A photo from last June, featuring the Walter Chiari backdrop for the current tour
What? Morrissey, how could you come to Portland and not play You Have Killed Me? You know Joëlle and I live here, right?!
Okay, okay...so a minor complaint for an otherwise stellar night. Of my top-three-hoped-for songs, you only played one ("Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice"), but surprising me with "Death at One's Elbow" and "The Loop" went a long way to making me forget. And you got to play "First of the Gang to Die" in the one town in America where it actually sounds tough, so kudos to you. The fact that you layered in "Swing on a Star" was also brilliant. On-stage mash-up!
Yes, folks, last night I got to see Morrissey for the first time in, I think, 7 years, when I saw him on the "Oye Esteban" tour. Funny thing is, I am pretty sure I was sitting in just about the same seat this time as last time. I pulled out my concert ninja skills and went down to the Roseland early and sat outside and read so we could be the first into the bar area and sit at the very front of the balcony. No squishing against saddoes for me. Gimme a chair, I'm old!
Waiting outside, I actually got to listen in on the soundcheck, hearing a few instrumental versions of songs, as well as a couple with vocals. The band did a run-through of Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" on their own, which was pretty cool and made me hopeful a full cover might emerge that evening. It was not to materialize, alas.
The show was opened by Doll & the Kicks, who I had heard good things about. They are like Siouxsie by way of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs by way of Blood Red Shoes. In our group, the opinions were split, with the boys seeming to like them more than the girls, which was interesting. The musicians in the band were good and clearly have skills, but right now, I think Doll is a little more advanced than the guys, and when they catch up to her, that's when the band will take off. Though, that's also when I am sure we can expect some No Doubt-style infighting. Do bass players still get upset when the pretty girl out front gets all the attention?
Here is the band covering the headliner:
Morrissey and the lads took the stage not long after, following a compilation of clips by the likes of Sparks, the New York Dolls, and Nico. The lead song was "This Charming Man," and it was pretty obvious from the start that the Mozfather was rarin' to go. The set was built with faster, rockier numbers, and so it was a noisy, energetic night. "Ganglord" was a pretty hefty standout for me, and the ramped-up version of "Ask" came off really well. Morrissey was joking a lot between songs, and seemed to be enjoying himself. There was a roughness to the performance that gave it an edge that I recall lacking on some late '90s tours. Thankfully, there was also an absence of stage invasions, which meant no interruptions or interference. I know we fans like to think it's all about us, but I had about enough of "us" in line and I paid to see the show, not you tackling the singer.
In the "We're All Human" Department, it was amusing to see that not even Morrissey's quiff can survive a night onstage, and Morrissey ripping his shirt off at the end of "How Soon is Now," followed by a quickly timed exit, was pretty funny. The man has a fairly solid barrel chest for being 50 years old, but it was probably for the best for him not to stand around preening. Plus, very happy to see him back to being fit and decked out in dapper dress after the chubby T-shirt tours of the early '00s.
I've no greater insight to offer. I sang along and sang loud and hopefully did not annoy those around me, and I had a blast. It's always a nervous proposition seeing someone you so admire in the flesh, and with so many cancellations and odd goings on with his tours over the last several years, I was fully prepared for Morrissey to bag out or disappoint. He did neither. There is nothing quite like the charge you feel when a performer of his type steps out on the stage. It's electric and chemical, the sense that you're seeing someone who has been anointed, who is different. There are tons of singers putting on shows all around the world every night, but not many who are this special.
Here is one tiny clip from last night's performance that has surfaced on YouTube:
Full Set List
This Charming Man
Irish Blood, English Heart
Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice
Death At One's Elbow
When Last I Spoke To Carol
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
Is It Really So Strange?
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself
If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
Teenage Dad On His Estate
How Soon Is Now
I'm Ok By Myself
Encore: First Of The Gang To Die / Swinging On A Star
I was glad we got a less hits and more odd tracks. "Why Don't You Find Out for Yourself" is always a favorite, and given how long it has been since last I saw him, I loved that I got to hear so many b-sides like "Teenage Dad" and strong album cuts like "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell" and "I'm OK By Myself," which was a brilliant way to shut things down. You ended on a bass solo? Nice!
Current Soundtrack: Morrissey, Swords
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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich