About a half hour before Morrissey took to the stage Wednesday night at Strathmore, a video started to play that was a collection of different artists from the late ’60s on. The video contained artists like Shocking Blue, Nico, David Bowie and The New York Dolls, and while most artists will just play music prior to coming out, this felt like a quick primer on what to expect from Moz. Each band played like a tiny hint as to his influences. The melancholy lyrics of Nico. The mystery of Bowie. The flashiness of New York Dolls. So when the screen fell and Morrissey took the stage, he felt like an encapsulation of all these great artists and proved why he’s probably equally as great as all of them.
I’ve never personally taken to Morrissey. I love The Smiths, but his solo work, and mostly his personality, have kind of distracted me from ever really appreciating him. But seeing Morrissey live changed that, as he seamlessly transitioned from his solo work to The Smiths songs and back again. Morrissey was followed by his five band members, all dressed like he was, as they began with The Smiths’ “Shoplifters of the World Unite.” During the band’s next song, Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” the band proved that they were phenomenal, equalizing how great Morrissey sounded when he belted out.
After “Action Is My Middle Name,” a unreleased Morrissey song, Morrissey asked:
“Are you at peace? Could you be happier? So what.”
This cockiness and swagger always seemed sort of distracting from the music to me, but live, it’s endearing and adds greatly to his persona. Throughout the night, he bowed to the audience, would grab out to hands and seemed unphased when people screamed of their love to him and didn’t even seem to notice when a fan jumped on stage. Morrissey knows how great he is and it only took a few songs for me to agree.
The set was about 25% Smiths songs, 75% solo work, most of it from later albums, or not yet released. After a string of solo songs like ‘You Have Killed Me,” “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” and “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” he announced that “history can be made on a Wednesday,” and urged the audience even if they had a hard time working at PetCo, Walgreens or wherever, you should have a great time tonight.
Occasionally you would get the preachy Morrissey, talking about how it was recently discovered that horse meat was in burgers in England, and what exactly what was the difference between horses and cows? But then he would blow your mind wieh a rendition of “Still Ill,” and all was forgotten. During “Let Me Kiss You,” he ripped off his shirt, left the stage, then came for the spectacularly dark “Maladjusted.”
After a few more of his solo songs, he ended the night with a trio of beautiful renditions of some Smiths tracks. First was a very toned down, quiet version of “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” probably the nights most beautiful song. That was instantly followed by “Meat Is Murder,” in which a video played entitled “Meet Your Meat,” where videos of cows, chickens, etc. were shown, as red lights flashed maniacally. It seemed like many people were leaving during this song, taking this as their cue to leave to miss traffic. While it was a bit unsettling, the final song wasn’t to be missed, as he did a brilliant version of “How Soon Is Now?”
Morrissey live is kind of everything you’d expect from Morrissey: the cockiness, the dry wit, the occasional preaching. But altogether, this adds up to a fantastic package. It’s seeing a great legend, and as you watch him, you quickly realize that and so has Morrissey.