First the audience were treated to the fabulous and incredibly beautiful Kristeen Young as the opening act. I’ve seen Kristeen open for Morrissey on many occasions, but on this night I had a whole new experience. Taking to the stage as a solo artist with just a keyboard (without drummer Jeff White) her bolshie delivery of what are clearly very personal new songs made my eyes well. I felt a real sense of fragility in her, she lit up the arena for me. I feel that Kristeen is carrying the torch for female artists who try to do something different, yet beautiful, it’s a rare thing but I found it in Kristeen. It may have been the emotions of finally witnessing Morrissey in a live setting again after 2 years, but I just felt weakened by her performance.
Many make comparisons to other female vocalists with huge vocal ranges, but I always think Kristeen takes it one step further than her peers, at times I felt her voice was so voracious and passionate that it was almost a scream, incredible. Unfortunately, some members of the audience were quite rude, chanting“ Morrissey Morrissey, Morrissey” in the traditional football chant over her performance which was shameful, but their Loss. Despite this many others sent her away warmly, and it became apparent to me after I’d pulled myself together that she, like Morrissey, embodies not only talent, beauty and a certain degree of angst but Kristeen seems to sing to somewhere very deep in me. A rare and wonderful find to all first timers I’m sure. Perfectly summed up by her delightful little bow at the end, looking beautiful, and humble yet triumphant.
In between Kristeen Young leaving the stage and pre Morrissey, a video montage played. The New York Dolls (Morrissey’s favourite band), European female crooners, interview clips and finally footage from what looked to be from a cabaret show - very Morrissey indeed. The lights then dimmed, the news stories began to be read. As he appeared on stage, the audience and myself screamed out our love for him. This was already incredibly special. It’s usually a Morrissey tradition that he appears on stage to the sound of bells and sirens, and this has always been the case whenever I have seen him anywhere that excludes Manchester. I had flashbacks to my very first Morrissey gigs, around the “You Are the Quarry” Tour, when he comes on stage to a list of news topics read out over orchestral music. The second I heard this, my eyes began to well and I felt the intensity build. He walked on with his band, arms linked, they dressed in “I Hate William and Kate” T-shirts. He took his position and began a short rendition of a Patti Smith song ‘Horses’ wielding a tambourine before launching into the “Ringleader” anthem “You have killed me”, the audience surged and pushed towards the front. Morrissey looked truly taken back by his home crowd gesticulating toward him like we were offering a piece of ourselves. He launched straight into the classic ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ and then the light hearted ‘You’re the One For Me Fatty’ his hands reaching out to as many fans as he could at both ends of the stage, and of course displaying his charismatic charms as Oscar Wilde stared from the backdrop behind him, with a speech bubble “Who is Morrissey"! “Wherever you travel there’s no place like Hulme,” he quips to his homies, then adds “Oh yes there is.” There is no person like Morrissey, he rarely disappoints.
I noticed that on recent footage of Morrissey’s 2012 Japanese tour, long serving guitar player Boz Boorer seems to be dressed in drag. This gig was no exception, introduced as “Gaynor Tension”, Miss Tension (Boz) played with more swagger than I’ve previously witnessed. Gaynor Tension is an unsung star of Broadway, playing second fiddle to greats like Liza Minnelli. Is Boz’s new image linked to the Cabaret footage we see at the start of the set? Is it linked to the launch of his upcoming solo album? My guess is only Boz and Morrissey know the answer.
Morrissey’s vocal performance throughout the evening was incredible; his voice was penetratingly strong yet silky and seductive. Songs like “I know it’s over” were not only devastatingly beautiful but really showed that Morrissey isn’t going anywhere. He is still adored and he still loves his fans, and its what he does more than anything, we need each other. Morrissey was quite talkative and still controversial throughout, congratulating the crowd on “Surviving the Diamond Jubilee”, posing the question “when will we be rid of that family?” and possibly the most humorous comment was one made about his recent acceptance of the key to the city of Tel Aviv and how Manchester city council give him nothing "Absolutely nothing. And I don't know why.". I was so glad to hear new song “Scandinavia” making an appearance in the set, when this album shows its head it’s going to be like nothing else. “Let the people burn, let their children cry and die in blind asylums. Then you came along and you held out your hand, and I fell in love with you and Scandinavia”. The transparency of Moz’s emotions during this song and the entire concert were what made it such a fantastic evening. It felt like we were meeting, it’s a quality most performers don’t have but I felt as though Morrissey had accepted the audience into himself.
“Meat is Murder” the Smiths classic was unbelievable the use of projectors and montages were used to incredible effect as “meet your meat” was displayed during the introduction to the song. Morrissey’s silky voice during the opening really whisked the audience along and our complete adoration for him was displayed. During the first verse the crowd’s singing seemed to stop as images on the screen turned graphic. Animal’s legs being pulled off from under them and distressed animals in cages. The audience were moved and were very vocal about it. Never the less the intensity grew and grew until the end of the song when the band exploded into a mass of feedback. This was a definite high point of an incredible show. Since the gig I’ve read fans complaining about quite a melancholy choice of songs/set, I personally felt it close to perfection. Would I have liked to have heard “I know it’s going to happen someday” instead of perhaps “You’re the one for me fatty”? Yes, but I couldn’t complain, as the whole evening was just incredible.
'Let me Kiss You' brought a mad frenzied moment onto the baying Mozz maniacs as he dramatically tore open his shirt during the song, and flings it onto the front rows. A piece of Morrissey that will no doubt be a treasured possession forever. I personally wept throughout the entire performance, when he was onstage and as close to him as I was, I felt as though it was ok. I could stand to exit the venue and resume loneliness until the next time we were to meet. I wasn’t the only one. Morrissey dedicates the night to Mancunian tour manager John McBeith, adding “And may you and I never be further apart”. And bringing the night almost to a close with a truly unforgettable version of the Smiths classic “Please Please, Please” all arms were in the air and all eyes closed. Morrissey’s final words of that song were sincere “I love you, I love you” he told the audience. Writing this now, I feel utterly blessed and I truly feel that no better night has ever occurred than on July 28th 2012 at the Manchester Evening News Arena.
A man announced the class is about to begin
Mighty Joe - Shocking Blue
Whole A Lot Of Shaking Going On - Vince Taylor
Edith Sitwell interview
Bubble Gum - Brigitte Bardot
All Over The World - Françoise Hardy
James Baldwin interview
Like A Tiger - Fabian
Never Turn Back On Mother Earth- The Sparks
I'm Looking For A Kiss - NYD
You Have Killed Me / Everyday Is Like Sunday / You're The One For Me, Fatty / How Soon Is Now? / I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris / Ouija Board, Ouija Board / Maladjusted / Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me / When Last I Spoke To Carol / People Are The Same Everywhere / I Know It's Over / To Give (The Reason I Live) / Black Cloud / Scandinavia / Meat Is Murder / Let Me Kiss You / Action Is My Middle Name / I Will See You In Far Off Places / Speedway / Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want // Still Ill