While I’ve been a Moz fanatic for about eight years now, but I was a Morrissey virgin in every way that mattered until last Saturday. I’d missed his You Are the Quarry tour a few years back, in which he performed here in New York at the legendary Apollo Theater. Armond White called the concert “a practical challenge to those fans who might be content with their elite cult status and to the venues of pop culture that habitually represent mundane restriction.” I vowed never to miss him again should he come to New York.
Last Saturday at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, I lost my Morrissey virginity, and like many “first times,” it was predictable, frightening, and exhilarating at all once. And somewhat embarrassing. I’ve always been something of an introvert (shocker), and my relationship to Morrissey has always been deeply personal. Only in this blog have I been a Moz evangelical. But I felt remarkably comfortable letting my Moz flag fly last Saturday, singing along to every word of “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” with 2,000 other concertgoers as my personal backup singers. That’s the brilliance of Morrissey. He captures – with precision, irony, and intellect – our own private longings and insecurities and gives his fans the courage to “Sing Our Lives.”
Like the diva he’s known to be, he forced us to wait an uncomfortable amount of time for his grand entrace. His opening act – some grrl rock band from San Antonio – was a disappointment. I questioned why Moz would select such a wholly uninteresting act to open his show. (It was only after the show that I learned that his previous opening act, KRISTEENYOUNG, had been kicked off for disrespecting the Moz.) After suffering through the lead shrieker’s tuneless songs and leaden power chords, we were regaled by an assortment of vintage film clips, which were projected on a massive scrim that concealed the stage. They included B-roll footage of Moz hero James Dean in East of Eden.
Finally,the scrim fell and Morrissey, decked out in a replica of the tux he wears on his Ringleader of the Tormentors album cover, swaggered out on stage (yes, he swaggered!) with his band in tow. They kicked into a belligerent version of the Smiths’ classic “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before” that cleansed everyone’s palettes of that awful Mark Ronson version. It was worth the wait.
He and his gifted band rolled through several Smiths songs (“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” a noisy “Death of a Disco Dancer,” “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” “How Soon Is Now,” and “Stretch Out and Wait”) and some of his earlier solo work (“Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself?,” “The National Front Disco,” “Sister, I’m Poet,” “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”). They also gave fans a peek at the songs that will appear on his 2008 release. Throughout, he was in great voice, with only hints of gruffness in the lower register. He was long over the throat problems that forced several cancellations, including his Madison Square Garden gig, this summer.
It wouldn’t be a Moz show without some vegetarian pontification, which carnivorous Moz fans have simply come to accept. He ranted against “Madonna and Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham…who wear other beings on their backs” and call it fashion. Yada yada…just sing, Morrissey. And sing he did, reaching the high point of the show with a quiet, sincere rendering of “Dear God, Please Help Me.” For those who think Moz can’t sing, I beg you to hear him sing this live. It’s a tough song to sing, but Morrissey effortlessly swooped to a pure, perfectly pitched falsetto, lifting what would otherwise be an earnest ballad into pure gospel. Odd gospel, mind you, considering it’s about anonymous sex. When Morrissey sang, “Now I’m spreading your legs/With mine in-between,” his next line was almost drowned out by wolf whistles from the audience.
Yes, even pushing 50 and growing a bit of paunch, Morrissey is a sexy man. He doffed his shirt twice during the set, and the sweat-drenched garment was a highly coveted item amongst the fighting fans. During the final song, “First of the Gang To Die,” several fans enacting the Moz concert tradition of jumping on stage, struggling past security guards in hopes of embracing their hero. Only Michael Jackson at his peak could warrant such a response.
Since this is Anglo For Your Ear, I offer you a wonderful Smiths tune that Morrissey performed last week, “The Boy With a Thorn in His Side.” Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday!