27 October 2007

Morrissey @ Hammerstein Ballroom - 26 October 2007

"Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight..."

Morrissey sure does know his audience. Not that this is some great feat, I'm sure that each of you know his audience, but it's worth keeping in mind when considering how such a little thing can sometimes make such a big difference. Fans obsess over his (and his band's) every move. From his choice of apparel (tonight, jeans and two different designer shirts before moving on to his standard encore shirt), to detailing each word he utters between songs, to knowing, researching, and noting his pre-show music. It goes even deeper than this, but it is Morrissey's intro song that shook my world (hyperbole) and set the tone for last night.

Night three of Morrissey's five-show run at the Hammerstein Ballroom brought with it an obvious change. Due to her churlish demeanor, Kristeen Young was asked to leave the tour and was replaced by Girl In A Coma. A minor change really - Morrissey has never been known for his impeccable taste in openers - but worth noting, if only for the fact that the song "That's How People Grow Up" includes clips of Kristeen's wailing vocals. Would they play it? Anticipation.

Everything after the opening band remained the same as the first two shows - pop icon imagery played out on a large screen concealing the stage. On cue, right at 9:00pm, the curtain dropped and I waited for that voice. "Adolf Hitler," she would say. I considered that I was nearly ready to mouth along with each word of "Imperfect List" by this point. And then... THIS IS DIFFERENT. I said that, outloud. "This is different, whoa this is different," I lumpishly noted (to myself, or whoever else might be listening). It wasn't the same old, same old, it was... synths and operatic singing... Klaus Nomi?? Was this the Kill Uncle tour intro song?! Wow. If deciding to replace* longtime intro "Imperfect List" with "Wayward Sisters" was a sign of anything, it would seem that Morrissey was washing himself clean of the whole matter with Kristeen Young. At the very least, here he was setting an entirely different tone for those of us in for all five nights. It made me smile - the band took the stage.

From the first strum of the guitar in the second song the audience erupted. It was chaotic, frenzied, and entirely expected. This was a Friday night audience, loosened up with a few more drinks than previous nights, and ready for their Morrissey. Actually, they welcomed the band to the stage with uproarious applause before, and after, "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"; but it was right when "Billy Budd" crashed into the room that the night saw the first of many crowd surfers. The energy was amorous, dangerous, desperate, and perfect. However, it seemingly took the band a few minutes to fully understand this and then rise to the crowd's level of enthusiasm. For those interested in assigning rankings and random numerical ratings to art, the band's early-set lethargy, coupled with what I'd say was the weakest of the three setlists so far, leads me to call this show an 8.5/10. It was merely the second best show out of the three thus far, and yet still a far better concert than I'm likely to see delivered by any other artist not named Morrissey.

Highlights from the evening were the new additions to the set not yet heard on nights one or two - "Ganglord", "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy", and "Life is a Pigsty" - as well as the songs that have quickly become my live favorites this time around (namely, "The Loop", "Death of a Disco Dancer", "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?", and every song written since 2003 (they all truly show off the man's voice impossibly well)). And if you're keeping score, they did indeed play "That's How People Grow Up", complete with banshee vocals and all. I felt a moment of weirdness about the whole thing but Morrissey just cruised right through the awkwardness, controlling the song and keeping Kristeen Young's vocals right where they belong, in the background. It's impossible at this point in Morrissey's career not to be reminded of two men he loved and idolized growing up, both of whom were identifiable by one name only. Elvis and Frank.

Frankly, Mr. Morrissey has grown quite nicely into his role as a pop icon. He's matured as a performer and as a singer. Gone are the fussy antics that led to thirty minute (if at all) long sets in the early nineties and in their place is a man well aware of just who he is, who his audience is, and of precisely how to mix things up over a five night series of concerts so that each and every person goes home with a smile thinking "this night has opened my eyes."

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
Billy Budd
All You Need Is Me
Irish Blood, English Heart
Shoplifters Of The World Unite
That's How People Grow Up
I Just Want To See The Boy Happy
Death Of A Disco Dancer
The Loop
Jack The Ripper
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?
Sister, I'm A Poet
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Stretch Out And Wait
Life is a Pigsty
How Soon Is Now?
First of the Gang to Die

"Wayward Sisters" by Klaus Nomi

"Shoplifters Of The World Unite " (live from this show)
"Sister I'm A Poet" (live from this show)

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


*it turns out that "Wayward Sisters" has already been used on this tour.
**above photo from HERE.