and the opening bars of ‘You Have Killed Me’ are greeted with a rapturous welcome. Morrissey has come home and it’s clear from the crowds riotous reaction that they don’t want to ever let him go away again.
The backdrop has a classic picture of Oscar Wilde and has a speech bubble proclaiming ‘Who is Morrissey?’ but you know that if Oscar was around today that there would be no doubt in his mind who he is. Indeed he would be his contemporary.
The songs that follow, ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ , and one of my personal favourites ‘You’re The One For Me, Fatty’ serve as an early reminder that Morrissey is so much more than just about The Smiths. His solo back catalogue is strong and vast and it’s hard to imagine how the hell he goes about picking the songs for the set list from such rich pickings.
Peculiarly, Boz Boorer, Mozzers right hand man for many years seems to be….erm….different….tonight. For a while I thought he was missing completely but a closer look at the glamourous lady rockin the floral number behind Morrissey it all becomes clear….tonight Matthew, Boz Boorer is alter ego Gaynor Tension ……and indeed he is introduced as such later in the gig.
Having managed to work my way right to the front of the gig as the majestically awe-inspiring guitar intro to ‘How Soon is Now’ starts up, Morrissey reaches out to the adoring crowd and touches one lucky fan and what seems like hundreds of hands shoot up in the hope of a touch, a look….anything.
It’s not long before we hear a Wildean style quote ….”You may have noticed I wasn’t invited to the Olympics Opening Ceremony,” Morrissey interjects, “This was because my smile was deemed too sincere.” a loud cheer goes up from the crowd. He also adds sarcastically “Hope you’ve all enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee “, before musing out loud “When we ever be rid of that family”….he’s not mellowed with age, and I doubt his fans would want him to.
The inclusion of heartbreaking versions of ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ and ‘I Know Its Over’ sees Steven Patrick at his awe inspiring and self-pitying best and you can see why he appeals in bucketloads to the people on the periphery of society. Anyone who is not moved by either of these songs surely has a swinging brick for a heart.
From my vantage point there’s plenty of people being pulled from the crowd and I can see that each and every one of them is using the opportunity to reach out and make a grab for their hero and when inevitably they are unsuccessful in their quest they vent their frustrations out on the arena security by throwing punches, bites kicks, and various other abuse and generally doing everything in their power to try to prevent security from removing from them from the close proximity that they have briefly aquired.
Relative new songs such as ‘People are The Same Everywhere’ , ‘Action Is My Middle Name’ ‘ and ‘Scandinavia‘ are greeted with as much the same enthusiasm as the better known tracks and it’s virtually impossible to believe that currently this man is without a record contract. How can is be?
‘Meat is Murder’ and the accompanying images projected onto the backdrop give a moment of reflection, and ensures that the kebab shops around the Arena won’t be doing much trade this evening.
The biggest audible gasp of adoration from the crowd for the night is saved for the opening of ‘Please, Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ (thus reclaiming the song from awful John Lewis Christmas advert). The heartfelt echo’s of the lyrics rebounding back to the stage as the sold out Arena are proclaimed with passion and pain and I look around me and there are numerous men (and women, but it has to be said it was mainly men) unashamedly bawling their eyes out. I thought it was only me who was fighting back the tears at the raw emotion,but no, everyone’s at it. I know Manchester is renowned for being soggy but I didn’t imagine it would be revealing itself in this way. The tears flow further as Morrissey says “I love you, I love you” and walks slowly to the back of the stage with his head bowed.
During the encore of ‘Still Ill’ someone pulled from the crowd is eventually successful in making contact with his idol, and Morrissey encourages him to climb onto the stage by attempting to pull him up ( eventually getting help from a roadie with the task ) and shouting “Up!” his successful mission culminating with a triumphant embrace reminiscent of early Morrissey gigs that I went to in my youth. The crowd take this as their cue to attempt same but everyone else fails and is taken away kicking and screaming into the wings..
The word Icon is overused in this day and age but Morrissey embodies the true meaning of the word – a religious work of art. Seeing Morrissey in his home town has been like a religious experience for many but maybe it’s just as well the gig ends now as I’m am physically and emotionally drained and I’ve still got the two and a half hour drive home…..it’s also perhaps just as well that there’s only been two gigs in Britain this year as I don’t think my emotions or my nerves can take it. I’ll still be first in the queue for the next round of emotional wrestling though.