First Night: Morrissey, Salford Lowry, Manchester

Lad from Salford makes passionate return to home turf

There should be no controversy after Cabaret Morrissey took a bow. The last time he played his home city, Salford, that is, as opposed to its larger neighbour, Stephen Morrissey made the front pages of the Manchester Evening News. Looking out from the stage at Old Trafford cricket ground, he had pointed out locations related to his early years.

There was the bowling alley where he tried to book his glam-punk heroes, the New York Dolls, and his school, adding that an especially despised member of staff had passed away before he sang "Headmaster's Ritual", a classic from his former group The Smiths. Maybe he had forgotten how parochial the city was, but the next day news stands cried something like "Mozza Dead Head Shock".

So this return to old stamping grounds was keenly anticipated, even before the arrival of his stunning new album Ringleader Of The Tormentors. If 2004's You Are The Quarry, his first for seven years, made for a welcome comeback, its successor is a definite return to form not experienced since the mid-90s. Fittingly, tonight's venue was a sign of Salford's renaissance. The derelict docks had been transformed into Manchester's cultural quarter with the confident, modern shapes of the nearby war museum and this arts complex named after another of Salford's famous sons. "So, this must be Salford," was Morrissey's typically dry response.

Nor does Morrissey feel nostalgia for his past. Most of the set was gleaned from his last two albums, though without the most-talked-about track from the current release, "Dear God, Please Help Me", where he declaims "Now I'm spreading your legs, with mine in between". After spending years of coyness and nothing but chaste love songs, his words had become frank and physical.

Still, the likes of "You Have Killed Me" hinted at renewed passion for life, while Mozza himself sang with conviction. It was the sound of someone who had enjoyed the early spring in his new home, Rome. The English eccentric's previous residence, Los Angeles, always seemed an odd choice, even if he could enjoy privacy and tea with Nancy Sinatra.

Dressed in all-black attire he may have been, but this was no funeral. Morrissey has aged well, his voice taking on a resonant burr, just as grey hair distinguishes his quiff. "Welcome to a night of torment," he announced, before the edgy-yet-fluid guitar of "Still Ill". One of his earliest songs, admittedly, but redolent of current concerns. "Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?" he asked, a retort to critics that thought they knew the score.

Even without the complexities of Tony Visconti's production, new songs revealed the strident immediacy of Morrissey's finest solo work. His long-suffering backing band was still limited by their devotion to rockabilly, yet "The Youngest Was The Most Loved" still hits home as a fantastic single. Furthermore, while Morrissey has often been accused of glamorising violence, this was a compelling tale of a killer's gestation.

At first, the tinny keyboard was little compensation for Ringleader's orchestration. At least guitarist Jesse Tobias added sparkle to sumptuous torch song "To Me You Are A Work Of Art". Then all the band came together to replicate the Middle Eastern prog rock grandeur of "I Will See You In Far Off Places", one guy playing trumpet, accordion and keys in the same number.

If Mozza has found belated happiness, he hid it well as he picked petty grievances with Radio One for not playing his single and Bono for beating him in a poll.

"How Soon Is Now" was a reminder of past glories, two guitarists recreating the majesty of Johnny Marr, while Morrissey's flamboyant performance ensured the number remained vital. As entertainer, rather than combatant, he proved he has relevance still.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices