‘It could have sold out five times over’ - When Morrissey came to Great Yarmouth

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey performed at Britannia Pier in Great Yarmouth in 2009. Picture; Jam

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey performed at Britannia Pier in Great Yarmouth in 2009. Picture; James Bass/Kerry Wilmot - Credit: Archant

Given that Morrissey once penned a song specifically about loathing seaside towns, you wouldn’t expect to find him playing in Great Yarmouth.

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot

However, as he toured Years of Refusal, his ninth solo record, in 2009, this is exactly what the former Smiths frontman did.

When Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier was listed among a nationwide tour it certainly raised more than a few eyebrows.

While the venue is a regular host to theatre shows and comics, it isn’t exactly the most prolific when it comes to live music.

And then, of course, there is the fact he once song such flattering lines about coastal resorts as “hide on the promenade, etch a postcard, how I dearly wish I was not here” in one of his most famous post-Smiths numbers - Everyday is Like Sunday.

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot - Credit: Kerry Wilmot


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But there it was in black and white - May 15, 2009, Morrissey would be performing at Britannia Pier.

Keegan Snell, manager of the venue, said: “It really came out of the blue - his management got in touch with us to see if we wanted to put it on and I was shocked, but of course we wanted to.

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“Demand for tickets was mental - when they went on sale we had five people manning the phones in the box office and it was non-stop. We sold about 1,200 tickets in an hour - it was incredible. We probably could have sold the show out five times over.”

In the days before the concert, fans were left to sweat when the Ringleader of the Tormenters was forced to cancel his date in Birmingham after picking up a viral infection. However Mr Snell said it never reached the point where the Yarmouth gig was in jeopardy.

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot

Morrissey performing in Great Yarmouth. CREDIT: Kerry Wilmot

He said: “The atmosphere on the night was amazing - it was unlike anything we’d had there before. Personally I’ve never really been somebody who buys Morrissey or Smiths records, but standing there watching him you didn’t realise quite how many songs were actually his. It was just fantastic.”

Memories of Morrissey

I remember being truly flabbergasted that Morrisey would be playing Britannia Pier - one of the few venues in Norfolk I had never been to before.

I had been a fan ever since my GCSE English teacher Mr Galley recommended the Smiths to be and loaned me Viva Hate on cassettes and had seen him twice before - however, the venue became as much of a pull as the actual performer. It had added novelty value.

Can you support the Great Yarmouth Mercury during difficult times? Credit: James Bass

Can you support the Great Yarmouth Mercury during difficult times? Credit: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2010

I travelled back to Norfolk from university specifically, even though he was playing dates closer to my base in Northampton.

With Moz having pulled out of dates prior I remember checking almost hourly to see if it was still going ahead, but thankfully it was.

I was delighted to find my seats were around three rows from the front. What I didn’t anticipate was the moment he came out onto stage, in a black shirt and jeans, the whole audience would rise to its feet and cram to the edge of the stage.

For the most part, his vocals were spot on and as always his charisma was through the roof. There were a few moments when there were subtle cracks in his voice and I remember sweating, half fearing that he would throw in the towel and leave - but he powered through.

While the tracks from his Smiths days did stand out - particularly The Death of a Disco Dancer, which was a big surprise - his solo efforts also stood up. The songs were obviously great, but it was all about him - his energy, his stage presence and his aura.

While these days it is getting tougher and tougher to distance his brilliant music from some of his slightly more controversial views, this was a night I will never forget.

Dave Hannant

Morrissey played:

• This Charming Man

• Irish Blood, English Heart

• Black Cloud

• When Last I Spoke to Carol

• How Soon Is Now?

• I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris

• How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?

• Girlfriend in a Coma

• Something is Squeezing My Skull

• Ask

• The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores

• Seasick, Yet Still Docked

• The Death of a Disco Dancer

• Why Don’t You Find Out for Yourself?

• Let Me Kiss You

• I Keep Mine Hidden

• Sorry Doesn’t Help

• Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

• The Loop

• I’m OK By Myself

• First of the Gang to Die (encore)

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