Oldies But Goldies: Morrissey At Radio City Music Hall 2012 And Boston Opera House 2014
(Yes, folks, here come the rumors one more time: Moz to play New York, three times, this summer… when last promised, two years ago, he cancelled his gig at Barclay Center literally days before he was meant to perform. Helen Bach did manage to see a high as a kite Moz in Boston, and I did manage to see him at Radio City, three years ago… go back in time with us.. IL)
Helen Bach reviews the Boston Opera House Set, June 8th, 2013
So what happens when you have a virus and two days later have a concert in an amazing old hall? You suddenly are cured of course but in the meantime you ditch your opening act (thanks man) and you have an almost lighthearted approach to your set. Odd.Lets get the bad out right away. I understand that the giving Kristeen Young the ax was unexpected but allowing your audience a 6:30 door for a 7:30 show knowing full well you’re not coming on til 9- is fucking absurd. Change the door times. We easily could have grabbed drinks or had a walk instead of being jammed into the venue with blaring classical piano bashing our brains. It was thoughtless, it was arrogant and it was rude.
As Mozzah sat back stage with a mojito reading tour books I was looking at the back of some idiots head while he screamed to a friend on his cell phone- he’s lucky he is alive I wanted eject him myself. But after this horrible wait and the change over to the “Moz’ pre show playlist (shout out to Chrissie Hynds, Dark Glasses!) we were treated to the PETA film “Someday” which brought tears to my eyes and was immediately followed by The Ramones “Loudmouth”… I nearly died in a good way.
So there he is opening with ‘The Queen Is Dead” and suddenly all was right with the world. Looking healthy (ahem) and vibrant he belted out tunes that we needed to hear after the terror of thinking he would cancel this show. But wait what? He wasnt playing for joe average fan- he was playing for HIS fans and it was a joy to behold.
The sound in the venue was atrocious but just from the mezz. It was the orchestra kids got the best sound but it was a massive problem for others. The highs were far too high and the distorted and at first I thought it was just the videos but no- it was the show as well and if not for the incredible work from drummer Matt Walker I would be going off on how weak the band was. The ‘Dirt” t-shirts actually fit- muddled and awkward.
But Morrissey how you glowed. With witty antidotes and smart remarks of Historical Boston ( with the worlds smallest ‘suspension bridge’–which slurred terribly) and naming off all the famous people who played the Opera house (he named all of the Golden Girls… ) but he really had a sense of calm and easy for an “Evening with Morrissey” it was more a casual night with the guy. He didn’t get upset with himself or the crowd when minor lines flubs occurred. Rare if not unheard of. He truly went with the flow.There was no prima donna attitude, there was no smug.
Boston you didn’t disappoint. You’re notoriously my least favorite city and when the crowd started walking out (for lack of hits) or sitting down or dashing out (during Meat Is Murder) your lack of fandom and lack of manners and couth were showing. But it wasn’t meant for you- it was meant for us.
The set list included songs from the upcoming “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” including the title track, “Istanbul”, the premiere of “Kick The Bridge Down The Aisle”( it was fabulous) So welcome back Moz, you were missed and I am so happy and so honored to be part of your return to tour. I dont know what I awould have done if you had bailed on me- (I’d have been pissed!) Strong and brave and doing what he wants. Great show- shit sound- amazing man.
1. The Queen is Dead 2. You Have Killed Me 3. Certain People I Know 4. Ganglord 5. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris 6. Kick the Bride Down the Aisle 7. The Bullfighter Died 8. Trouble Loves Me 9. World Peace is None of your business 10. To Give The Reason I Live 11. Life is a Pig Sty 12. Istanbul 13. Yes I Am Blind 14. Earth is the Loneliest Planet 15. Meat is Murder 16. Speedway 17. Asleep 18. The First of the Gang to Die
Iman Lababedi Reviews The Radio City Set, October 10th, 2012
In 2012, Morrissey reached that place he has been aiming for since, if not the start of his career, certainly by The Queen Is Dead. He joined a pantheon of English singers of the pre-rock and roll era, folks like Frankie Vaughn and Anthony Newley: big, oversized, baritone braced belters of popular English pop. Hungover from the old world of Opera singers, everything these guys huge voices dealing with big emotions,were used to batter the platitudes into the ground.
This became clear, Morrissey’s intentions became clear, late in his Wednesday night set at Radio City Music Hall and not during the middle, controversial “Meat Is Murder” section. “Meat Is Murder” was very, very powerful, a beautiful (I realize that isn’t the word), crafted piece of propaganda, which ended with his three piece rock band playing a saw cutter streamlined sound, as terrifying as anything as you will ever see, while the images, a bull having its testicles cut off, chicken, fish, calves being force fed, plays itself out. Yes, it was art, it was brilliant. But it wasn’t the point.
Starting late in the set with his unreleased “People Are The same Everywhere”, and continuing through two Smiths covers and two songs off Year Of Refusal, the set reached its apotheosis, its ultimate reason for being: four brilliant vocals and a fond adieu. Look, Morrissey has always had the deeply felt voice, the boom of opera to the ephemera of pop it is what he does. But he has grown as a singer, Thursday night he ululated, he scatted, he trilled, traversed lines, bars, through sheer brute power, he belted himself to the engine of his band and roared forth. At 53 years old, with his mane of silver and light lavender shirt and wandering jaw line, he looked the role he had become.He looked like the sepia pictures he placed on so many of the Smiths record sleeves, like he could be singing next to the Francois Hardy on a double decker during the videos that played earlier. There is no doubt he could have had the audience in the palm of his hand, if he had just manipulated his setlist with a little cunning, that became abundantly clear when “Still Ill” floored us. He dismissed cunning for a concert built to express his artistic ambitions. And his ambition…?
Think of the David Bowie who covered “Wild Is The Wind”, subtract the youth and coke addled paranoia, add Tom Jones and subtract the rock, throw in Newley and subtract the dancehall… then add a layer of emotional turbulence and songs, words, that express an abiding tiredness, cynicism, disheveled glory in love and mix very hard and you have where Morrissey has found himself. And finally add to this a certain type of lyricism that takes the blowhard nonsense of English pre-rock pop and blows the erudite wisdom of Patron Saint Oscar Wild at it, and then turns up the heat to 11. “You have killed me” is a typical sentiment. Obviously he is not dead. Girlfriends are in comas, rumors prove true, the men he loves are not just men but hard cases, they are James Fox in “Performance” or Spring-Heeled Jim, who will do but never be done to. He channels himself into the man who desires the men he wants to be. It is a bizarre narcissism. And it has always been fascinating but especially as he has moved away from “well, nevermind nevermind”.
The band were excellent, especially the bassist who gave every song a buzzsaw like the opening of “Meat Is Murder”, and which plays in the back of your mind, through so much of the set. Before the encore, everybody leaves the stage except for the bassist who slices and dices the stage. Remember, appearance notwithstanding, this was not a rock and roll set. These were deep English pop ballads. But played as rock and roll. Very, very impressive band.
But it took Morrissey awhile to get to where he was going with this set, and it cost him a portion of his audience, who lost interest circa “Meat” and didn’t come back. The first hour wasn’t a wash, but it was the mediocrity that seemed to have infected his Waterbury gig last week. When Morrissey spoke, he spoke in soundbites. Before “You’re The One For Me, Fatty” he warned, “Not too much excitement, careful” and near the beginning of the show advised the audience “don’t let the feeling go to waste”. Staring around Radio City, he provided the pun of the evening, “It is hard to create an atmosphere”, he said, before a killer one liner, “Breath in, breath out”. Later, “Are you still breathing? Do you feel anything? How do you know?”. He changes the “nevermind” on “Shoplifters” suggesting he does mind, and he touches fingertips with fans near the front of the stage during “Throwing My Arms Around Paris”. He strips off his sopping wet with sweat shirt and throws it to the audience. Worries about whether he embarrassed himself on “Colbert”. Entirely taken up with the performance, still, he isn’t reaching the fans the way he deserves to. If he had just thrown in a few of his bigger songs. For the casual fan, all there is is “Shoplifters” really. He skipped “Maladjusted”.
At the time, sitting in the second mez, and wondering why nobody uses close circuit TV any more, I was restless at points. My pleasure in the set now doesn’t reflect the pleasure I felt at the time. I was doubtful, waiting patiently for the set to ignite, and when it did ignite, because it hit fire in a way I didn’t expect it to, I nearly missed it.
Why should “One Day Goodbye Will Mean Farewell” be so devastating? It isn’t devastating on Year Of Refusal, why does it blow a hole through your heart here? Why doesn’t that brilliant ending go on and on, and just devour your heart? Because, Morrissey was great while his set wasn’t great. Morrissey got to that place where his art was transmigrated into pure feelings even on a song not among his best. Just as he always planned to.