Morrissey, The Pope of Mope, Turns Fifty at The Apollo

Live Review

Written By Duncan Slater Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Morrissey 50th Birthday at Apollo, Manchester

So Morrissey, The Pope of Mope, turns fifty and hosts a party at Manchester's Apollo to "celebrate" what would you expect?

  • a. A life-affirming reminder that the human spirit has a large capacity for love and real friendship?
  • b. A sing-a-long with jokes and audience participation?
  • c. A moving demonstration that happiness is a valid, if complex, emotion?
  • d. All of the above?

If you voted d. then not only have you chosen the right answer but you were clearly at The Apollo for the former Smiths front man's fifty birthday gig.

As one of the lucky few who nabbed a pair of gold dust tickets - they ran out after six minutes - I was anxious to see if the great man would really deliver on his big day (and whether the audience would think it lived up to its huge hype) but when he walked on to the strains of Youll Never Walk Alone the spontaneous standing ovation demonstrated what we all really knew - we were all here to praise the old man not to bury him.

When I (in common with everyone) was given a laminate saying "I came to wish Morrissey a Happy Birthday", it felt like the man himself had just handed me a slice of cake I was well and truly invited.

So we began a hip-jangling performance of This Charming Man was followed by a (clearly unexpected) audience singalong of Happy Birthday. He was in a hugely good mood, relaxed, sure in the knowledge he was among friends. Irish Blood, English Heart was sung with gleeful gusto by (seemingly) every single person in the theatre. Barely ten minutes in and the warmth, happiness and camaraderie were already tangible.

The whole thing proceeded at a breakneck pace: How Soon Is Now?, Girlfriend In A Coma, I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Let Me Kiss You, Ask and Something Is Squeezing My Skull passed in what seemed like seconds. The usual stage-huggers were strangely absent: perhaps aware that a moment as special as this was best enjoyed from the Moz pit.

All in all a very giving performance from a man who, at 50, is at last comfortable with who he is, what people think of him and what his audience expect from him. Several critics have (unfairly) labeled he whole thing as a love-in, it was clearly a mutual appreciation society raw, heartfelt and charming - but above all joyful.

Written By Duncan Slater Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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