23 October 2007

Morrissey @ Hammerstein Ballroom - 22 October 2007

"A sad fact widely known..."

The last time Morrissey was in town was three years ago, 2004. That year I went and saw him perform seven different shows in New York City. Yes, seven. Five at the Apollo Theater, two at Radio City Music Hall (both of which are far superior venues to the Hammerstein Ballroom). Am I crazy? Was it worth it? Perhaps crazy, and most definitely worth it. Those five shows at the Apollo were some of the best live concert moments of my life. Over and over again, each night, for a week. I miss that feeling of seeing one of my most favorite performers one night and getting to do it all over again the very next night. Yes, I'm a fan of Morrissey. Fanatical.

I've called The Smiths my favorite band for about two decades or so now. I've lived the life of a devotee, styled my hair like Morrissey, taken the pilgrimage to Manchester, et cetera, and I'm not quite willing to completely let go of the man and the music that has so impacted my life. Therefore, when his current series of shows at Hammerstein was announced, I did what came naturally and bought tickets to all five shows. I'm just saying, consider this your warning, you'll be reading four more of these Morrissey @ Hammerstein reviews here on EAR FARM in the coming week.

Being a veteran of a Morrissey show or fifteen, I already knew the drill. Punctuality. Doors at 6:30, Kristeen Young at 8:00, Morrissey on stage right at 9:00. Therefore, I showed up around 8:30 and caught the very end of Kristeen's set while finding a perfect spot (up close, house left) to set up camp. Before the show a large screen descended upon the stage and images/scenes from a variety of old movies were shown. These were Morrissey's heroes. Morrissey's Morrisseys. Things such as a James Dean screen test, scenes with Brigitte Bardot singing, a clip of David Johansen backstage, and a particularly amusing clip from a film with two police officers talking about how they were about to "arrest Morrissey." Then, promptly at 8:58pm, the screen dropped and the house went dark. A familiar voice (to those of us who've seen Morrissey in concert in the past few years) came over the sound system. It was "Imperfect List" by Big Hard Excellent Fish. With baited anticipation I closed my eyes for a moment and smiled. Suddenly I was home again.

At 9:03pm Morrissey and his band took the stage. My first thought was "GAH! What is that ugly blue on blue "thing" he is wearing?!" Soon I let go of my issues with his wardrobe choice, but not until after he and his band plodded through "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" - not an ideal opener in my opinion. However, please keep things in perspective here. I would rather have been standing there hearing a stumbly version of an old Smiths song than nearly anywhere else on the planet. But yeah, I'd say the band didn't really get it together until midway through "London", if I'm being honest. It all seemed to be a bit of them just 'going through the motions' until the upright bass came out for "The Loop". That's the moment the show went from an average Morrissey show to a great Morrissey show.

There were a few more dips in the set ("Stretch Out And Wait" didn't exactly soar, however I adored hearing it so, so what?) but in general this was a top level Morrissey concert, perhaps an 8 out of 10 for me personally. He offered up his trademark between-song commentary and acknowledged not being able to make it to NYC previously "after a few coughs and a few sniffles" by jokingly saying "welcome to the Madison Square" and thanking the audience for being patient in waiting for him to come to town; at one point stating, "finally our little donkey made it to New York City."

Predictably, the band played "How Soon Is Now?" as their final song before the encore. A song that's reached near-"Stairway to Heaven" levels of mythos and one I'd be more than happy to not have to hear again during the remaining four shows (impossible). However, as I stood there taking in this most well-known of anthems by The Smiths it occurred to me that the band, and Morrissey, were delivering one of the finest renditions I'd heard yet (live that is) of "How Soon Is Now?" - and thinking back to last night, I'm totally fine with hearing this song for the one millionth time again in a mere eight hours. No, actually, I can't wait.

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
Sister I'm A Poet
The Loop
That's How People Grow Up
Jack The Ripper
I Like You
Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?
Stretch Out And Wait
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
Billy Budd
All You Need Is Me
Death Of A Disco Dancer
Irish Blood, English Heart
Shoplifters Of The World Unite
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
You Have Killed Me
How Soon Is Now?
First of the Gang to Die

"Imperfect List" (Mix 2) by Big Hard Excellent Fish

Download a lossless version of last night's concert HERE.

Remaining New York dates:
23 October @ Hammerstein Ballroom
26 October @ Hammerstein Ballroom
27 October @ Hammerstein Ballroom
28 October @ Hammerstein Ballroom

EF's "Southpaw" 8+ post

*above photo from HERE - I didn't bring my camera last night because they were SO strict in 2004 about cameras. so much so that they made people with camera phones check their phones at the coat check and retrieve them later. this wasn't the case last night, so hopefully I'll grab some pictures tonight.


Unknown said...

I wonder if we were in the same place? I was left of the stage/front...facing the stage.
Sounds like we had the same schedule too...I arrived just about 8:30 too...no K. young for me thank you very much!
I love what you said " I was home"...only a fellow fanatic can understand that.
Viva le Moz!

Anonymous said...

wow, the set list seems a lot more carrer encompassing than the shows a few years back. is the band still the same?

Matt said...

actually, and sadly, not the same band as a few years ago. Boz (guitar) and Mikey (keys) are still there, everyone else is different.

i had gotten quite attached to Alain Whyte and Gary Day. alas, time moves on. the new guys were all very good though.

Anonymous said...

Having seen Morrissey 10 times including 2 Smiths shows Beacon, and the Pier 86 I thought that it was a great show! Good mix of songs, he'll never play all you want but his voice was great and the band very talented.

Anonymous said...

After listening to Morrissey's music for 15 years (I was a late-adopter), I finally saw him for the first time in Waukegan last week, and then felt compelled to go to his other Chicago-area show in the hinterlands of northern Indiana on Saturday. And if he'd played 5 (or 7 or 9) shows in or around Chicago last week, I'd have gone to each and every one of them. He puts on a damned good show.

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