On May 22, 2004, Morrissey celebrated his 45th birthday onstage in his hometown of Manchester, England. Highlights of this concert, which took place shortly after the release of the sublime You Are The Quarry, are preserved for posterity in this DVD, which was released simultaneously with a live CD from the tour entitled Live At Earl’s Court.
Morrissey’s lyrics, which can be almost painfully personal, are braced by a mordant wit and buoyed by pop melodies that keep them from descending into bathos. This is displayed to full advantage in a live performance, where Morrissey is able to deliver the lyrics with both a figurative and literal nod and wink to the audience, which is in on the joke from the beginning.
The singer in his middle years looks fit, and his beautiful, distinctive voice sounds good at the outset and just seems to get better as the show goes on. He starts out nicely with “First Of The Gang To Die” and is still going strong by the end of the show, which he closes with “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, accompanied by the requisite audience sing-along. In between, there is some more Smiths material, and some of Morrissey’s older solo stuff, but, surprisingly, the concert is not heavy on selections from You Are The Quarry, which is his most successful solo effort to date.
For anyone who has achieved a measure of success, performing for the hometown crowd is undoubtedly a matchless experience. Throughout, Morrissey is both engaged and engaging, and the mutual affection between the singer and his fans is apparent. On several occasions, he crouches at the front of the stage to touch hands with fans who are being intercepted by security guards, both the yearning and the connection being sharply felt. If Morrissey the songwriter wears the mask of the alienated outsider, he is unmasked here.
I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing Morrissey perform live, and I clearly need to rectify that in the future. Technically, this DVD looks good and sounds great. In addition to the 19 tracks from the Manchester concert, which opens and closes with plenty of fan commentary, there is bonus material consisting of five live performances from the Move Festival (Manchester, 2004), four music videos, and a PETA film entitled Meet Your Meat, which depicts the life cycle of animals raised for food and is narrated by Alec Baldwin. In an effort to bolster my belief that meat actually comes packaged on little Styrofoam trays, it’s the only part of the DVD I haven’t watched.
If you’re interested in a taste of what’s on the CD, Live At Earl’s Court, you can check out the following audio links: