Live in L.A. Morrissey at the Hollywood Bowl, June 8
All the elements of a going-down-in-history Morrissey concert were there: sold-out behemoth venue, two full hours, tight band, a whopping ten stage-divers, and the pre-show hubbub that always looks like an arts 'n' crafts fair of homemade Moz-inspired get-ups. It's one thing to slap on some pomade and cuff your jeans. It's another to dress specifically like Marlon Brando from The Wild One.
Wearing a white suit as if he were a killer shark sniffing meat-infested blood, Morrissey opened his third local date with a bang, ripping into “The Queen is Dead” while a backdrop of black-and-white James Dean (the king of all cool iconography) pictures watched over him. All the Smiths' pickin's were ripe, including the yodel-licious “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side,” where he sounds like he's climbing a mountain with the von Trapp family, and Johnny Marr's psychedelic opus “How Soon Is Now?,” which current skinsman Matthew Walker turned into a thunderous powwow. In fact, all the songs were given an extra razzle-dazzle 'em effect: sleazy horns here, more wah wah guitar there. Morrissey's also wise about the solo material he's faithful to, from perennial early classics “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” to newer cuts off his last two recent albums, including “Irish Blood, English Heart,” “The First of the Gang to Die” and “In the Future When All's Well,” which easily stand out as some of his best.
Moz's between-song banter can fill an entire album, and he was extra chatty during this show, giving shout-outs to The Cat & Fiddle, the Hollywood British pub where we locals like to stal....uh, accidentally and occasionally spot him and Julia Riley – one of those superfan nuts who schleps around with him from tour to tour, and whom Morrissey acknowledges at every stop. (If we didn't have this darn job...) He shook more hands than Mother Teresa in a leper colony, and when one audience member's attempt at stage-diving (which he once described in Mojo magazine as a “gentle ballet”) failed, he quipped, “Nice try.”
Despite the generally stellar show, there were a few unintentional LOL and WTF moments, though. First of all, Morrissey has a habit of frequently changing his lyrics, which can get in the way of the sing-along fun. Second, all his signature moves seem to have disappeared: no swinging the microphone cord, no finger wagging, no genuflecting. He occasionally looked listless, and during an extended version of “Life Is a Pigsty,” he lay down on stage with his legs resting on the podium. Dramatic effect or nap time? And third, he's forgotten the art of seduction. The customary removal and tossing of his shirts used to take longer. Where once Morrissey disrobed one button at a time, he now simply rips 'em open with wild and cheesy abandon. Morrissey's Boylesque Review or Chippendales? And it doesn't help that he no longer looks like he's living off tea and no sympathy. The boy has gotten bigger than others, but our faith in him is still devout.
– Siran Babayan
(Photos on this page by Siran Babayan)