Gig Review: Morrissey, G-Mex, 22nd December 2006

It’s sacrilege in our household to say that you’re not particularly looking forward to seeing Morrissey but that’s exactly how I felt last Friday. The gigs earlier in the year were fine but they were in intimate venues whereas Manchester’s G-Mex holds thousands and I usually can’t stand arena gigs. Having not been to a gig at G-Mex since Björk in 1993 I had forgotten about the grandeur of the venue and the great sense of history that you feel once inside. I was far less impressed by the festival style refreshments on offer with the dreadful Carling bar offering barely any choice at £3 a drink.

Kirsteen Young was a curious choice to open for Moz, but then so are most of his support acts. There was just Kirsteen behind a keyboard and a lone drummer on the huge stage. She had a great voice and we spent most of her set trying to decide who she sounded like. Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush were popular comparisons early on but I settled with Tori Amos fronting Muse such was the proggy electro feel of most of the songs. She played for far too long in my opinion and most of the crowd lost interest a few songs in.

Of course, I was wrong to ever doubt Morrissey. With the late Tom Bell looking sternly on from the huge backdrop, a large wooden cross on a hill in the desolate landscape behind him, Morrissey and the band launched into a brief, squally version of “Panic”, not my favourite Smiths song ever but a glorious opener. This was followed by a brilliant “First Of The Gang To Die”, surely the best song of Mozzer’s recent renaissance, and a couple of songs later an anthemic “You Have Killed Me”, which is now a bona fide Moz classic and a song that filled all four corners of the old Central Station. This thrilling opening salvo was followed by oldie “Disappointed” and the excellent newie “Ganglord” and soon after that Mozzer reminded up that twenty years ago he had stood on the same stage “wearing the same shirt and trousers fronting a music hall act that you’ve probably forgotten” before launching into a blistering “William, It Was Really Nothing”. He alluded to the venue’s history again a little later, telling us that it was where Edward Evans was “scooped up” by Ian Brady and dedicating “Everyday Is Like Sunday” to Evans, the final victim of the Moors Murderers. This was followed by what was, for me, the highlight of the evening: a stunning full band version of “I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty” during which Morrissey’s voice soared to new heights and the band matched him every step of the way.

After that things went a little flat with the crowd strangely muted for such a big occasion. “The National Front Disco” was trotted out and passed by without incident, “Life Is A Pigsty” brooded with menace but “How Soon Is Now”, which has been a staple in his set for years now, should really be given a breather as he’ll never get close to the original no matter how hard he tries. The encore of my favourite Smiths song ever, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”, was not quite as great as I’d hoped with strident horns replacing Johnny Marr’s subtle guitar work in the coda but it was great to hear Moz singing it again nonetheless, while “Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice” was a curious, if energetic, set closer. 2006 wasn’t a vintage year for gigs by any means but Morrissey’s performance was a triumph and the perfect way to end the year.

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