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The Queen is Dead, long live miserable Manc Moz

MORRISEY The Odyssey Arena Belfast

MARVELLOUS Manc miserablist Morrissey returned to Belfast last night for a show at The Odyssey Arena.

Sadly, the dreaded 'black curtain of increasingly selective popularity was deployed for the occasion, cutting the capacity of the city's largest venue in half for the occasion - and it was still only three-quarters full at that.

Mozza's very special guest for the evening, Buffy Sainte Marie, took to the stage at 8 sharp.

Armed with her acoustic guitar, a three-piece backing band, the veteran Native Canadian crooner immediately set about filling the re-sized arena with her boomingly loud folk rock, including an early outing for Up Where We Belong, the Oscar-winning power ballad she co-penned for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.

Her short, politely received set was separated from the main event by a 3- minute comfort break during which fans could grab a quick veggie burger and some animal rights literature to peruse while enjoying video clips of the Ramones and other Moz-approved musical and cultural faves.

Despite the low turnout, when the man himself strode out onto the stage with his band to perform a rocking set opening rendition of Smiths number The Queen Is Dead, the reception from the Morrissey faithful was still pretty deafening in its fervour.

Viva Hate highlight Suedehead was up next, followed by a sizeable chunk of tunes from current LP World Peace Is None Of Your Business, including the melancholic melodies of Staircase at The University and the album's sweeping title track - both of which showed off the still impressive power of Moz's voice, apparently entirely unaffected by his recent health troubles.

Clad in a shiny red shirt and black trousers, the singer's interaction with his audience was largely limited to simple greetings, thanks and the announcement of Kiss Me A Lot as his new single. "

If you feel remotely benevolent, then be so," quipped Morrissey to potential buyers, quite a hard sell by his standards.

Next came musical excursions to Paris and Istanbul, with Moz declaring his desire to throw his arms around the former.

Fan favourite Everyday is Like Sunday was greeted by a huge cheer, prompting a mass singalong for its maudlin tale of coastal-based oblivion.

"I did share a birthday for many many years with your most celebrated son, who is sadly no longer with us" was the George Best-referencing intro to Smiths number Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before, followed up by solo ballad The World Is Full of Crashing Bores in which Moz implored us to take us in our arms and love him.

There were a few attempts at actual physical contact by the frenzied front row contingent, one of whom succeeded in passing a vinyl record across the barricade to their hero, who duly stooped to receive it graciously before placing the gifted LP carefully on the drum riser for later perusal and possible review.

Slinky stomper Scandinavia preceded a cacophonous rendition of Meat Is Murder, the latter accompanied by blood red lighting, visuals of animal slaughter and an introductory plea for the crowd to plaster Belfast with its titular slogan after the gig.

Spanish-flavoured epic Earth Is The Loveliest Planet lightened the mood somewhat before Moz declared himself Not A Man.

"I'm something much bigger than" he mused, to a crowd by this stage all too ready to attest to Morrissey's status as a true musical hero.

Still, let's have him at The Ulster Hall next time and leave the drawn curtains at home where they belong.

David Roy

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