Thursday, January 17, 2013

Morrissey at the Strathmore

Financially eviscerated, and no one to blame but
 yourself (note to pedants: concert was re-scheduled)
Morrissey sings on You Were Good In Your Time, a song from a characteristically average solo effort called Years of Refusal (2009), “You were good in your time/And we thank you so/You said more in one day/Than most people say/In a lifetime…” Possibly paraphrasing his critics and former fans, it seems like a defiant, not to mention masturbatory, counter-attack to suggestions that he should call it a day. Last night at the Strathmore Concert Hall in North Bethesda, there was more than enough adulation in the air to blow away any plans he ever harboured to retire. Nonetheless, he really should. And people like me should stop spending $87.50 on tickets (including charges) just to have our view confirmed that his best songs were composed long ago, and he’s no longer much good at singing them.

Not that the concert was bad, if you forget about the price tag, and the seat high up in the balcony with a distant view of the stalwart vegetarian and his journeyman band-mates. For what it’s worth, it was much, much better than the two previous times I’ve seen him solo, at the 9.30 Club and at the sonically challenged outdoor Wolf Trap. The overall delivery was solid, the sound was strong, and like any middle-aged fool for the better days of indie-pop, I waited for the next old hit as though Steve Jobs had never invented playlists on shuffle. If I was Morrissey's music teacher making a neutral assessment, I'd give it a B minus.

It’s hard, though, to feel moved by the music when you’re stuck in a theatre seat, and the woman to your right spends the entire first half of the concert sending texts. At one point, five people directly around me were fucking about on their cell phones, and they
weren’t even taking distant, blurry snaps of the stage. No doubt they were letting people know where they are, because people couldn’t wait to be told later.

I might have been more excited if I’d been one of the few standing down at the cusp of the stage, a privilege reserved for those allocated seats in the front row. They all seemed to want to touch Morrissey’s hand, or to get on stage and hug him. These are not teenagers we’re talking about, and this alone constitutes sufficient grounds to cancel any future Morrissey tours. But the open-shirted singer seemed loath to discourage this mid-life obeisance, even though a bouncer lobbed one aging interloper off stage who had completely put the singer off the second line of How Soon Is Now?

I once got up on stage with Morrissey too, but it wasn’t to hug him, it was to dance next to him and Johnny Marr among the trampled flowers. I was 18 and drunk. The Smiths used to encourage it (the getting up on stage, not the drinking). Now I’d only do it for a $90 refund, if I didn’t strain a muscle trying, or risk dropping my phone while posting to Facebook, “About to kiss Morrissey. He seems alarmed for some reason! Oof, just got twatted by a bouncer LOL.”

It wasn’t necessarily the drudge songs and the mediocre new material in between the old favourites that made me think this was a bad idea, rather it was the desultory rendition of Still Ill. Morrissey either couldn’t be bothered to sing it, or is no longer able to hit the notes. That was the moment which confirmed what you’d suspected all along, but didn’t want to admit because it makes you feel like a dupe – this over-40s’ night out was just another plastic cash event. Who would have guessed? The new songs are inferior versions of the old ones, and everybody can hear it, while the old ones should be left in their boxed set.

When there’s nothing new or inspiring, just the dreary old sermons on killing cows, and when you make a tool of yourself on the Colbert Report because you don’t have the perspective to laugh at yourself even just a little bit, you should ignore your accountant and be thankful that, unlike most of us, you had the chance to be good in your time.


AMD said...

I love The Smiths, but I don't think I'd want to see Morrissey even if you paid me to. It would just irrevocably destroy The Smiths for me.

So I have declared flowers-in-the-arse Smiths Morrissey dead, and freely loathe the utterly uncharming, musically mediocre and lyrically impoverished herbert who has alienated every decent musician he has ever played with, and thus is backed by the journeyman you were subjected to.

Guy K said...

Ian - thanks for posting this. I could drivel on about this subject/topic but that would be a hijack. You speak for many of us I think. And you make it funny rather than an old man rant. Thanks.

Nathan said...

I had tickets to see Morrissey twice. He cancelled shortly before the date both times. When he was supposed to play the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis I asked the pleasant woman refunding my ticket if they intended to reschedule and she laughed out loud.

I do not believe I am being controversial when I say that Morrissey has not released a great album since 1988. He absolutely has to have someone extremely talented to play off of. When he had Marr he was a genius. When he had Stephen Street and Vini Reilly I think he was equally good. For me it has been all downhill from there. The music he has produced with Boorer and Whyte is so ordinary it literally hurts my feelings. And the fucker has the cheek to remaster those records with different artwork and B-sides. It is embarrassing.

At least Marr had the good sense to join The The. He also at least tried to do something interesting with Bernard Sumner.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Johnny Marr's now on tour doing the same thing - desecrating The Smiths' back catalogue. The Sumner/Marr project with Electronic was great - much better than latter day New Order.