Whilst queuing for Morrissey’s Manchester gig yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an open McDonald’s on the premises of the Manchester Evening News Arena. A bit strange, given that we were waiting to see Manchester’s most famous vegetarian.
“I’m not a veggie,” I said to my fellow adventurer/Morrissey fan Amy. “But I haven’t eaten meat in over 24 hours in preparation for my pilgrimage.”
Though I flippantly termed our trip to Manchester as a pilgrimage, in a sense, it was. Though Amy had been to Manchester before, it hadn’t been with a Smiths fan. We didn’t have much time in Manchester, arriving yesterday late morning and leaving first thing today. We did, however, have enough time to make a couple of important stops.
First on the list was the Salford Lads Club. The Lads Club is not, as I originally assumed, a strip club. Instead, it is a rec center, like the Boys and Girls Club.
The Salford Lads Club is about a 30 minute walk from the city centre, located in Salford. It’s down this row of little brick houses. Tucked just off of a main road, it’s one of those places you wouldn’t know was there if you weren’t looking for it.
Salford Lads Club has since cleaned up a bit since the famous photograph was taken. Throngs of fans go there each year, to take their photo like The Smiths, Amy and myself included.
Inside the Lads Club, there is a room dedicated to The Smiths. This could potentially be a bit overkill, but working in its favour was the small size of the room. It was a squash court, now a shrine to The Smiths. The entire room is covered with images of The Smiths, of fans standing outside the Club (I’m going to be sending the photograph of Amy and myself), of articles pertaining to the Smiths, paintings of Morrissey, and notes from devoted fans.
Being of an artsy bent, I left a note of my own–complete with a picture of Morrissey. My note is the yellow one with the drawing in the above picture. By no means my best picture of him, but pretty good for five minutes with a ballpoint pen! I would love to return in a few years and see if the note has been glued to the wall.
After leaving the Salford Lads Club, we wandered to the arena. Amy and I had floor tickets, so we wanted to make sure we were there early.
We weren’t in the first thirty, but were definitely in the first 100 people at the arena. We watched as more and more people piled in, complete with quiffed hair, Smiths or Morrissey shirts, big glasses. I looked rather out of place in my teal top and black cardigan, decidedly unhipster (or, at least, unlike the rest of the fans my age). Whilst waiting, the BBC interviewed a few people. I wasn’t, but I think I ended up in a few shots–I was drawing pictures of Morrissey to pass the time.
Finally, it was time to enter the arena, still a good hour and a half before the show was due to start. The excitement was palpable. I couldn’t help but jump up and down, shaking with enthusiasm.
When Morrissey arrived on stage, there was a great ‘rush and a push’ as what felt like the entire floor lunged to the stage. Everything I said about Balkanarama being the most insane concert situation I’ve been in has been taken back. Morrissey, playing in his home town, wins.
The floor was a hot, sweaty, undulating mass of bodies, of arms, of getting far too close to absolute strangers. Yet it was incredible. Everyone was there for Morrissey, everyone was (mostly) respectful, and it was mad. Though, as a very tiny girl, the second row probably wasn’t the best place for me to be, I’m rather bruised and battered and very thankful to still have some of my painkillers from my back injury!
Morrissey himself was on top form, physically a bit out of shape (the man’s 53 years old, we can cut him some slack), but his voice was just as powerful as when he was in The Smiths. Whilst he doesn’t bound around the stage anymore, his stage presence is dignified and commanding. There’s such passion in his singing.
I’m to see him again tomorrow night in Edinburgh. Am hoping to get front row this time. I do imagine that the crowd may be a bit more subdued than Manchester.
And as a final note…Morrissey biscuits at Salford Lads Club.