On February 4th 1983, The Smiths were booked to play the Hacienda in Manchester, England, as support to 52nd Street, a funk band signed to Factory Records. The audience was there to see the headliners, but it was the best band that Tony Wilson never signed who stole the night.
The show was a milestone in The Smiths career, a night when they went from interesting local band, to next-big-thing, and beyond.
As the band took the stage Morrissey greeted the audience by saying “Hello… We are the Smiths. We are not ‘Smiths’, we are the Smiths. ‘These Things Take Time’....” Following the latter set opener he simply said “Oh thank you” then the band launched into “What Difference Does It Make?”. Within a year the song would be released as a single and make it onto the band’s debut album. At this point it was played slower and featured slightly different lyrics. For example instead of “I’m so sick and tired” (album) or “I’m so very tired” (Peel session), Morrissey simply sang “I’m so tired”. Also, Morrissey sang “Oh my sacred Mother in falsetto at the end, instead of the more familiar “Oh my sacred one”.
Next up was “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” and it was introduced by Morrissey with a simple drop of its title. This song also featured different lyrics to the version which would be released on the band’s debut album. The outro of “as long as there’s love / I did my best for her” was absent and a line was then sung as “your mother she need never know”. Right before “Handsome Devil” Morrissey said: “I repeat: the only thing to be in 1983 is handsome… ‘Handsome Devil’.” The next track was probably seeing its live debut and was simply introduced as “Jeane!”. Strangely it would not be performed for long, it was soon to be dropped from the setlist until the Smiths reinstated it when touring the debut album more than a year later.
The performance of “What Do You See In Him?” was a very passionate one. The song would not remain in the Smiths’ set for long. After being dropped for a few months it would re-emerge in June as “Wonderful Woman”, with the same music, but different lyrics. The song that would become the Smiths debut single was then introduced with a slowly articulated “Hand. In. Glove.” It was also performed very passionately, and seems to have woken the audience into paying attention to the yet unknown opening band. The song was well received and this prompted Morrissey to shyly say “Oh you’re very kind… thank you…”
The evening’s final number was then announced twice as “Miserable Lie”. The song’s early lyrics didn’t yet include the line “I know the wind-swept mystical air” while the line “I recognise that mystical air” was sung twice. Instead of “I’m just a country-mile behind the world” Morrissey sang “I’d run a hundred miles away from you”. After the song Morrissey simply said “Bye bye…” twice and the band left the stage while a few new converts cheered and whistled.
A review written by Jim Shelley and published in the NME a month and a half later had only good words for the Smiths, comparing them to Magazine, Josef K and The Fire Engines.