Photo by Samuel Gehrke
Picture this: I am 15, living in the Bay Area, California, and I finally get some alone time with the guy I have been crushing on for years. I don’t have my license yet, and he has offered to drive me to where our friend group is meeting. When I climb into the passenger seat, he looks at me and says “Do you listen to the Smiths?” I had been in this trap before. Do I lie and say yes to a band I haven’t listened to in order to seem cooler? Or do I tell the truth and look lame? I chose the latter. “No, never taken the time to get into them.” He looked at me as if I had insulted his mother, then popped in his cassette of The Queen Is Dead.
Needless to say, I went home that day and researched everything I could about The Smiths and, by extension, everything I could about my crush’s personal lord and savior, Morrissey.
Four years later, I am an avid listener of The Smiths and on November 2nd, I found myself in the position to see Morrissey at the Paramount Theatre here in Seattle.
I knew we were in the right place when I saw the line outside the venue which was filled with more pleather jackets and eyeliner than I have seen (at least since I saw Paramore play back in high school). Once inside, I made my way through about 200 Morrissey look-alikes (most of them in their thirties) and parked myself in the mezzanine.
The show began with a half an hour (give or take) video installation that included footage of The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and from what I could tell, a video from the 70’s about a gay call boy. We were off to a good start.
After the last video, the lights dimmed down, and there he was: Morrissey, dressed in a fitted navy blazer with red piping, flared jeans with piping to match, and some swanky (and undoubtedly, pleather) heeled boots. His crowd of disciples all rose to their feet as he graciously bowed towards us. It felt a little bit like church, in a way. I was surrounded by people who looked and dressed like me, who all worshipped the same man as I did, as that boy back in San Jose did, and we were eager to hear his gospel. The setlist, which began with a cover of Elvis Presley’s “You’ll Be Gone”, was a mix of old and new tracks. Some songs were from his upcoming November 17th release, Low in High School, but others hailed from his days in The Smiths, of which he joked, “I was a small little skinny thing, as I am now”. This false modesty was charming coming from the legend that stood on stage. At 58 years old, Morrissey is as talented vocally as ever, and his stage presence was addictive. I was irrevocably drawn to his mannerisms on stage and it was impossible to look away. Anyone who has seen him perform knows that music seems to move within him with such ease, you believe he has been performing since birth. When he wasn’t bending down to sing into the eyes of some lucky so-and-so, he was pulling all of the classic drunk-dad-at-a-karaoke-bar moves he is known for.
Photo by Samuel Gehrke
There was no shortage of his ever-famous sass as well. Each song was introduced with a clever and catty twist of conversation that eventually led to the song title followed by a roar of audience approval and recognition. Morrissey touched upon events like the recent terror attack in New York (which he mistakenly called a shooting) and lamented about Donald Trump’s response, in which he called the attacker an “animal”. To that, the famously passionate and pessimistic musician responded “We are all animals!” The band then began the song “Meat is Murder”, Morrissey’s infamous anti-meat anthem, which was accompanied by graphic videos of animal slaughtering’s and factory abuse. As the videos played and the music crescendoed, Morrissey placed himself down, almost forcing the audience to watch the disturbing footage.
Admittedly, the show was filled with moments like this. During songs like “Poverty is None of Your Business”, photos were shown of impoverished countries. In between songs, Morrissey would often rant about anything from war to the media. At first, these lectures were exciting, but after a while, the monotony of Morrissey’s semi-passionate homilies sometimes overpowered the absolute electricity of his performance. It seemed like he had something new to complain about between every other song, and not one of these complaints was anything new. In that sense, it really was like going to church, but in another, it is nice once in while to gather under a single roof with like minded people and experience something holy.
SHELBY JOY LEONE | Sick Sad Girl | KXSU Music Reporter