Morrissey at the Gibson Amphitheater, December 10
It's no surprise SoCal is the last stop on Morrissey's current tour. He may be homeless and rootless at the moment, but L.A. has always been the big bosom of his fan base. And with the media curiosity over his local popularity fading years ago, only the diehards packed the Gibson. (Who knew McLovin, a.k.a. Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad, liked McMoz?)
With or without The Smiths, Morrissey has always been a visual nod to the past. For a backdrop, he used a menacing black-and-white photo of an Italian actor named Walter Chiari, while the pre-show video clips included the New York Dolls on Germany's Musikladen in 1973 and an interview with a blond Lou Reed in which he's asked whether he's a homosexual or a transvestite.
As far as song selections go, Morrissey's never been one to cater to the audience by sticking to old hits. Though he opened with a nicely thrashed "This Charming Man" and later worked in more Smiths material, much of the set list was culled from his latest album Swords, a compilation of B-sides from his last three records, including the flamenco flair of "When Last I Spoke to Carol," during which a crowd surfer made it onto the stage. When seeing Morrissey live, stage divers are de rigueur, and there were a few failed attempts. Couldn't tell whether it was a man or a woman, but nice butt crack.
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No snazzy Gucci suit this time. Instead, Morrissey wore a polka dot shirt and black slacks (how cute was the heart-shaped sweat stain on his back?), while his band were in all black. After announcing each member's name -- guitarists Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias, bassist Solomon Walker, drummer Matt Walker, and new man/keyboardist Gustavo Manzur, who also added a nice touch with his accordion on "Why Don't You Find Out for Yourself?" (pretend The Killers never recorded their cover back in 2004) -- he introduced himself as George Lopez, a joking reference to his previous night's performance on Lopez Tonight.
Morrissey looks like he tires easily now, and he tends to skip over lyrics, but all that makes for some entertaining theatrics. He was curled up in his usual fetal position during "How Soon Is Now?" and grabbed his breasts on "Is It Really So Strange?" ("I can't help the way I feel.") "Death At One's Elbow," another Smiths track, and "The Loop," an early solo B-side, were complete surprises. But that's where Morrissey has always seemed most at home: shaking a tambourine and sticking to his rockabilly roots.
What's never a surprise, though, is that bottomless well of self-deprecating humor. "If you're 20,000 leagues under the sea, or you manage to find yourself part of a very private club, you know we've released a record called Swords," he said before introducing one of the new songs. And just how maladjusted and miserable can you be when grabbing a stack of gifts from a fan? At one point, Morrissey simply handed the mike over to the pit, where one woman begged him to "Please, please use the cough drops I gave you," followed by another lady who shouted "I want you, I need you, I love you Morrissey," to which he replied "It will pass."
Trying to keep more flinging bodies off the stage, the L.A.-inspired encore "First of the Gang To Die" went mostly un-sung. And then came the final, absolute and highly amusing de rigueur moment: the ripping off and tossing of the shirt, a Morrissey show's equivalent of catching the bouquet. Pardon another misuse of meat, but what a ham.