August 20th 2016
Morrissey played a sold out show at Manchester Arena on Saturday night. Nigel Carr reports back below for Louder Than War with photographs by Melanie Smith.
Political statements about war, gut wrenching videos of animal slaughter and a rant about the local mayor didn’t dampen the spirits at Manchester’s Arena last night. Morrissey put on a spectacular show which had the crowd on their feet from the gong induced start to bare-chested finish. Fans travelled from all over the UK to see his one date in the UK this year having missed out the city during his 2015 tour for some strange reason. It’s been a tough old time for the former Smiths’ front man with his recent cancer scare, alluded to possibly by the blood oozing plasters securing the crucifix to his chest in the first part of the show, which miraculously disappear after a quick costume change.
At one point he apologises to the fans watching him ‘on the big screen’, “I usually don’t look this bad, I usually look much worse. I count myself lucky, this is a good night.” This doesn’t stop him ripping his shirt off during the encore revealing the sort of of physique that half of the blokes in the audience would die for. That’s a lifetime of vegetarianism coupled with not just one short session puffing in the gym!
The evening opens with Irish musician Damien Dempsey followed by a half hour film of what I can only assume to be the headliner’s cultural influences. Punk and poems, speeches on human rights scenes of suicide, Jackie Wilson, The Pistols & The Damned, Ike & Tina Turner and of course his beloved New York Dolls.
From the opening drum solo signalling the start of Suedehead, the crowd are on their feet with our man looking dapper in tightly fitted jacket, plastered chest exposed. They are on his side straight from the off, singing along, arms aloft. “I am now lord mayor of Manchester” he proclaims before launching in to Alma Matters and somebody at the front is holding up a bunch of gladioli. If that’s a nod to his Smiths’ fronting days then I’m afraid they are going to be sadly disappointed as he manages to slot in just two of the old songs this evening.
Morrissey packs the show with roughly half of 2014’s album. World Peace Is None Of Your Business, the title track of which is preceded by the following, slightly stuttering rant: “Well, sports men do not start wars, hairdressers do not start wars, cows do not start wars, badgers do not start wars; politicians start wars…. and they love it!” It opens with a didgeridoo solo and although the track is sweet, uplifting and melodic, it’s far from the best song played tonight.
Thankfully the set is peppered with Moz classics so just when you feel the energy dropping, in comes a song like Ouija Board Oiija Board or Every Day Is Like Sunday and the crowd erupts again. The latter is preceded by a pop at the current ‘Liverpudlian’ mayor of Manchester, as Morrissey asks, “Where is Alf Roberts!”
There are some brutal, visually stunning videos forming a backdrop to the gig, Ganglord features scenes of US police brutality with victims being kicked in the head, punched, tasered and beaten up in frenzied attacks. Meat is Murder is preceded by a rant ending in ‘Fuck the farmers’ and backed by sickening scenes of animal slaughter. By the time a bull’s head comes sliding towards me I’m starting to feel a bit sick and turn away. I notice that many of the audience have too. It’s a pumping, crashing climax of a track that refuses to let up and we are left with the single slide on the screen stating: ‘Meat is Murder, what’s your excuse now?’ Morrissey actually banned all meat products from the venue tonight and I’m guessing that a fair proportion of the audience won’t eat meat again after watching the video.
“In this year, the year of the reaper we would like to remember Victoria Wood, We would like to remember Caroline Aherne, We would like to remember Muhammed Ali, we would like to remember Prince; too soon, too soon too soon”, to which one audience member shouts back ‘What about Bowie?’ I must admit to being a little confused by the obviously intentioned omission.
The gig ends with Oboe Concerto from the last album providing a particularly classical element, with extended fade out before Morrissey bounces off stage, returning for an encore of the epic Irish Blood, English Heart, preceded by yet another political dig.
It’s hard to explain the effect that this man has had on Manchester over the years. His slightly offset charisma, almost evangelical political posturing and dogged beliefs which he insists on preaching. I felt that however much he tried to engage with the crowd, even shaking a few hands, he always remained guarded and just a little distant – he was putting on a show.
There were also a few oddities that I couldn’t explain, like having his keyboardist come forward to finish a couple of songs in Spanish, the little bows between tracks and between him and the band. Even the guy that stormed the stage who Morrissey referred to as ‘one of the crew’, probably was, knowing how tight security is at the place,
All that aside. The atmosphere was electric, the set was varied and interesting, but clearly not to everyone’s taste – one guy shouted next to me; ‘Where’s your good stuff?’ and certainly if you’d come to hear a swathe of Smiths tunes peppered with a few of his most popular solo hits you were going to be disappointed. Morrissey played this gig on his own terms, proud and defiant to the end and for me there was enough ‘good stuff’ to make it a cracking evening, a cracking show…
Suedehead / Alma Matters / All You Need Is Me / You Have Killed Me / Ganglord / Speedway / Istanbul / World Peace Is None Of Your Business / Kiss Me A Lot / I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris / Ouija Board, Ouija Board / Everyday Is Like Sunday / The Bullfighter Dies / Meat Is Murder / It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small / Jack The Ripper / One Of Our Own / The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores / I Will See You In Far-Off Places / What She Said / Oboe Concerto / Irish Blood, English Heart
Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. If you wish to use /purchase or license any images please contact email@example.com