It’s Morrissey’s world, we just live in it. That’s how it seemed at the legendary sad bastard’s recent stop at the Congress Theater, where the show began at least an hour later than scheduled (after being postponed in November, of course) and featured several covers of Morrissey songs by other artists played over the PA between sets.
Despite his confidence and feelings of self-worth, the singer finds himself in a bit of a difficult situation, struggling to find a record label while suing NME and clawing for attention by making insensitive statements on everything from Chinese people to the Oslo shootings. This tour serves not only as a source of income, but also as proof that there’s still interest in Morrissey in 2011, something that many seem to be skeptical of.
None of these people could have expected a completely sold out show that featured one of the most diverse crowds the Congress has ever seen. 1950s nostalgists stood alongside young gay Latinos (and Chicago celebrity chef Graham Elliot), belting out every word to hits like “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “Every Day Is Like Sunday.” Years before Lady Gaga tried to become the voice of outcasts, Morrissey was speaking directly to them and for them on classics like “Still Ill” (“I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving”). Of course, Morrissey has long abandoned his image as a fragile, misunderstood young man and now dabbles in gangster imagery and rudeness.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Before launching into opener “I Want the One I Can’t Have,” he dryly stated “Jingle smells, Jingle smells, Jingle all the vomit.” Not the most clever parody, but apparently he thought it was worth using for his first appearance onstage. Awkward banter aside, the set did a great job of representing Morrissey’s entire career, featuring songs so new they haven’t even been recorded right alongside a handful of The Smiths’ most-loved classics. The new songs, “Scandinavia” and “People Are The Same Everywhere” sound incredibly similar to Years of Refusal, with Morrissey delivering his bleak outlook on life in general without any of the poetic language he was so fond of early in his career. They aren’t great songs, but he’s definitely done worse.
It’s hard to tell whether or not this tour will be able to get Morrissey a record deal or rejuvenate his career, but it looks like he’s working harder than he has been in recent years. This show served as proof that he’ll survive without a major label contract or giant LiveNation touring deal.
Speaking of Morrissey’s mistakes, the biggest misstep of the evening was Morrissey’s unfortunate and unnecessary editing of songs. The emotional intro to “Speedway” was missing, as was the cheeky “S-T-E-V-E-N” bridge in “Ouija Board, Ouija Board.” Neither of those were as cringe worthy as the extended version of “Meat Is Murder,” which served as backing music to a specially edited version of Meet Your Meat. Easily the worst song ever recorded by The Smiths, Morrissey has long taken pride in its message and claims that it’s responsible for creating thousands of vegetarians. More than a few people lost their appetite that night, watching cows being castrated and chickens having their beaks cut off.
Also questionable was the selection of Kristeen Young as an opener. Young is famous for two things: wearing the bubble dress before Lady Gaga and getting fired from a Morrissey tour in 2007 after making jokes about his oral sex abilities (on both men and women) onstage. Apparently Morrissey no longer bears more grudges than high court judges, since Young was invited back to howl her way through a set of plodding dance tracks.
Despite these setbacks, Morrissey managed to deliver a number of high points throughout his set. “You’re The One For Me, Fatty” came early in the set and prominently featured pleasantly plump guitarist Boz Boorer, while “I Know It’s Over” brought things to an emotional climax. Other highlights included “You Have Killed Me”, “Maladjusted” and Years of Refusal’s “When Last I Spoke To Carol,” which featured a soaring trumpet solo. Of course, you can’t talk about highlights without mentioning the cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love,” a song by a man Morrissey called “one of my favorite Americans.” It was interesting to see Morrissey expressing his fandom of another artist, something he hasn’t done since launching his solo career over two decades ago. What a charming man.
It’s hard to tell whether or not this tour will be able to get Morrissey a record deal or rejuvenate his career, but it looks like he’s working harder than he has been in recent years. That being said, there wasn’t the slightest feeling of desperation onstage that night. On his last album, Morrissey assured us “I’m OK By Myself,” and he wasn’t lying. This show served as proof that he’ll survive without a major label contract or giant LiveNation touring deal. It’s hard to tell how much longer he’ll want to do this, but it’s nice to know his abilities haven’t wavered a bit. It appears that we are still living in a Moz world, after all.