Morrissey - Who Put The M in Manchester? DVD

Sanctuary Visual Entertainment SVE4010
UK release 4th April 2005

Live concert DVDs are all very well, but I always think it's actually better if you've been to the concert itself so you can relive the whole experience again and just imagine that you were there. In essence, when it was announced that Morrissey was playing Manchester for the first time in almost twelve years, you can imagine the excitement and the demand for tickets really did show that. But it wouldn't have counted for nothing of course if the performance wasn't up to it, and as I mentioned in my review of 2004, the gig was a triumph of outstanding proportions.

But you always have a question mark with concert DVDs in that do they capture the songs perfectly, do they focus on the right parts of the performance and really give you that unique atmosphere like you were there, even if you weren't? Well, nothing's perfect, but in essence there's a darned fine attempt here.

First off, the menus are nice and slick with a little bit of Irish Blood, English Heart on all of the menus. You can choose the performance (or go to a particular song if you like), see the extras (more on those later) and check out the audio setup. Here's the first very nice surprise, you can pick Dolby Digital 2.0 if you want, but not only has the gig been recorded in full Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but you also have DTS 5.1 audio as well. Certainly it's nice that the audiophiles amongst us haven't been forgotten in this release. Also, note that all the menus are in widescreen (as it should be with a widescreen DVD release) and the DVD is region free, so if your telly can play PAL signals, you're laughing.

The main feature starts not with Morrissey coming out on to the stage, but with an nterview of a Morrissey fan and he explains just what it meant to be in Manchester for this concert. Nice touch, this, as it shows more of a background as to why rather than just go headlong into things. As Big Hard Excellent Fish's "Imperfect List" plays in the background, the DVD has various shots of Manchester and the surrounding areas, interspersed with images of streets and buildings in old Industrial Revolution-esque ruin and of the more modern side of the city. A neat touch, and also most of the in-centre shots filmed on the actual day (the cheering crowd in Exchange Square a giveaway, due to the FA Cup Final) and then shots of the crowd making their way in before it gives way to the Arena lights, Morrissey going on stage with the huge letters, Elvis comeback-esque.

Then the performance begins, and everything's there - the whole set list. Pretty impressive set list, when you consider it. And the camera work is spot on - focussing on Morrissey at the right moments while also giving the band enough exposure that plays with him, and also the crowd are featured, singing along, celebrating almost in unison. One thing that hasn't been forgotten (pretty unique to Morrissey gigs really) is the many people who try to get on to the stage to shake Morrissey's hand or hug him, and those attempts throughout the performance are captured with affection and spirit, really showing the emotion.

The picture quality is pretty good considering how dark the Arena was without any lights, and really shows off how much energy is put into it by Morrissey. Deano, the drummer, deserves a lot of credit for really using that massive bong at the back of the drum kit to good effect and the camera really shows him hitting it with aplomb and smacking the drums with plenty of passion. Also, most of the others of the band (Boz Boorer, Alain Whyte and Gary Day) Morrissey's played with for years and they really show their talents off. Credit too to the keyboarder Mikey Farrell who looks like he's also having a whale of a time as well, smiling throughout. And at one point, Morrissey introduces them all and gives them all a bow, which was a lovely touch at the time and seems so now, too.

Camera work is excellent throughout, and most of Morrissey's postures and his unique style of strutting around the stage are really caught well. Certainly on watching the performance it took me all back as if 22nd May 2004 happened yesterday. I guess for those who weren't there, it would also really give you that feeling of being there, not least with the 5.1 or DTS mixes. Using my rig, the DTS sound quality just about won in terms of audio performance, but both of which would be more than adequate for a decent home cinema system. One excellent other final touch video-wise: during Jack The Ripper, often the image goes to black and white, to be reminiscent of the time when Jack was actually around. Neat.

One final surprise at the end of the concert: it films people making their way out of the gig and everything closing down and being cleaned up afterwards as the music to My Way fades out. And that's not the end: during the credits, there's more interviews with Morrissey fans: one with tattoos, one who is part of the Morrissey Tour website, another who explains just what he means as an icon comparing him to Mozart and so on. Not all of these were filmed in the Arena, some on location, like Salford Lads' Club, and some around Manchester, giving not just a perspective from the performer, but from the fans too. A really nice touch also: old footage of Salford Lads' Club, showing what it was like when it was open to kids of the area.

That's that done then, but there's more, let's head over to the extras where we have:

Move: Five songs from his live performance at Manchester's Move festival in 2004. Okay, the songs are also on the main performance, but being a few months after You Are The Quarry came out, you can see that more people sing along, and that it's really intense. Note though that Alain Whyte was poorly, and so another guitarist stepped in for him and did a pretty good job. Amazing here is the singalong to Everyday Is Like Sunday, which even Morrissey himself is surprised by. A nice touch to have these as extras.

Promos: The music videos from the singles off You Are The Quarry, namely Irish Blood English Heart, both versions of First of the Gang To Die (for some reason the UK and US versions differ even if it's mainly from the MEN gig) and I Have Forgiven Jesus. Wonder why there wasn't one for Let Me Kiss You? Ah well. Still, all the videos are in widescreen too, so that's a nifty touch. Certainly sounded good here at any rate.

Overall then, an excellent visual showing you just how good Morrissey is live, the whole atmosphere, the fans, and much more besides. As one reviewer said: "best Morrissey gig - end of story" and it's be hard to disagree. If you were there, buy it. If you weren't there, buy it, soak up the atmosphere and get the gladioli out if you must!

Warren's rating:92%