“Are you feeling anything?” Morrissey asked the crowd on Wednesday night (October 10) at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. “Are you still breathing? How the hell do you know?”
The crowd was definitely feeling something: entranced, enthralled, and left wanting more — more music in general, of course, and for more Smiths songs, of which Moz played a mere five.
At the first of his three New York shows this week, Morrissey showed that he’s still got his soaring croon and flair for the dramatic, which permeates his every move up on the stage. Backed by his band of “killjoys” (or so say their t-shirts), he simultaneously sauntered and ripped through the seemingly random selection of his discography he’d chosen for this North American tour.
Because it’s Morrissey and of course he would, he started things off on a dour note with The Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.” He followed with a handful of songs from the ’00s and early solo single “You’re The One For Me, Fatty,” before delving into a truly sinister “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” and his classic “Everyday Is Like Sunday.”
Amidst numerous shirt changes and background swaps (one of which was Moz’s idol Oscar Wilde asking, “Who is Morrissey?”), he offered up unreleased song “People Are The Same Everywhere” and the Frankie Valli cover he recently performed on Fallon, “To Give (The Reason I Live).” Moz’s band, particularly his bassist, went above and beyond bringing the energy on “I’m OK By Myself,” off 2009’s “Years of Refusal.” However, the band’s techno intro to “Let Me Kiss You,” off 2004’s “You Are The Quarry,” was thoroughly unnecessary. All was redeemed with a stunning “I Know It’s Over,” all drenched in blue light and sadness.
In the middle of the set, Morrissey addressed an 11-year-old boy named Kyle in the front row, whose age elicited “awwww’s” from the crowd. Moz drily noted that his mom almost named him Kyle and moved right along, though it would not be his last interaction with a young fan last night. During the show’s encore of “Still Ill,” a boy jumped onstage, hugged Morrissey, handed him a rose, and was gently removed by security. Watching fans show their extreme adoration of a man who is, at his core, deeply self-loathing remains a fascinating paradox.
The rose incident set off a series of daring fan behavior, with a number of men clamoring onto the stage under the impression that the numerous guards protecting Morrissey would also go easy on them. People pushed and shoved as Moz shook hands with the front row, and a black bra was tossed onstage (and quickly tossed back by Moz). It was about as close to a mosh pit as one will get at a Morrissey concert these days, sadly.
Morrissey may do things some fans don’t exactly prefer, like stripping off his shirt, showing animal cruelty videos during “Meat Is Murder” or playing too much material from the current century, but there’s little doubt that Morrissey puts on a good show. His stage banter is bizarre and sardonic and exactly what you’d expect. His band is top-notch. Above all, it’s rare these days to see a hyper-literate artist succeed as an over-the-top entertainer.