Morrissey: 40 Years of Morrissey In 80 Minutes

By Debbie Brautman | Photos: Jay Skolnick

On October 8, 2023, at The Hard Rock Live, the dedicated fans of Steven Morrissey, known simply as Morrissey, got 40 years of Morrissey in about 80 minutes, and although it was a super short concert, it fulfilled their Morrissey fix. At 8:30 p.m., instead of an opening act, there was a 38-minute film presentation to warm up the crowd. It had everything that meant something to Morrissey, from The Stooges song “Search and Destroy” playing with Vietnam war visuals of destruction to scenes of the movie To Sir With Love with Lulu singing. There were videos of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Judy Garland, Eddie Cochran and Roxy Music. The largest crowd response was when Sinéad O’Connor’s video of “Nothing Compares To You” came on and it was quite touching since her recent tragic death. The video of David Bowie performing Jacques Brel’s “My Death” also got a big response and death seemed to be the theme of the evening. Still, it would have been better to see Morrissey perform more of his 40 years’ worth of material, than 38 minutes of film.

At 9:08 pm, after photos of writer/civil rights activist, James Baldwin, flashed on screen, Morrissey appeared on stage and the buzz of excitement in the air was real. The pit near the stage was packed, as was the entire lower level but the upper two levels were closed off. He exclaimed, “So this is Hollywood, Wow!” Given his past reputation of canceling concerts and his case of dengue fever last month, it was quite a relief for him to be there. He said, “Welcome to my living room, this is my life, always with people.” Later he adds, “I am happy to be here, happy but not sane.” After performing his solo songs, “Suedehead,” “Alma Matters,” and “I Wish You Lonely,” he did one of his best songs, “How Soon Is Now?” from his highly successful English 80’s rock band, The Smiths. Morrissey’s voice was in fine form and his new guitarist Carmen Vandenberg beautifully handled the signature guitar work that original and brilliant guitarist Johnny Marr had devised. Morrissey’s relatively new band sounded great, especially Camilla Grey on all keyboards. She did a gorgeous piano solo before “Every Day is Like Sunday.” Drummer Brendan Buckley was eye candy with killer six-pack abs and cool hair. Morrissey, not so much, in a crumpled, frumpy suit that looked like he just got it at the Goodwill store. His once jet-black pompadour hair is much thinner and white/gray. As he looked up at himself on the large screen, he exclaimed, “I look terrible.” Still, he had a certain charm and was an intriguing performer. He had energy and danced his odd type of dance. He thanked the crowd numerous times and made some attempts at humor. He told of how he was invited onto an American morning TV show, and they wanted him to send them a song of his that would be morning friendly. He sent them “Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings.” Well, that song is a full-out loud rocker and he joked that “he hasn’t heard back from the TV show.”

In concert, he throws out statements like “I don’t even agree that I’m human,” and “I don’t want any labels.” Almost always controversial, he seems to constantly think he’s being unjustly persecuted but some of it has been deserved. In his 2013 autobiography, he comes off as very unlikeable. He did have a woe-is-me attitude tonight but was much more likable and appreciative. His voice was strong and on point and the show was interesting with variety. “Jack The Ripper” was dark and menacing with a smoke machine and visuals. A fan jumped on stage and was quickly escorted off. The new song “Notre Dame” was haunting and questions whether the 2019 fire of Notre Dame was accidental, as they claim, and “The Loop” was quite an infectious rocker. Introducing a new song, “The Night Pop Dropped” he said, “We have a new song that will completely ruin your night.” When introducing the song, “Frank,” a song about Frankenstein, he quips that it was a minor hit, and emphasizes, “OF COURSE it was MINOR.” Poor, poor Morrissey…. but he had a sympathetic crowd. The adoring audience soaked up every drop of his charm with delight. A few more fans jumped on stage, just wanting to be closer. One dedicated fan, Amanda B. said, “I’d pay to see him sing a Chinese take-away menu.”

Way too soon, they exit the stage at 10:25 pm, and Morrissey reappears this time in a cool black shirt, and he thanks the crowd for coming. He emphasizes, “The privilege is mine.” He mutters, “I’ll leave you with a lullaby” before breaking into the encore, “Speedway.” At the conclusion of the encore, only Brendan Buckley remains doing an explosive drum solo. Then the show ends in darkness with a video of a guy shooting himself with his brains splattering out and it is repeated over and over and over. The theme of death continues but let’s hope Morrissey never acts on that thought. Seeming him live is an experience and a good time was had by all.

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