First Night: Morrissey, Salford Lowry, Manchester
Lad from Salford makes passionate return to home turf
Wednesday 19 April 2006
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.
Broadcaster unveils Christmas scheduleTV
Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each otherTV
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 4 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life
True Detective series 2: Rachel McAdams cast in female lead as 'no-nonsense' detective
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel expected to become overnight bestseller
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC2 - TV review: Fundamentally not just about posh people
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict