Attending a Morrissey show is a strange experience. People cry, and cry, and cry and cry and cry. Last night Beaumont's Julie Rogers Theatre was full of sobbing concertgoers: one to the left, one to the right, and countless others throughout the venue.
The only time it's acceptable to sob your way through a concert is at a Moz show, apparently. And people did so from the moment he took the stage, no matter the song. Up tempo and angry or pulled-back and sorrowful; it mattered not the subject matter.
Opening promptly at 9 p.m. with "Speedway" from 1994 album Vauxhall and I, Morrissey made no small talk with the audience, choosing to speed from one song to the next instead. He ran from "Irish Blood English Heart" to "Ganglord" and "Hand In Glove" without speaking more than three words to the audience. Given all the tears, he was saying plenty, it seemed. Perhaps saying any more would have been too much for the audience to handle.
It seemed that Moz's mere presence was enough to bring forth the tears. Not even The Cure's sad-sack songs about love and heartbreak can elicit reactions the way this man does. Pretty impressive, really. I was surrounded by criers.
Whether his lack of stage banter was to preserve the theater from becoming awash in salty tears, it was still in typical Moz fashion. He's not much of a chatter, at least not while performing, choosing instead to focus on the music for the most part. After all, he says plenty to the press about his thoughts on society and the British aristocracy, sometimes-loose lips that have earned him a reputation as a bit of a contrarian over the years.
In concert, though, he hardly lives up to that reputation. He throws in a couple of words here and there, but they are merely notes of gratitude toward the audience or bits of self-deprecation to lighten the mood. He's perfected the art of being flawed, which is a bit beautiful, and done in a very quiet manner. When Moz finally says something perfunctory, you're left begging him to tell you more.
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As a performer, he hasn't lost one bit of the trademark vocals that set The Smiths so far apart back in the day. While Morrissey may have aged a bit physically -- his celebrated his 55th birthday at his Dallas concert only a couple of days ago -- his vocals remain impeccable.
It is as though his throat, which a year ago caused the postponing of a number of shows on his tour (including this one, twice), has been preserved in a strange, somewhat depressing time capsule. He's every bit the wistful, lonely vocalist he was in his early twenties, but if this is Moz after an illness, I cannot imagine what he sounded like a couple of decades ago.
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But while he may still sound like that Smiths front man, the set list looked nothing of the sort. Only a smattering of Smiths songs were to be found on the 17-tune list -- "Hand In Glove," "Meat Is Murder," and "Asleep" -- among plenty of newer, lesser-known selections. That made it obvious that this concert was meant for his most hardcore fans, who were all in attendance, judging by those steady streams of tears. Still, for the casual Moz fan, it was a bit lackluster.
Not that his performance was, mind you. Morrissey is the quintessential front man, and even with that graying look, is every bit as opinionated and edgy as he once was. He just chooses to convey that with microphone-cord flicks and dramatic gestures during songs, rather than long diatribes on the unfortunate circumstances of the world.
For the most part, anyway. He did throw in a beak-chopping, pig-beating PETA video during "Meat Is Murder," which was, well, graphic. I'm not entirely sure of what the point was, considering the video, which urged watchers to "Go Vegan," was being displayed by a band who is, from my understanding, simply meatless.
But whatever. Moz likes to be dramatic with grandiose gestures rather than words, and it was better than a lecture. Besides, "Meat Is Murder" is a damn good Smiths song, and it was worth watching it with my head down in order to hear it.
And while the first half of the set was a bit more mellow and pulled-back -- during which Moz verged on sounding a bit like a lounge singer -- it was songs like "Meat Is Murder" that really amped things up and made the show a much more interesting ride. While he absolutely excels at those sad, stubborn songs, I find angry Moz to be much more enjoyable.
Though the set list was heavy on the new stuff, songs like "The Bullfighter Dies," with its angry, quickened tempo and dramatic lyrics excelled. They may not be recognizable to most people in the audience, but they made their point, layered alongside his more recognizable material.
I preferred those for a number of reasons. Angry Moz rocks; he's like an irritated British hulk, what with his annoyance over meat and bullfighting. Plus those were about the only times that the sobbing next to me stopped. So as an added bonus, angry Moz does not seem to draw out the same kind of tears as sorrowful Moz, and I'll watch a PETA video any day if it means not having to hear sniffling over the concert.
All in all, it was the same old Moz with a newer, less noteworthy set list. The crying, the grandiose gestures of irritation and humor were all there. The Smiths songs just weren't along for the ride.
Personal Bias: I am basically a walking robot. I hate crying, and I can't imagine doing so in concert unless I jammed my toe or something. Not that I'm judging; cry away, y'all. Just maybe share some of whatever you snuck in next time so I too can sob the night away like a normal Morrissey fan.
The Crowd: Really, really young for a typical Morrissey audience. It's nice to see a whole new group of twentysomethings cry to songs that are their parents' ages. For real tho.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I knew this was going to happen! Thanks for coming back to Texaaaaaas!" (Our front office person and Morrissey's No. 1 fan, Abe, was passed the mike by Moz himself. Be jealous, y'all.)
Random Notebook Dump: I don't like anyone the way that these folks like Morrissey. And I do mean anyone -- family included. Someone teach me the ways before I feel like I've got some broken emo piece inside, won't you?
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