Morrissey played his first gig in Manchester since 2012 last month, declaring himself the “new Lord Mayor of Manchester” in the process. It was a triumphant homecoming, and got us thinking about Moz’s greatest live moments. Here are some of his most famous UK performances for you to drool over. Enjoy.
Wolverhampton Civic Hall, December 22, 1988
Aged 29 and having recently released his debut solo album ‘Viva Hate’, Morrissey made his first solo live appearance. Or did he? Moz had called up his old muckers Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce and Johnny Marr – reportedly 365 days after he’d last performed with them – and invited them to this raucous set of Smiths hits and new solo favourites such as ‘Suedehead’.
Fans wearing Smiths or Morrissey T-shirts were admitted for free – a neat acknowledgement that the Pope of Mope was transitioning from frontman to solo singer. Still, Marr declined the opportunity and so the band made do with sometimes Smiths guitarist Craig Gannon, a bit of a booby prize. Perhaps Moz was ruminating on that as they played ‘Disappointed’.
Talking point: The Smiths were suing Morrissey for unpaid royalties at the time of the performance. You’d think that would make things awkward, but, said Joyce, “it wasn’t mentioned”.
London Battersea Power Station, December 13, 1997
It’s often suggested that Morrissey veered off course a bit in the late ’90s and debate continues as to whether the 1997 album Maladjusted deserves its reputation as a career misstep or is simply underrated. He was certainly on form at this stripped-back London gig in support of that record, however. Concluding with ‘Sorrow Will Come In The End’, he extended his hand to be kissed by members of the front row, who also led a stage invasion – surely one of the only times such a melancholy song has inspired such raucous behaviour.
Talking point: The backdrop at the drafty Battersea Power Station was simple but memorable, with just a still from the 1958 film ln In Love and War, a heroically camp image of two young men posing cheekily in a swimming pool.
London Royal Albert Hall, September 19, 2002
If the ‘90s were something of a wilderness for Morrissey, the early ‘00s saw his glorious return. Moz was on regal form as he swaggered through a set that consisted of Smiths tunes, a smattering of ‘Viva Hate’ tracks, a few B-sides and some then-brand new songs that would later appear on 2004’s ‘You Are the Quarry’. After an encore rendition of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, Morrissey – still loving flamboyant threads – returned to the stage in a jazzy pink shirt, which he tore off and threw into the crowd. He strutted off to Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, because which song better sums up Morrissey?
Talking point: Indecisive former politico Russell Brand – should you vote or not? – has called this his favourite gig ever, though he might have changed his mind by now.
Manchester MEN Arena, May 22, 2004
The show that became Who Put the M in Manchester?, a live DVD you could buy from HMV. Morrissey strolled onstage to ‘My Way’, greeted by a 15,000-strong crowd who’d snapped up tickets in under an hour. He’d recently released ‘You Are The Quarry’, his first album since 1997, and was back in the Top 10, thanks to ‘Irish Blood English Heart’.
Talking point: The crowd sang happy birthday (at his prompting, of course) to the 45-year-old and he purred: “I can’t believe I’m 29. Where did the years go? Why did the years go?”
Glastonbury Festival Pyramid Stage, June 24, 2011
Although the crowd was a tad sparse (perhaps because Radiohead were concurrently playing a not-so-secret set and had tempted away up a large portion of Mozza’s potential audience), Morrissey was totally at ease on the Pyramid Stage, loafing about as if he were in his own living room. The career-spanning set also included then-new songs ‘People Are The Same Everywhere’ and ‘Action Is My Middle Name’, with the singer on typically self-deprecating form: “I’ll sing as fast as I can, I know you’re waiting for U2,” he said, referring to the festival headliners. No, Morrissey, we’re always here for you – even if the labels aren’t…
Talking point: In addition to U2 – or the crowd – he had a pop at arch-nemesis David Cameron. Referring to the passing of a recent bill that banned wild animals being used in circuses, he quipped: “David Cameron tried to stop it being passed – what a silly twit!” Never change, Moz.