At 52, he’s older than your dad, but Morrissey ripped off his shirt exposing his well-toned torso in the middle of singing “So close your eyes / And think of someone you physically admire / And let me kiss you / Let me kiss you.”

As the former frontman of indie legends The Smiths tossed it into the crowd at Fort Canning Park on May 8, the 4,500 screaming fans roared out their approval. Many things may have changed in the 3 decades since Morrissey first rose to fame, but it’s apparent this charming man’s still an expert at working the crowd.

“Singapore, this is your life!” Morrissey boomed before launching into the first song, popular single, “How Soon Is Now?” No matter that he was already an hour late, fans apparently forgave him with a loud burst of cheers.

“The wait was worth it. I grew up listening to The Smiths and Morrissey (as a solo artist), so this is like a dream come true for me,” gushed Timothy Ong, 25, an undergrad. He was among the young hipsters, middle-aged couples, well-dressed yuppies and Caucasian tourists who made up the audience.

Obviously, the break up of The Smiths in 1987 didn’t mean the end to fans like him. After all, Morrissey’s solo career was equally successful with his different works propelling him up to the top 10 of the UK singles Chart on 10 different occasions.

The stage was a sight to behold. It held:

  • a giant backdrop of Morrissey’s favourite author, Irish writer-poet Oscar Wilde with the question ‘Who is Morrissey?’,
  • guitarist Boz Boorer in drag, wearing a wig and a shiny sequin dress,
  • a band of three topless young men,
  • flashing lights and
  • bass drums emblazoned with the Singapore flag.

Morrissey himself was in fine form, serenading the adoring audience with his trademark supple baritone, peppering the gig with witty and self-deprecating remarks.

“Do you ever wonder why you’re here? Well, you might. Give it time.” Said in a straight-faced manner, it was impossible to tell if it was a joke or if he sincerely meant it.

He seemed to have been granted a new lease of life ever since he blacked out during a concert in Swindon in 2009 due to breathing difficulties.

Titled The Greatest Hits Tour, the performance turned out to be not just a nostalgic experience, it also featured songs from his recent record, Years of Refusal, described by himself as his best creation to date. Then there were  classic Smiths tunes (“Shoplifters Of The World Unite”, “I Know It’s Over”) and hit singles from his previous solo albums (“Let Me Kiss You”, “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”). His selections drew mixed responses from the fans.

“I was quite disappointed to find out that classics such as ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and ‘Suedehead’ were left out of the setlist,” remarked Timothy.

Sales associate Joyce Lim, 32, on the other hand, appreciated that Morrissey was “keeping it fresh by including recent songs, not limiting it to just the classics”.

All in all, one can’t help but admit that the 90-minute gig was dynamic. Onstage, Morrissey’s presence was compelling, his performance replete with animated facial expressions, dramatic arm flourishes and elegant swishes of the mic cord as if it was a lasso.

Affectionately dubbed the “Pope of Mope” by his fans, the indie icon played up the part of a reclusive, glum romantic very well. In an acoustic version of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’, a popular Smiths song released in the ‘80s, Morrissey broke down at the end of the song and dropped to his knees as the band kicked up a storm.

High-energy songs such as “I Will See You In Far-Off Places” and “Black Cloud” found him flouncing around the stage, rocking it out, and occasionally letting out playful growls, pausing only to wipe his sweat off his brows, he had the energy of a hearty teenager.

But it was the rabblerousing tunes of “First Of The Gang To Die” and “Every day Is Like Sunday” that really got the crowd grooving and singing along.

Photos courtesy of Brandon Tanoto

The night ended on a high note, with a heart-wrenching and explosive rendition of “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”. “Wherever you go, I’ll be close behind you”, the English indie pop icon assured the audience, cementing this as one of the best nights any Morrissey fan could have.