Morrissey preached to the choir on Friday night, filling the grand Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with converted fanboys and fangirls of all stripes. He seemed in fine health, but apparently after the Portland show, he was suffering over the weekend with double pneumonia (not hospitalized as originally reported), resulting in the postponement of Saturday's show in San Francisco. I didn't seen any evidence of his ailment at Friday's show, which was announced as sold out on the box office window, although it seemed there were empty seats in the venue.
His band all wore matching T-shirts which I think said "Seaholm," a reference I wasn't familiar with, and they tore through a reasonably varied set of Morrissey hits past and present, concluding with a short run of Smiths tunes for good measure. Highlights were a rarely played "Ouija Board, Ouija Board," new song "Action Is My Middle Name," and the obligatory "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want," which closed the pre-encore set. Moz also offered the much derided "Meat Is Murder," performed in front of a backdrop of disturbingly graphic footage of animal slaughter at factory farms. Sure, it was overwrought and heavy-handed, but the stunt also contained more showmanship and emotional purchase than virtually any other moment in the perfunctory-seeming set. Its competition, of course, was the moment—rather early on—when Moz first took off his shirt, throwing it into the crowd and bolting offstage wearing what looked like a freshly pressed version of the exact same shirt. (If I recall, the shirt came off again later in the evening.)
Needless to say, fans ate it up. I personally thought the band sounded cloddish and hamfisted, although the pryness of those older Smiths songs is tough to replicate in a room the size of the Schnitz. Early on, Morrissey invited everyone down to crowd the front of the stage in order to smell his cologne, which resulted in an ongoing battle between the throng and security. Later, Moz even offered an online apology for the Schnitz's security, which he described as "extreme and silly," adding, "Place an obese McDonalds fry-girl into a venue security uniform and she is suddenly Eva Braun." I didn't notice any overt conflicts between security and the crowd, except when people tried to jump up on the stage (one got through and embraced the man). Morrissey also at one point handed the mic down to the crowd, allowing a few people to gush allegiance to their hero. It could have gone disastrously wrong, but it ended up being pretty cute.
Still, I couldn't help feeling that, from a musical standpoint, the show was mostly uninspired. It felt short, but I was glad when it ended—the invariable highlights came during Morrissey's brief in-between-song banter rather than any supposed liftoff from the songs themselves (classic or otherwise). Remaining relatively indifferent to Morrissey's catalog as well as the Smiths—please note I said "relatively"; this is in comparison to the insane zealousness of his fanbase—I was hoping that seeing Morrissey live would activate the dormant Moz receptors in my brain and I'd all of a sudden "get" all the slavish devotion the man's discography earns. That wasn't the case. I left the show with my existing non-allegiance more or less undisturbed by Morrissey's physical presence.
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