Morrissey returned home to Manchester on Saturday night for his only British show of 2016. His Manchester Arena concert was the first time he’s played in the city since 2012, after missing it out on last year’s ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’ world tour. While the iconic Smiths frontman is currently without a record deal, his large global fanbase remains loyal, with the Manchester show falling within another major tour taking him across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia until the end of November.
Moz took time to pay tribute to a short roll call of recently departed heroes “in this year of the Reaper”: firstly, Manchester comedians Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne, then Muhammad Ali and Prince. While a full acknowledgement of every notable death in 2016 would take most of the evening, the omission of old friend and tourmate David Bowie is a surprise.
Anti-cop diatribe ‘Ganglord’ (“Remember, the police can always be bribed”) is accompanied by a shocking compilation of clips showing American police brutality against the public (and largely against ethnic minorities), suspects in cells and even dogs. He doesn’t mention it explicitly but, taken along with the photo projected during ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’ of a black child with ‘Rise Up’ written on his palms, we can believe Morrissey has sympathy with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Returning to the stage for an encore of ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, he turns his attention to British politics. “Many years ago I released a song and the lyrics were ‘I’ve been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour and Tories’. And now in 2016, they are!”
As the prodigal son’s triumphant return comes to a close, he continues with an enigmatic final statement, “Whatever happens, I love you.” Is this a warning of a final goodbye? With a new album potentially on the way, we certainly hope not.