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Current Mood: accomplished
On September 14th, 2002, I saw Morrissey live for the first time. I had been into Morrissey and the Smiths for several years, but I was just hitting my “obsession” phase, and I was elated. At this time, he had several new songs ready to go, but no record contract. He hadn’t released an album since 1997’s “Maladjusted,” and I was continually disappointed by stories of broken-off negotiations with this or that record label. But for whatever reason, he toured anyway. And I got to see him here in the Bay Area at the U.C. Berkeley campus’ Greek Theater, where I had just months before walked across during my own graduation.
Standing outdoors in a disappointingly-half-full amphitheater, Jessica and I watched in awe as Morrissey serenaded us with his new songs and his old. It was the first show “Irish Blood, English Heart” was ever played. Also included were “The First Of The Gang To Die”, “Mexico”, “I Like You”, and “The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores”, all of which would eventually show up in the “You Are The Quarry” sessions, though of course we didn’t know it then. And in this tour, where Morrissey was just getting to where he’d comfortably play Smiths songs with his solo band, he finished us off with an encore of “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.” We were practically in tears. (See the details of that show here.)
I failed at other attempts to see him, including the ill-fated “Now & Zen Festival” back in September of 2004. And so all this time… it was not until this weekend… 2007… that I would get to see him for a second and third time.
Friday, April 27th, 2007 – Stockton, CA
Unfortunately, Sus was unable to join us for this show, so it was just Shel, Nick, and I. After a long drive out to semi-rural (and fully-ugly) Stockton, and a quick and hot change out of my work clothes in the back of my car, the three of us had time to eat (at some Moo Moo place?) and relax a bit. The Bob Hope Theater was a great venue, with a gargantuan flashing marquee out front and the kind of ornate interior that would suit a metropolitan opera house. Security was tight, so there was no getting cameras past the metal-detecting wands. But there was phone reception, so the show was ever-lit by a sea of cell phone camera screens. We met up with Pedro from the Choir Boys who “sat” with us, though none of us really sat. (More on that in a moment.) All the Bay Area regulars were there (Christian, Tom, and the crew that always surround them, as well as some folks we recognized from our recent Sacramento TCB show, David T from Morrissey-Solo, and a bunch of others). There’s some new merch for this tour, including some boxing-themed “Greatest Hits Tour” t-shirts and even some shirts referencing the “Mozzer Posse,” which I wonder might be an attempt to capitalize on the “Moz Krew?”
We had great seats in the front row, and though security assured me they had it under control, the second Moz walked out on stage, everyone rushed to the front, standing. We were prepared though, and we all got right up front. The stage was literally to about my stomach, and with a step all the way around, it was no problem for anyone who had the urge to vault themselves right on stage, including myself. I could never have imagined a Morrissey concert so up close and accessible… such a far cry from the usual fence, gap, and army or bouncers that usually separate him from us. There was a row of security folks with their backs against the stage, but they were pretty useless. This venue had absolutely no idea what they were in for. There were some pushy and crazy bitches that put a bit of a damper on us being in the front, as they were all-too-willing to wrestle their way to the front, but being a giant, I wasn’t too affected. One particular drunken and clueless crazy was a thorn in Shel’s side, trying to get Moz to autograph a shirt during the show.
They played new and old, as well as Smiths, opening with “Queen Is Dead.” But Holiest of Holy moments, during the third song… Morrissey walked to our part of the stagefront and reached out, looked into my eyes, and shook my hand. To clarify, mine was not one of a bunch of hands scrambling for a fleeting brush of his skin… I mean he shook MY hand. (If you’re curious, I can now cure the sick and lame by laying my right hand upon them.) I was all smiles and giddiness for the rest of the night, singing along and dancing. At a later point, he shook another fan’s hand, which happened to slip off one of Moz’s rings! He noticed was gone and politely signalled “give it back” which luckily the fan did without protest. During one of the breaks between songs, book and T.V. scholar that he is, Morrissey starts talking about how Stockton is famous for the old show “Big Valley.” He asked the crowd if they remember it… then walks right over to me and puts the microphone in my face and asks, “Do you remember?” And in my shock, I can only say, “I don’t remember.” And then the next song began. If there is a bootleg of this show available, you will hear me speaking into the mic. I don’t really know what else to say about that. How about “holy shit!?”
Morrissey’s own security guys were quick to tackle anyone who gave into the temptation to jump onto the stage, though a few of the 30 or so who tried actually got to hug him. A few times, the security guys performed some pretty ruthless tackles. The worst part was that there was nowhere to put the stage invaders after they were caught… so they were literally thrown back into the crowd, sometimes right on top of innocent us! I was not amused at my near run-ins with kicks to the face by these flailing throw-backs. Security here was batting .000 in my book. Finally, during the encore, things started to get really rowdy, with people jumping the stage left and right. Finally, one crazy asshole clotheslined Moz, ripping his shirt and causing him to wave goodbye and disappear mid-song. The band quickly abandoned the song and disappeared in a matter of moments… the show was ended prematurely at that moment, due to the fact that security had lost control. I certainly don’t blame Moz for getting out of there! I wonder if that crazy fan made it out alive…
We were all so pleased with the event, though Sus was severely missed. We even made it back to San Francisco at a decent hour.
Saturday, April 28th, 2007 – Sparks, NV
For the next day’s show, Shel had to stay home, but we got Orlando this time, and Sus was able to make it! We drove up to Sparks in two cars, having the kind of racing and cell phone prank calls that only happen during multi-car road trips. I have a lot of family in Reno (right next to Sparks), but there was no time to visit them on this trip. We all stayed at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, where Morrissey was playing two nights in a row in the Celebrity Showroom.
I just realized I haven’t talked about the actual shows much. At both shows, I was entertained by Morrissey’s many facial expressions while singing. His classic mic-cord whipping was in full swing, and he rolled on the floor once or twice. He doesn’t seem to have slowed down much. The sound quality at the venues was great. The light show was great. The newest drummer did some good work with a giant gong and another giant drum of some sort (Nick, help me out here?). They played gritty and hard versions of newer ones like “Ganglord” as well as a fantastic new song called “All You Need Is Me.” Boz played the water glasses (with a stick) during the first half of “Life Is A Pigsty,” amusingly drinking water from them while playing, presumably to change their tone. He also had no problems getting right to the front of the stage and rocking out within grabbing distance several times, though I had the good sense not to tug at him while he was playing. Although I’m not a fan of Jesse, he’s plenty competent on guitar. That being said, I much prefer Alain.
Some of the same crazy bitches were at this show, and at one point one of them threw a book at Moz and was cussing him out! With the increased casino security, very few people attempted to get onto the stage, and the ones who did got nothing less than a karate chop to the face before being carted off well before getting within reach of Morrissey. The upside of this was that they were able to play all their songs without having to call the show early. They were surprisingly lax on cameras though, and I saw many folks filming away.
At a point when Morrissey threw his sweaty shirt out into the crowd, our own man Nick was right in the fray and ended up getting a huge piece of it. He cut me off a piece of the precious garment, which still smells like Moz. At least I think that’s what that smell is. I will cherish it always. 🙂
After the show, the band (sans Moz himself) came out through the casino. Boz manged to sneak out the side, largely unnoticed, but we saw him. Sus introduced me, and I got to shake his hand. He’d left me a drunken voicemail not too long ago, so I thought it was only right we met in person. He seemed like a lot of fun, but of course we didn’t want to bug him. He and the rest of the band made their rounds for hours in the casino (which of course, never sleeps).
This was a great place for a show. It’s a casino, so there’s stuff to do there literally all night. The drinking and smoking and gambling doesn’t stop. We ran into all the usuals there while we had drinks and late-night breakfast. We ran into them all again this morning during regular breakfast, checking out, etc. It was like a convention… all of these little cliques of Morrissey fans (our TCB/Sus/Shel clique among them) all staying in the same huge hotel, all seeing the same show, all lingering around the same restaurant and gambling hall and bar. All loosely or accutely aware of each other’s role in the community. There’s that DJ. There’s that promoter. There’s that tribute band singer. There’s that guy I see at every Moz concert. There’s that girl who knows a girl who’s dating the guy that cleans Morrissey’s pool. Et cetera, et cetera. All here for there same reason. All silently participating in this unspoken bond of camaraderie and competition with every other fan there. Pompadours and sideburns as far as the eye can see. All converging on one place at one time. Its own little world living together for one night in this casino, with our icons like Boz literally walking right by us every so often, and Morrissey himself, somewhere above us, in this very building. Very bizarre, but totally uplifting. Very close to perfection. I loved every minute.
The Near Future
And as if all this weren’t enough, Tuesday I’ll be in Oakland and Wednesday in Santa Rosa… again with Sus, Shel, Orlie, and Nick… and even Sarah! I am so fortunate to have been able to effectively quintuple my live Morrissey experience in just six days. And I’m now worlds away in terms of my actual experiences at the shows. In the last year, I’ve shared a stage and played guitar with Alain Whyte, received a voicemail from and a personal introduction to Boz Boorer, and shaken hands with, collected a shirt sample from, and spoken on mic with Morrissey himself. Holy shit. No, seriously, holy fucking shit. Thanks to all the friends who made this such a great weekend, and especially to Sus whose selflessness has made this all possible. You have absolutely no equal in this department. I am looking so forward to the rest of this week…
The quote of the week, I am giddy to say, comes from Boz Boorer himself:
Sus: “Hey Boz, this is my friend Benjamin. He plays guitar in a Smiths tribute band.”
Boz (with a big smile): “So do I!”