Friday night's performance from MORRISSEY, last week's Phoenix cover boy, was the platonic ideal of a Morrissey show; there was something for every type of fan. That meant the diehards/weirdos of all kinds populating the gorgeous hall like thickly sprouting arrangements of arrow-straight chrysanthemums had something to take home with them, either a romantic night spent with their favorite singer who can do no wrong, or a disappointing night with their favorite singer who constantly disappoints them. Sign me up for somewhere in the middle.
Disappointment is part of the package isn't it? Morrissey was in fine voice throughout the night, particularly on a smattering of old classics, three of which, unfortunately, happen to be on my list of the most skippable The Smiths songs. "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," mercifully edited the crashing piano intro to around a minute, before a version of the song that was impossible not to be seduced by. "So tell me how long, before the last one," Moz crooned.
Not too long, it would turn out -- the set was rather short, a common complaint among fans after the show. The last one in question, "How Soon Is Now," which he growled and balked through, letting the crowd do most of the singing on the chorus. If you don't want to play it old boy, just don't play it. "Meat Is Murder," on the other hand, was rather more sincerely ground through -- literally. The band worked up a horrifying musical approximation of the murderous sounds of the slaughterhouse, images of which played overhead on a giant video screen while Morrissey genuflected before it. Surprising to say that all these years later the message of the song is still as controversial as ever.
Banter was rather limited, save for a few quips. "Since I'm in Mass...I might as well kneel," he cracked earlier on, before kicking into "You're the One For Me, Fatty." "A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours" was a grinding calliope of sinister intentions.
Now that I'm looking over the setlist in retrospect, in the clear light of the next day, it looks a lot better than it seemed at the time -- the night, for its short run time, seemed to move rather slowly, with long stretches of forgettable newer material and plodding versions of lesser-played older songs that likely pleased completists, but made for some stretches of indifference for others. That's not coming from someone who disdains anything after Vauxhall and I by the way -- neo-classics like "You Have Killed Me" and "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" were beautifully wrought, with Morrissey repeating "nobody wants my love" on the latter, that statement ringing just as untrue as ever. Everyone here wanted his love.
Morrissey's contention that he "has no interest in Boston's history" was proved at one point, when he spoke about the stately room. "And of course... it's a pleasure, I think it's a pleasure, to be in the Winnie Wang Theater," or at least that's what it sounded like he said. "All made by Winnie herself. All that was made by Winnie Wang in her spare time," he said gesturing to the hall's magnificent fixtures. "When she ran out of ink she did the roof..."
Conjuring the ghosts of the historic hall's past was a good introduction to "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" with its harpsichord mincing and huge build up into a storm of guitar. Feedback and guitar noise was sort of the story of the night on many songs, in fact, with multi-instrumentalist Gustavo Santaolalla performing an extended feedback loop freakout from his keyboards; at one point -- Morrissey gone EDM
"Spring-Heeled Jim" was crunchy and growly and full of sharp guitar angles. "Scandanavia" was rather forgettable, save for its hugely pounding drum power. Other highlights included, of course, "Everyday is Like Sunday", and the gorgeous and romantic "Let Me Kiss You," at which point those of us in the un-Morrissey like position of being there with a date promptly did just that. Who many of us were imagining when we closed our eyes wasn't readily clear, of course.
"My interest in your election is sub minus zero," he said during one break. "Nothing ever changes." A fitting segue into "People Are the Same Everywhere."
As the night wound to a close, "I Know It's Over," perfectly done here, provided merciful release from indifferent versions of less interesting songs like "Fantastic Bird" and "I'm OK By Myself. The crowd, of course, remained enthused, at least in the front. What the single song encore of "How Soon Is Now" may have lacked in enthusiasm from the singer, it was made up for by some five or six successful onstage hugs, all of which were received warmly, sometimes the excited fan hugging Morrissey through the protecting arms of onstage security. That's a fitting image -- he does keep our love at a remove, doesn't he? But we're offering it anyway.