Sunday, November 25, 2012

Morrissey: May 14, 1997

I had already been living in Chicago for several years by this point, but went home to Michigan to see this show with a friend. I was fairly young when the Smiths broke up (i.e. no driver's license yet) so I never had the chance to see them. I saw Johnny Marr play with The The shortly after the Smiths' split, and fronting his own group in the aughts, but this was my first time seeing Moz.

We were, um, lucky enough to see Kristeen Young open -- the infamous opening act that got booted a few months later for making unseemly sexual comments onstage about Moz. At our show, she was just as obnoxious, basically moaning about not getting enough applause and saying that the '90s band Morsel (which had an amped-up flute that for some reason seemed like a neat idea at the time) was better than the Stooges, but we were basically too dumb to appreciate them.

Morrissey was good, but his fans were so ardent they made it seem like the second coming. He sang a mix of solo material and some Smiths classics, including a rousing "How Soon Is Now" performed in front of a backdrop of James Dean photos. Some obsessions die hard. The band, as expected, was a bunch of young, good-looking rockabilly boys.

To some extent, giving the people what they want bordered on schtick. Although Moz was still a handsome devil (ahem!), he needn't have taken his shirt off four times. Love him or hate him, Morrissey is Morrissey, but I sometimes wonder how far much farther he could go artistically if no one expected a quiff, hot backing boys, movie idol backdrops, angst, and shirtlessness. Because a lot of those songs are damned good enough on their own.