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Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: Morrissey kicks off U.S. tour in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge moz.jpg

Phil Anselmo loves The Smiths. He stood, near the front of the stage at the Saenger Theater last night, among hundreds of adoring Morrissey fans (in their chunky glasses, black Doc Martens and slick-sided pompadours and crew cuts) as "Moz" took the stage to begin his U.S. tour.

Morrissey — in a black shirt with a gold lamé outline on its V-neck — has something of a flair for the dramatic, and here he acted as the star of his own opera, surrounded by the theater's ornate Baroque architecture and under its starry ceiling. He's capable of a kind of magnetism despite practically asking to be repulsed by it. He's a contradictory performer, chastising his audience while yearning for affection, which he also rejects. It's a part of his lifelong balancing act in justifying his contempt for humanity and his being a part of it.

On sale at the merch table: a pillowcase with a life-size Morrissey face and T-shirts with Morrissey's face blown up to the size of the shirt. 2015 Morrissey has at once come a long ways from and is very much the same as the person who wrote, "I never left an impression on anyone."

Swinging his microphone and darting his eyes to the ceiling and the crowd below, Morrissey and his strong-as-ever vulnerable baritone immediately removed any doubt he had lost any spirits as he launched into the the "why-y-y" and "so-oh-oh" of "Suedehead," the standout single from his 1988 debut Viva Hate. His crack five-piece band nailed the singer's taught, jangly Brit-pop and added stadium-sized volume to Morrissey's relentless catalog (though some punchy bass lines were stifled by the Saenger's volume control). He teased the crowd after his breathless introduction: "Do you feel entertained? Why?"

As expected, the band dedicated a chunk of the set to his 2014 album World Peace Is None of Your Business, his 10th LP and first since 2009's Years of Refusal. Live, the songs exploded past the album's polished wit. The album digs into animal cruelty ("The Bullfighter Dies," illustrated on stage with a bull impaling a bullfighter with his own spear) and the satirical, burn-the-institution "Kick the Bride Down the Aisle." ("It's just a suggestion," he told the crowd with an almost-laugh. "You don't have to.")

Morrissey pulled sparingly from his mid-aughts catalog; a highlight was "Ganglord," a slow, heavy indictment of the police state, performed alongside a montage of recent police violence against both people and animals. "I'm turning to you to save me," he pleads in the chorus, closing with, "They say 'to protect and serve' but what they really mean to say is 'get back to the ghetto'."

Morrissey preaches largely to his own choir, though — save the few dudes who screamed for a burger while a cow is slaughtered. That gentle condescension came to an aggressive head with a raucous, 10-minute performance of The Smiths' "Meat Is Murder," accompanied by a graphic montage of slaughterhouses and factory farm killings. Morrissey turned his back to the crowd as the song ended, seeming to stare at the screen or solemnly at his feet — most of the crowd did the latter or moved to the bar, or, perhaps, to the PETA table set up in the lobby. At the song's end, the screen flashed, "What's your excuse now?"

The song came in the middle of a five-song finale, including The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday" from Viva Hate. The band left the stage after "Now My Heart Is Full" and returned (Morrissey changed into a loose-fitting, half-unbuttoned white shirt) for The Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead." The screen flashed a meme-like photo of Queen Elizabeth II flipping the bird and a photo of Prince William and Kate with the cringe-y phrase "United King-Dumb." Maybe Moz is a Redditor.

"The Queen Is Dead," however, still resonates past its nearly 30-year-old age (queen: still alive), and the band hammered into the song's high-brow punk even as Morrissey ripped off his shirt and tossed it to the crowd. (Does he have a closet of shirts for this purpose for the whole tour? Or did he get the shirt back? Does he have a "shirt guy"?) The song also acts as his ongoing existential mission statement: "Has the world changed, or have I changed?"

Setlist:

"Suedehead"
"Staircase at the University
"Ganglord"
"World Peace Is None of Your Business"
"Speedway"
"Kiss Me A Lot"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"Istanbul"
"One of Our Own"
"Will Never Marry"
"The Bullfighter Dies"
"I'm Not a Man"
"My Dearest Love"
"Scandinavia"
"Kick the Bride Down the Aisle"
"The World Is Full of Crashing Bores"
"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" (The Smiths)
"Everyday Is Like Sunday"
"Meat Is Murder" (The Smiths)
"Now My Heart Is Full"
"The Queen Is Dead" (The Smiths)

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