Morrissey: The Legend. On Saturday 28th July 2010. At Manchester Arena. Seated: Block 215
How I long to have been a teenager in the 1980’s. Glancing at my record collection, the familiar pinnacle British bands of a generation jump out at me: Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and The Smiths.
The Smiths are one of my all time favourite bands. Not only are their songs lyrically and musically beautiful, but the political passion conveyed, both subliminally and outright obvious, makes them an important part of musical and cultural history. Album covers used artwork, images and titles to help represent the political stance and ideologies that The Smiths believed in. The albums ‘Meat is Murder’ (1985), and ‘The Queen is Dead’ (1986) are examples of this.
As The Smiths parted ways in 1987, I was never going to have the opportunity to experience them. Not in that moment of time anyway and I have come to terms with this, begrudgingly. However, when I discovered that Morrissey (the lead singer of The Smiths, for those who do not know) was doing a solo homecoming concert, I knew I had to go. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that Morrissey has toured many tours previously but this was the first time that I actually could afford to go. I asked around and no one wanted to or could afford to go with me, but I was not going to miss out on seeing Morrissey just because I was too embarrassed to go on my own. So on my lonesome I purchased a ticket. Ideally I wanted a standing ticket (I felt it would be less obvious that I was on my own if I could invisibly sneak into the middle of the crowds), but standing sold out so quickly that I had to settle for a seated ticket. I would still see Morrissey though, and that was the important thing. And you know what, I became confident about the idea. When people around me asked, ‘oh, you’re going to see Morrissey, cool. Who are you going with?’, I would confidently and happily reply, ‘I’m going on my own’. I couldn’t understand their pity looks. I would be more of a fool if I missed out on a gig because I didn’t want to go on my own (and trust me, I’ve done that before for a Manic Street Preachers gig and have regretted it ever since!). For me, a gig is about the music, not necessarily the social event that it is for some. But that’s just me.
Anyway, the night of the Morrissey concert came around ever so quickly. I was feeling slightly nervous because I was seated in the upper tier (for those who don’t know the Manchester Arena, the upper tier is very high up). I dreaded the thought of arriving there while the support act was on and having to find my seat in the dark. Uneventfully though I found my seat and was pleasantly surprised. Even though I was high up, it wasn’t as high as I had anticipated and I was in the block right next to the stage. Awesome seats with an incredible view.
As the lights went down, screams and noise from tens of thousands of adoring fans melted the arena and Morrissey commanded the presence of the stage instantly. Immediately I fell for him. My eyes were fixed upon this man and my body became a slave to the music, obeying the rhythm and moving without thinking. And this was the norm for the whole gig. Although I am a massive Smiths fan, I know little of Morrissey’s solo music; I will admit that. However, this did not take away from the enjoyment of the gig. A few Smiths songs were thrown into the set list, the first being the iconic How Soon is Now. I honestly got goosebumps when I heard the initial guitar riff and I recognised it immediately. The lyrics ‘I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does’ melted me. It was beautiful to see Morrissey singing this song. I can only use that word to describe the experience. Beautiful and captivating. I was happy. Morrissey’s dance moves did not disappoint either; he still moves in the same, iconic way.
I knew that Morrissey had a strong cult following and that his fans were hard-core. I was prepared for this but was still taken aback when I witnessed the adoration from the standing fans. The fans in the front row would stretch out their hands towards him and Morrissey obliged and took the time to shake hands with his fans and let them touch him, which I considered a humbling and kind act from the legend. Not at all arrogant, which I had heard used as a term used to describe him previously from people who had seen him live before or stories read in the media. At one point, a fan crowd surfed across to the front of the stage where he was greeted by security guards, as per norm. However, this particular fan took the opportunity to reach out and take Morrissey’s hand who unpredictably lifted him up onto the stage. The fan hugged his hero and happily jumped back down to earth. At this point though, numerous more fans wanted to do the same thing and it was then that I became a little scared. I honestly thought that a riot might break out in the standing section, as I witnessed the crowd surge itself towards the front, in an attempt to jump across the barrier to get to the stage. Luckily the crowd settled itself quite quickly and the gig happily continued.
The ultimate highlight, and one that I was not expecting, was the final song. It was The Smiths, Please, please, please let me get what I want. One of the most beautiful songs, both lyrically and musically I have ever heard. Not only did I get goosebumps again but the song touched me emotionally and I am not ashamed to say that it very, very, very nearly moved me to tears. Morrissey sang with such emotion. Such a beautiful ending to the night. If you’re going to listen to one Smiths song, please make it this one.