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Morrissey - MEN Area, Manchester, 22/5/2004

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 16 / 6 / 2004

Morrissey - MEN Area, Manchester, 22/5/2004


In his first homecoming Manchester show in 12 years, Dixie Ernill watches Morrissey play a variable set, but finds him still sometimes able to maintain an edge

One cold Saturday, morning months ago, I crawled from my pit to spend the best part of an hour constantly telephoning a jammed ticket line in order to get tickets for Morrissey’s first Manchester gig in 12 years. Persistence paid off and just in the nick of time I secured two handfuls of gold dust. Granted the seats are miles away from the stage, but this is one of those must attend events that people will talk about for years to come – a bit like when the Beatles played on that roof! The strange thing is that less than 18 months ago, I bought tickets to see Morrissey in Blackburn (less than 20 miles from Manchester) without any fuss at all. The Blackburn venue is a fraction of the size of the MEN Arena as well; amazing what a dollop of hype and the prospect of a new LP can do! On a warm Saturday morning 22 May 2004, I awake, having seen Morrissey on Jools Holland the night before, in an upbeat mood. I am looking forward to the show, but there is the small (but enjoyable) matter of entertaining my young son for a few hours in the morning and winning a cricket match in the afternoon. The morning flies by without a hitch, but despite dominating the cricket match, the opposition are hanging on. With every over ticking by, the prospects of seeing Franz Ferdinand (the last support band) are gradually disappearing. With two balls to spare we finally get the last wicket and the victory we deserve (God bless Tommy Read), but it’s gone 8 o’clock, so there’s barely time for handshakes…… By hook, crook, and a powerful deodorant replacing a shower and some “positive” driving, I find myself in my seat with scarcely enough time to take in my surroundings. Acknowledgement that the stage is indeed half a marathon away, and the place is rammed with Morrissey fans of all shapes, sizes, genders and quiff lengths, is all I have time for. The tension is tangible as everyone awaits the arrival of a 45 year old (today) loner to lead his tribe of rockabilly band members on stage. After what seems like a very long time to most and about 5 minutes to a local cricket captain, six match stick men march on stage…….thank heavens for big screens. On a stage decked with Morrissey spelt out in huge block letters (paying homage to Elvis’ comeback special), we are given a typically charming greeting before proceedings commence with a rocking 'First Of The Gang To Die', one of the highlights from the new album 'You Are The Quarry' (and already being lined up as the second single). Old favourite, 'Hairdresser On Fire', is gobbled up by the delirious crowd before current top 3 smash, 'Irish Blood, English Heart' is confidently tossed away so early in the piece. 'The Headmaster’s Ritual' becomes the first of five Smiths’ songs given new life tonight and with Everyday Is Like Sunday (complete with new opening) being teased out next, it is the sort of start to the concert that legend is made of. Throw into the mix Morrissey’s eloquent and affecting pre-song banter and things are near perfect. Unfortunately, not even the great man can maintain the pace and a lull follows with 'I Have Forgiven Jesus' and 'How Can Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel?' sandwiching a rather lame 'I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday'. Old Smiths’ B-side, 'Rubber Ring', makes a surprising appearance next and in truth doesn’t shine like it really should. Another B-side, 'Such a Little Thing Makes a Big Difference', this time from Morrissey’s 'Interesting Drug' single, picks things up again momentarily before a brand new track, 'Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice', and 'The World Is Full of Crashing Bores' take the sting out again. Why Morrissey has chosen to promote his new LP with a clutch of weaker tracks is beyond me ('I Like You', 'You Know I Couldn’t Last' and the dreamy 'Come Back to Camden' are all criminally left in the canon). A Raymonde track, 'Can’t Hold a Candle to You', is covered next and isn’t a bad choice, but with a vast back catalogue to chose from why belt out somebody else’s song? Once another track from 'You Are The Quarry', 'Let Me Kiss You' has been lapped up by this passionate and partisan crowd – intent on greeting every song like a long lost friend - before Morrissey brings out his big guns again. The awesome 'Jack The Ripper', admittedly a B-side from the mid 90’s – but amazing stuff all the same, with its brilliant “Crash into my arms” plea is quickly eclipsed by the classic Smiths’ track 'A Rush and a Push and the Land' is Ours. Heartfelt slowy, 'I’m Not Sorry', also hits the mark, but it's another Smiths’ track, the sublime 'Shoplifters of the World Unite' that brings the show to a shuddering close. After a few minutes of the crowd chanting his name, Morrissey and his cohorts return to let rip with the ultimate sing-a-long double suicide song, 'There is a Light That Never Goes Out'. Sadly it’s the last. Everyone seems really satisfied and by anyone else’s standards this has been a top draw gig, but I kind of expected something more – especially given the date and the venue. No tracks from 'Vauxhall & I' or 'Southpaw Grammar' and a whole host of brilliant singles not utilised. That’s my gripe, but the man is still a genius and if he’s prepared to forgive Jesus, then I can forgive him!

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Morrissey - MEN Area, Manchester, 22/5/2004

Morrissey - MEN Area, Manchester, 22/5/2004

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