Morrissey, Albert Halls, Stirling

Heaven knows he's middle-aged (and magnificent) now
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The Independent Culture

"Something's exploded," quipped Morrissey in response to some minor onstage technical crisis or other, "and it's not my emotions, for once".

There followed a Moriartyish cackle, a jagged "ha!" of the kind usually reserved for pantomime villains. It's a brave soul who would describe Britain's favourite reverent miserablist in such a fashion, but he clearly enjoys his current role of potentially combustible anti-hero.

Long since rehabilitated from the musically lost years which saw him into middle-age, the former singer of The Smiths has been through as many fresh controversies as he has new albums ever since. He's quite possibly unique among popular artists in that the quality or novelty of his music – and his long-standing band do an enduringly capable job with meaty variation on the indie-rockabilly sound he's vocalised over throughout his career – is almost entirely surplus to the lyrical content. He's preaching to the converted; the converted's faith remains strong.

That's one result of this new tour in support of their Years of Refusal album – that the fans might prove their commitment is as ferocious as ever. The majority of those in attendance at this show seemed of an age to have witnessed The Smiths in the 80s, but they couldn't have danced harder or chanted the singer's name louder in their youth.

The other point of interest, of course, is whether or not Morrissey seems to be enjoying himself. Eighteen days from the date of this show will be his 50th birthday, and he recently remarked that he didn't anticipate continuing to perform past his 55th birthday. Historical contrariness not withstanding, singer and audience's time together is growing short.

Although age doesn't seem like such a consideration when he ripped his shirt off to appreciative cheers twice during the show. In other words yes, he is still very excited by the whole live circus. In a knowingly ironic manner, of course. He made a plea for the house lights to go up, voice dripping with sincerity, because "I want to see the crowd". They flicked on for a second, and then: "that's enough". Out went the lights. Off walked Moz with a chuckle.

A set drawn from throughout his career was literally ageless, in that the likes of "How Soon Is Now?", "Girlfriend in a Coma", "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others", "Irish Blood English Heart", "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" could all have been written by this artist at any age. Nothing in their collective air of sensitive, cultured disdain mark them as the work of a younger or an older man.

There were some treats for the dedicated – and what Morrissey fan isn't? – including a stunning "Seasick, Yet Still Docked". During the lone encore, "First Of The Gang To Die", the singer had to be wrestled free of a hand-shaking fan in the front row, who just wanted to be pulled on stage for a little hug. Passion like that, you see, just doesn't get old.

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