Review: Morrissey, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Morrissey performing at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle in his first North East date in 10 years Pic: Carl Chambers.
Morrissey performing at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle in his first North East date in 10 years Pic: Carl Chambers.

Much has happened in the world of Morrissey since the iconic former singer with The Smiths last played in the North East back in 2008.

He's released three new albums, two compilations and his long-awaited biography, been hospitalised with pneumonia, published his first novel and been treated for oesophageal cancer.

Steven Patrick Morrissey has always been a 'Marmite' artist, who divides opinion among those who worship the ground he walks on and those who think he's a self-opinionated loudmouth.

But one thing's for certain; you can't ignore him, whatever your viewpoint.

And, curiously for an artist who's been around for 35 years, his audience appears to be getting younger, if the number of student-age fans here tonight is anything to go by.

The Arena wasn't sold out, but was respectably full for his first North East appearance since his Greatest Hits show at Sunderland Empire a decade ago.

That's testament to the continued popularity of a singer who even has the power to order meat to be removed from the menu at the food and drink stalls in a venue as big as this one.

Health scares notwithstanding, I'm pleased to report Morrissey's baritone voice was in good shape as he prowled the stage, whipping his microphone lead in trademark fashion.

Proceedings opened in low-key with I Wish You Lonely, one of the tracks on his latest album Low In High School, which this tour is promoting.

The album received mixed reviews, but he was preaching to the converted here.

Then, like the veteran showman that he is, he tossed in a couple of crowd favourites to show everyone that he might have been away for a while, but he was well and truly back.

The first was Suedehead, a fan favourite from his first solo album Viva Hate, which, astonishingly, is 30 years old.

The second was I Started Something I Couldn't Finish, one of just two Smiths songs to make the cut, the other being the still-wonderful How Soon Is Now? towards the end of the set.

That's the trouble with being Morrissey; when you have a back catalogue as big as his, something is going to get missed out, and tonight it was the '90s and the noughties.

Only three songs from the entire two decades featured in the set, and one of those was the sole encore, Irish Blood, English Heart, which brought the show to a glorious - if abrupt - end.

Eight of the songs played were from the 'new' album, with the pick of them being first single Spent The Day In Bed, Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage and Who Will Protect Us From The Police?

Amid all the melancholy, the most upbeat moment of the night was a jaunty and unexpected cover of The Pretenders song Back On The Chain Gang.

By contrast, one of the standout moments of the night was the poignant Munich Air Disaster 1958, with the B-side performed against footage of the Busby Babes in action and the terrible aftermath of the crash.

Even that paled beside the song which I consider his best solo work, Everyday Is Like Sunday, which saw Morrissey and his excellent five-piece band joined in a huge singalong by the crowd.

The man himself was in good voice throughout, health issues apparently a thing of the past, and although banter with the crowd with almost non-existent, you can be sure most of those present will have gone home happy to have seen one of the most influential artists of our times in fine form.