Morrissey at Mizner Park Ampitheatre

Morrissey
July 14, 2007
Mizner Park Ampitheatre

mozzer.jpg
Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy

Better Than: For Morrissey fans: everything besides sex. But then again, considering that Mozzer is famously “asexual,” for some diehard fans even that may not be the case…

The Review:
There is a famous Baroque sculpture in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, called The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Much can be said about the monumental marble work’s volume, dramatic diagonal composition, and so forth. But the most remarkable feature is the saint’s facial expression, as she’s accosted by an angel and looks towards the heavens: a mixture of shock, rapt attention, and a controlled spiritual (and maybe physical) frenzy.

Looking into the crowd at a Morrissey concert, the visage of nearly every audience member is the same. At his Saturday stop at Mizner Park Ampitheatre in Boca Raton, it was well deserved. The moping Mancunian gave a trademark dramatic but classy performance, playing for over an hour and a half despite the spirit-crushing heat of in the outdoor venue.

Openers Kristeenyoung held their own in a difficult slot, on a huge stage, in still-broad daylight. Rather than bunch together in the center, singer/pianist Kristine Young and drummer “Baby” Jeff White dispersed to opposite sides of the stage, playing in front of a large white sheet. The wiry, taught Young appeared in true dark romantic style, in a black shift dress with a bejeweled neck, and what looked like lacy ribbons tied around her wrists. White riffed on the look with a black porkpie hat and drainpipe slacks.

Together, they make music that is full of dramatic stops and starts, building an anxious tension underscored by the angry, robust sounds Young bangs through her electric piano. The frontwoman also often hits a tone strikingly similar to that of Kate Bush. It’s an arresting raw start, but one that seems a little skeletal still onstage. Perhaps it was, after all, the large physical distance between Young and White. Still, Young managed to step away from her stationary instrument when she could. For an unsigned band who is self-proclaimedly too poor to get a bassist, opening for Morrissey must be nervewracking indeed. By the duo’s next outing they will most likely have grown comfortably into a larger stage show.

By the end of their set, night had fallen, and the sheet became a screen for an assortment of oh-so-Morrissey vintage film clips. And the small space in front of the first row of the field’s folding chairs turned into a tight clot of rabid fans invading from all sides. The security guards soon gave up trying to make them disperse.

In a way, it must be hard to be Morrissey. A near-messianic figure for his fans. An object of quasi-obsessive admiration. A de facto spokesperson for a couple generations now of countless slightly dark, sensitive types, superintellectuals who know that “Keats” doesn’t rhyme with “Yeats.” A man whose stage gets rushed by gays, straights, men, women, teenagers, fortysomethings. But as he appeared, in front of a Warhol-type backdrop of James Dean photos, with a backing band of pretty, clean-cut rockabillyesque types, he seemed humble. Looking dapper in a full, dark blue suit and a skinny red tie, he quickly launched into “The Queen is Dead,” the title track from the album by his first band, the Smiths. From the front, someone tossed a few funereal calla lilies towards him.

The formerly gawky singer has thickened in middle age, and has abandoned his trademark fey twisty dance moves. Instead, Morrissey now has a way with his microphone cord, swinging and looping it as if it were a lasso. But he moved across the proscenium with the manner of a practiced showman, even if he looked slightly awed by the adulation of the audience. And the man went through several costume changes, probably at least five shirts after the first suit. At one point, he stripped off an oxford number, revealing a surprisingly fit torso, and eliciting probably the only shrieks over a 47-year-old northern English man to be heard in South Florida for a while.

The set was a mix of a few Smiths songs, a few solo classics, a B-side or two, and a couple new tunes. Some serious classics were conspicuously left out: “Suedehead,” “There is A Light That Never Goes Out,” “Ask,” “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before,” “Hairdresser on Fire,” etc. But with such a huge catalog of material (four to sevenish Smiths albums depending on how you count, eight solo studio albums), some curating has to be done. The selection was democratic enough that probably everyone heard a few personal favorites.

While almost every song was a slightly nihilistic elegy for the death of romance, some even more powerful emotional points were notable. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” was a rousing ballad sung along to by thousands of former misfits, with Morrissey kneeling center stage by song’s end. It was a dramatic, rousing series of moments, enough to squeeze an errant tear or two out of more than a few bespectacled or kohl-rimmed eyes, including, oh, mine. He even toyed with the lyrics a bit: “So for once in my life/Let me get who I want/Lord knows, it would be the first time.” Oh, Morrissey, you so understand.

Later, a track from his latest album, Ringleader of the Tormenters, “Life is a Pigsty,” proved another cathartic peak.

But the heat! Early on, Moz announced that he found it overwhelming; by the end, he was swooning, and it didn’t appear to be from the power of his own words. So an encore was limited to just one song, “You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side.” Still, he had played 20 others already, and a Morrissey crowd would have him perform possibly forever. And while the man's a figurehead of sorts, in the end, he’s just a human, one who needs to be loved. Just like everybody else. – Arielle Castillo

Morrissey set list:

1. The Queen is Dead
2. The Last of the Famous International Playboys
3. In the Future When All’s Well
4. You Have Killed Me
5. Disappointed
6. The National Front Disco
7. Let Me Kiss You
8. Girlfriend in a Coma
9. Every Day Is Like Sunday
10. All You Need Is Me
11. The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
12. First of the Gang to Die
13. I Will See You in Far Off Places
14. That’s How People Grow Up
15. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
16. Irish Blood, English Heart
17. At Last I Am Born
18. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
19. Life Is a Pigsty
20. How Soon is Now?

Encore:
21. You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I’m one of those uberdorky Smiths/Morrissey fans, the kind who spent my teenage and college years artfully moping around in the dark, in black-frame glasses, thinking about how “Half a Person” really spoke to me. Oh hell, I still do that sometimes. Call me morbid, call me pale….

Random Detail: Between the end of Kristeenyoung’s set and the beginning of Morrissey’s, vintage film clips played: cabaret singers, musicals, and – surprise! – some James Dean.

By The Way: Some PETA people hung a giant handpainted banner from the second level reading “MEAT=MURDER/PETA=LIFE.” The vegetarian Moz gave them a shout-out and a wave about halfway through his set.


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