King's Lynn Corn Exchange

King's Lynn Corn Exchange

He has been hailed as an influential icon of his generation. So it was with some surprise when Morrissey, the lead singer of seminal band The Smiths and now a sell-out solo star, decided to bring his vitriol and wry melodrama to a small venue in Norfolk. He could easily pack out massive halls in some of our biggest cities, and yet on Saturday his tour rolled into King's Lynn with a swagger.

Morrissey is arguably one of the biggest acts to appear in West Norfolk for a long time, and the air was thick with the buzz of excitement and anticipation. A huddle of die-hard fans vied for shelter from the pouring rain outside the Corn Exchange that morning, desperate to be the first to reach the stage once the doors opened. When their hero appeared, more than 12 hours later, the hall erupted.

Morrissey oozed confidence and cut a resplendent figure in a bright pink shirt, his familiar quiff now tinged with grey.

Although approaching 50, the flamboyant posing and gesturing that characterised the young, skinny singer of The Smiths is still there.

After greeting the “gentlemen and rough women” in the audience, he paced through a clutch of songs from his latest album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, only breaking off occasionally for a bit of banter with his passionate fans.

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The atmosphere was charged throughout, even though the set list was littered with his less familiar solo material that restricted it to a gig for the hardcore Morrissey faithful.

When he delved into The Smiths archive with Girlfriend in a Coma and then How Soon Is Now?, arguably their masterpiece, the audience were in raptures - singing along with arms aloft or swarming forward, punching the air and surfing the sea of Morrissey T-shirts and copycat quiffs to get closer to their idol.

Not shy to bare his chest, he whipped off a succession of sweat-drenched shirts and tossed them into the crowd to be ripped to shreds by dozens of grappling hands.

Fan Chris Tracy, 26, who had travelled from Norwich for the gig, described the man's appeal.

“He's obviously very charismatic, he stands out from the X-Factor crowd and is a genuine performer,” he said.

“He's got natural glamour, his lyrics connect with a lot of people and he doesn't go in for gimmicks, like, say Madonna posing on a cross last week.

“He's played a lot of small venues on this tour - maybe he fancied a change and it sort of fits in with his appeal.”

The show seemed all too brief when Morrissey walked off stage after an hour and 15 minutes, but he was soon back for more with an encore of one song, Irish Blood, English Heart.