Photos by Lisa Mark

“Near. Far. Wherever you are. I believe that the heart does go on,” sings Morrissey as he steps on to a Canadian stage for the first time in 15 years. Determined to win back the love of a country that he has long ignored, he made his first stop in Toronto at the Sony Centre. By the throngs of faithful here, it would turn out not to be such a monumental undertaking for the Mancunian singer. From the first note of his breakout solo single Suedehead, he had this crowd’s full attention. And he didn’t let up until the last note of The First of the Gang to Die.

Despite a beloved stature that began in the early 80s with post-punk outfit the Smiths, Morrissey has long-since been a polarizing character. His firm stance on the seal hunt in Canada is what kept him from travelling here in the first place. The seeming reversal in his stance had more to do with the futility of his fight which in his own words “was ultimately of no use and helped no one. My voice was drowned out by the merciless swing of spiked axes crushing the heads of babies.”

That doesn’t mean he’s abandoned the fight altogether. Proceeds from his Canadian tour are slated to be donated to various animal rights groups. Activists Peta were also present, soliciting signatures to end the use of Coyote fur and goose down in Canada Goose jackets.

“Canada Goose has almost singlehandedly revived the cruel trapping industry, in which animals can suffer for days and try to gnaw off their ensnared limbs before the trapper eventually returns to bludgeon them to death. No hood adornment is worth that,” penned the singer in advance of the tour announcement last September.

To no one’s surprise, the tour did not start off as planned with Morrissey cancelling dates in Western Canada due to a medical emergency. Fans across the world know this is not uncommon to Morrissey with an almost “keep ‘em guessing” mentality that permeates up until showtime.

“If you have friends in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, please let them know I’m sorry and I will see them soon,” said Morrissey addressing the subject of postponed shows head on. This is unlikely to quell the unease until he actually stands on the stage as promised.

If the unintentional first show of this tour was any indication, the wait is well worth it. Morrissey’s unmistakeable croon remains as note-perfect as ever, evidenced in the range-pushing crescendos of Smiths’ classics “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” and the bedroom-moper anthem “How Soon is Now?”

Morrissey is nothing if not outspoken but this night seemed to be about giving the crowd what it had longing for. Through 100 minutes of career-spanning hits, the show could easily have been twice as long and still left the crowd wanting more.

It’s impossible to sit through this show without wondering what it would be like if Morrissey were to consent to getting back together with his former guitar-slinger Johnny Marr for a “hell froze over” reunion of The Smiths. Who knows? We waited 15 years for this and it paid off. So what’s another 15?