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- Morrissey »
As the greying, bequiffed gargantuan caruso denounces, “England is mine – and it owes me a living” from the centre of the stage in the deluxe confines of the City Hall, only the brave – or indignantly stupid – would dare to challenge his bequest.
You see, in the year 2006, retro is the new new, and the treasure-filled back catalogue of Steven Patrick Morrissey is probably more relevant today than at any other time since his acrimonious fall out with Johnny Marr and ultimate disbanding of The Smiths. Past being cited as a mere influence, Morrissey’s acclaim as a genuine icon to a good 99% of the current crop of hopefuls – not just on these shores but worldwide – cannot be understated, which in turn has attracted a new, younger fanbase to rival those here just for the purpose of nostalgia only. It’s little surprise then that every single date of this mammoth tour was sold out within days of being announced.
As for the man himself, his master’s voice has never sounded this enriched, all encompassing and genuinely apoplectic. Whether it’s the new burst of enthusiasm surrounding his “coming out” record Ringleader Of The Tormentors or the fact that age has turned years of apparent wallowing in his own misery into catatonic joy is debatable, but Morrissey actually seems to be enjoying himself tonight. Where before a frown may have sufficed he’s all smiles this evening, cracking jokes and engaging in banter between songs, even berating the crowd at one point for buying ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’ last Christmas! Reminiscing about previous visits to Sheffield also go down well, but not as well as the airing of the three gems from his “untouchable” period as frontman for the most influential Mancunians ever. ‘Still Ill’, ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ and a rapturous rendition of ‘How Soon Is Now’ simply bring the house down. What’s even more impressive is the fact that his current backing band put their own spin on things; the intros to both ‘Still Ill’ and ‘Girlfriend…’ are unrecognisable from their recorded pasts until Mozzer sings the first line. Whereas in the past the likes of Boz Boorer and co. have been dismissed as little more than sessioneering pub rockers, tonight they could be the rockabilly Radiohead, such is their inventiveness.
The majority of tonight’s set is garnered from his current album, and the likes of ‘In The Future When All’s Well’ and ‘To Me You Are A Work Of Art’ sound more like wholesome vignettes without the constraints of studio time and production duties to worry about. At the same time though, the performance of Ringleader… in virtually its entirety is perhaps the only real downside tonight. As only the obvious cuts (‘First Of The Gang To Die’ and a punchy ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ during the encore) from You Are The Quarry and nothing at all from Viva Hate get an airing, the Morrissey live virgins among the vast auditorium only get a _…Tormentors top-heavy glimmer of his career highlights.
Outside after the show, flower sellers mingle with unofficial merchandisers while your correspondent heads for the train station, my journey home completed by a twelve-strong group of Moz devotees both young and old serenading the passengers with winsome deliveries from their hero’s extensive songbook like a rabid congregation at midnight mass. It may be nearly a quarter of a century since the Smiths released their first single, but to a generation of fans both old and new, Morrissey is just as relevant today as he ever was.
Photos by Mark Moore
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