Morrissey, With Billy Idol, At The Hollywood Bowl, Saturday November 11th 2017
I will voluntary go against the wishful thinking, Morrissey is the flagrant example why you should not separate the art from the artist. What would be ‘Meat is Murder’ without Morrissey making the Hollywood Bowl selling all-veggie menus at its array of food booths? What would be this new version of ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ without this pic of Morrissey holding baby Trump projected in the back of the stage? Morrissey pins up his feelings on the wall, his songs are his feelings and you can’t separate the man’s feelings and convictions from his art. I would even say that I am even sure I love more the man than his art, and I would not even bother to listen to a Morrissey song sang by someone else, what would be the point?
Morrissey had sold out two nights (Friday and Saturday), at the 17,500-seat Hollywood Bowl, and that’s a lot of people,… that’s a lot of Latinos who represent a large part of his audience in Southern California. According to the statistics, Southern California is his biggest market in America, although I would like to see the place he books in Mexico. But Los Angeles had decided to go all the way with the English singer, by sending City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez for a backstage at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night, and during a pre-concert ceremony, she presented him with a plaque honoring November 10th as Morrissey Day.
Morrissey was visibly happy and in great shape when he arrived on stage the following day, he got acclaimed by the large crowd, and the entire show looked triumphant, despite the incessant movements in the crowd as it is always the case in these huge venues. The bowl sure is a beautiful place, but too large to my taste, and my nosebleed ticket didn’t allow me to see much of the expressions on the Moz’s face, as the jumbotrons were only showing the photos projected behind the stage, and not what was happening on stage. From a young Elvis pic (Morrissey opened with a Presley cover) to a recurrent Dean Martin photo and a few political funnies, like Margaret Thatcher about to be hit with a polo club or that infamous Morrissey holding baby Trump — a photoshopped version of his ‘Years of Refusal’ album cover — there was plenty of pics to keep us entertain.
Nevertheless, I had the word cancellation in mind the entire day. Morrissey had refused to go on stage five nights earlier in Paso Robles because the heaters were not functioning, but I was nevertheless the one who almost cancelled on Morrissey. I walked up to the outdoor venue half sick, with a light fever, a running nose and a sore throat, and it was probably the perfect state of body and mind for attending a show by the always suffering Morrissey. However, the chilling air at the bowl didn’t prevent him to give an amazing and dynamic performance, even showing us plenty of skin at one point.
I should mention that Billy Idol was opening the night, and if the Generation X rocker may first look like the opposite of Morrissey the miserabilis, they are not that different: they are both from England, from the same generation and have this sort of iconic image following them. Billy sang all his classics from ‘Dancing With Myself’ to ‘Eyes Without a Face’ and ‘Rebel Yell’, under a sign that looked like an amalgam between Bowie’s lightning bolt and Prince’s symbol with a royal crown at the top. I don’t think Billy believes he is all that, but his black-leather-air-guitar act still worked successfully on the crowd, ‘Thank you for making my life so fucking great’ he roared at us between two songs, finishing his set with an open jacket, then no jacket at all. There were many cats-in-fights screams, solo guitars and plenty of arm windmills, Billy Idol was completely in command and probably too carnivorous-looking for the meat-free zone happening at the bowl, but he looked unstoppable.
A Dia de los Muertos Morrissey Face painting appeared in the background and he and his band immediately opened with a Presley cover ‘You’ll Be Gone’ celebrating heartbreak and loneliness in a good Morrissey tradition. His voice certainly has that authentic crooner quality that allows him to compete with the King, while the bravado in the perfect tempo of the Spanish guitars was completing the scene with brio. During a 22-song set, Morrissey brushed his career with plenty of songs of his solo catalogue, a few unavoidable (and highly anticipated) Smiths covers, as well as a Pretenders cover (‘Back on the Chain Gang‘) below a large pic of a young Chrissie Hynde, whom I barely recognized.
There were plenty of South of the Border adventures with the Mexican trumpets during ‘When Last I Spoke to Carol’ and his anti bullfight song ‘The Bullfighter Dies’… ‘I wish you lonely’ he repeated after the song of the same name. You can’t separate Morrissey from his activism, his pro-vegan campaign (Peta had invaded the Bowl and was distributing flyers) and his politics of course, although you are allowed to get confused with that part. Didn’t he praise Brexit? Isn’t ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage’ referencing the referendum with a ‘Everybody’s heading for the exit, exit, exit, exit, exit, exit, exit, exit’ line repeated over and over? Why is Morrissey siding with the right in this case?
However, he still wants to axe the monarchy (a young boy on the cover of his last album ‘Low in High School’ is holding an axe and a sign saying exactly this), he still wants to club Thatcher in the back, he still heavily criticizes police brutality, projecting terrifying images of the news during ‘Ganglord’, whereas he had used horrific footage denouncing the cruelty of the meat industry during ‘Meat is Murder’ a day before. Morrissey is not afraid to show things as they are, and he couldn’t care less if the audience is leaving in disgust. But above everything, he hates Trump and changes the lyrics of the famous Smiths song ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ into ‘Trump Shifters Of the World Unite’ in front of this ridiculous pic of him babysitting Trump. I can’t imagine someone else doing this without being criticized to death, and if he can get away with anything anti-Trump in California, I am sure he doesn’t change anything when he visits places like Texas or any pro-Trump state.
Morrissey is loved and adored and I think it’s during ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ that the first attempt started, a person tried to get on stage with him, and was soon arrested by the security. There were many other attempts, more or less successful and always rapidly intercepted by the security guards who threw people off stage while Morrissey screamed a few ‘Yikes!’ Anyhow, he seemed to like it … at least this is what it looked like from my far away seat.
‘According to all known reports, I am the only person in Los Angeles who hasn’t been the victim of sexual harassment… how do you think this make me feel?’ he told us before ‘Suedehead’ as if he had been yearning for something like that to happen to him. I actually thought he was looking for it, during ‘Let Me Kiss You’, he went all the way through and gave everything to his fans, even his white shirt that he removed in a romantic-going-trashy gesture, throwing his shirt to the pit, and going bare chested in the cold night for a few seconds. Finally, ending with ‘Glamorous Glue’ was probably his way to thank the city and his people with lines like ‘We look to Los Angeles/For the language we use/London is dead, London is dead’… At this moment, Morrissey was truly one of us, and now we were too much in love.
The Hollywood Bowl may have gone ‘cruelty-free’ as Morrissey put it, but I hope he didn’t see all these traitors rushing to the hot dog street vendors at the exit of the venue, there was an entire barrage of them outside! and it made me angry, not hungry, I was too sick to be attracted by burning flesh as would say the Moz, and I was too upset, too lonely… okay may be some people can separate the art from the artist with such ease that they can bite in a hot dog while wearing a Smiths/Meat is Murder shirt, but how absurd is this? Why should I trust humanity after such treason? Who hears when animals cry? Who hears when Morrissey sings? Ten minutes after the last note of the last song, there was only the noise of mouths chewing greasy sausages, and I thought Morrissey day was over.
You’ll Be Gone (Elvis Presley cover)
When Last I Spoke to Carol
I Wish You Lonely
The Bullfighter Dies
I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (The Smiths cover)
When You Open Your Legs
World Peace Is None of Your Business
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths cover)
Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders cover)
Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage
Spent the Day in Bed
Jack the Ripper
Everyday Is Like Sunday
I’m Not Sorry
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Shoplifters of the World Unite (The Smiths cover)
Let Me Kiss You