by Jill

Opera House Manchester
7th May 2006

Quay Street in Manchester is awash tonight with hoards of bequiffed sensitive young men. A cliché, I’m sure, but we do spend an amusing twenty minutes in the Opera House foyer counting Morrissey look-alikes until, joy of joys, we discover one complete with NHS glasses and hearing aid! Sadly he has neglected to stuff half of Delamere Forest into his back pocket, but what a good attempt!

I had been warned already by some who had caught him on an earlier date that the set was short, that the performance was not that great, that it wasn’t a patch on the glorious Move Festival show of 2004 … but this is Manchester, the third show of four in the great man’s home town. So optimism and expectation are running high tonight.

The intro track is an interesting choice for this Manchester venue: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, predictably greeted by a crescendo of boos which still sounds as the band takes to the stage. Morrissey, resplendent in a lime green shirt, is unfazed by the reaction and promptly launches into a stirring rendition of ‘First Of The Gang To Die’, following it straight away with a universally approved ‘Still Ill’. But, although the openers may give the impression that Morrissey is happy to delve deeply into his back catalogue, the set is actually heavy on tracks from the new album ‘Ringleader Of the Tormentors’, with a smattering from ‘You Are The Quarry’ and a trio of Smiths songs to keep the diehard fans happy. Single ‘You Have Killed Me’ is greeted with enthusiasm, and is followed by a fistful of the newer songs: ‘The Youngest Was The Most Loved’ and ‘The Father Who Must Be Killed’ among them. Moz introduces the band before giving us an emotive ‘Let Me Kiss You’ and a very welcome ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’. His backing band exercises their musical muscles and ‘I Just Want To See The Boy Happy’ concludes with a lively burst of trombone. ‘Ringleader….’ Is duly showcased, with most of its tracks getting an airing tonight, but a meandering piano introduction heralds ‘Trouble Loves Me’ from ‘Maladjusted’.

Morrissey has concentrated on his music tonight, with only a few asides to the rapt audience; however he reminisces about this particular venue, where he once saw a fledgling Queen supporting Mott The Hoople. He subsequently unleashes a gloriously eastern-tinged ‘I Will See You In Far Off Places’, giving the drummer the chance at last to sound the enormous gong that has been hanging behind him all night … and then everyone is on their feet with the familiar, choppy first chords to a breath-taking ‘How Soon Is Now’. The band leaves the stage, but is roared back on to give a storming ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, after which Morrissey’s shirt is predictably flung into the crowd. He brings his fellow musicians to the front to bow off, and then they are gone, just over an hour after they first took to the stage. Perhaps not a classic Morrissey show, but by no means a poor one. I spoke to a couple outside from Sweden who were following the tour around, and they seemed more than happy and were delighted to have seen him in Manchester. I’m looking forward to his V festival appearance.

Oh…and we did see him getting into his car outside. Not that we’re stage-door hanging groupies or anything…

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