By GABE MELINE
City National Civic, San Jose
May 7, 2014
Better than: Morrissey getting mobbed and leaving after just one song, I guess.
The crowd cheered on their fearless, vicarious hero. He'd surmounted the mighty barricade, paddled through the moat of security, scaled the stage, and was now mere feet from his idol. But suddenly, a bouncer's hand grabbed his shirt, ripping it from his pale body. Shirtless, the fan nonetheless continued his trajectory and completed his task: he victoriously hugged Morrissey.
The bouncer held the torn shirt and laughed.
Stop me if you think you've heard this one before: Morrissey fans have a penchant for jumping on the gilded stage of their idol and hugging him. Such a penchant, in fact, that Morrissey sometimes fears for his safety and leaves the stage. This usually happens during the encore set of the show, i.e. when the show is nearly over anyway.
That's how Morrissey's show last night at the San Jose Civic Center ended -- with one, then two, then dozens of fans attempting to get close to the singer during "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell." It was not graceful. It was not orderly. It was a near-riot on the stage.
But facts are facts: I've seen Morrissey three times before last night's U.S. tour kickoff, and I've seen this very thing happen again and again. Hardcore fans call it a "stage invasion." Morrissey is used to it. It always happens during his last song, and if it gets too rowdy, Morrissey makes a hasty exit. That won't stop TMZ and other sites from sensationally declaring that he was "ATTACKED ON STAGE" for pageviews -- and the poor shirtless hugging guy wandering the crowd afterward was mobbed himself by one hothead yelling, "Thanks for ruining the show, motherfucker!" -- but to my eyes, 20 feet away, Morrissey was fine. A little rattled, maybe, but unhurt.
You almost can't blame the fans for their zeal, since the mere fact that Morrissey showed up at all is a minor miracle these days. In the past two years, he's canceled four separate Bay Area shows, prompting this very site to announce last night's San Jose show with the headline "Morrissey Again Pretends He's Going to Play in the Bay Area."
But let's face it, the man is magnetic. At 54, he's as intriguing as ever, even in a show featuring new material and relatively few older classics. Set opener "Hand in Glove" served as a jubilant nod to the Smiths' first-ever single, and "Speedway," from the soon-to-be reissued 1994 album Vauxhall and I, increased the energy. But the newer material dragged, and not simply because it was unfamiliar.
"Now I should tell you," Morrissey deadpanned, "that a miracle has occurred, and we are about to release the follow-up to Viva Hate." That odd comment led into "World Peace is None of Your Business," a flat song failing to live up to its lofty title, and later, "The Bullfighter Dies" and "Earth is the Loneliest Planet," both so-so.
Morrissey has always peddled in malaise and discontent, but last night, he came off bleaker than ever. Or, at least, very specific in his bleakness. The government is keeping you down, voting is useless, police want to beat you and send you back to the ghetto to kill yourself: these are far cries from the simple themes of "Every Day is Like Sunday," which sounded downright happy in context. When, during the first encore, he beautifully performed "Asleep" (the first-ever post-Smiths performance of the song), its optimism of "there is a better world / there must be" was a reminder of what once existed as hope amidst the ruins. (Complaining about Morrissey being too bleak: I know, I know...)
Once traveling with a simple band of two guitars, bass, and drums, Morrissey's in-fine-shape vocals last night were augmented by a fantastic band that employed a rotating coterie of instruments: accordion, keyboard, triangle, clarinet, tenor saxophone, autoharp, trumpet, harmonica, gong. Sound effects and extra distortion from longtime bandmate Boz Boorer brought the close of "Meat is Murder" to a sludge-metal manifesto, and a "How Soon Is Now?"-esque guitar delay effect reimagined the ballad "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday." At other times, the band shed its accoutrements, emptying "Life is a Pigsty" as spare as an empty dungeon.
Thanks to the stage-crashers, there's no way to be sure what we might have missed had the show continued past the second encore. But one thing's clear: If Morrissey continues this tour in as fine a form as he was last night, he'll no doubt have to expect similarly rabid adulation in other cities.
Used to Be a Sweet Boy: You gotta love the pre-show video montage on this tour, featuring vintage clips of Moz's young-childhood heroes: The Ramones, Nico, Mott the Hoople, Charles Aznavour, Chris Andrews, Edith Sitwell, James Cagney, Allen Ginberg, the Move and West Side Story all set a perfect mood.
What She Said: Kudos to the security guard patting me down who quipped, "You excited about the show? I didn't know who he was, so I Googled him last night. And I called my boss and told him, 'Ooooh! I wanna work this show!'"
Hand in Glove
That's How People Grow Up
I Have Forgiven Jesus
World Peace Is None Of Your Business
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Yes, I Am Blind
The Bullfighter Dies
Life Is a Pigsty
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Earth Is The Loneliest Planet
Trouble Loves Me
Meat Is Murder
First of the Gang to Die
The Youngest Was the Most Loved
I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday
The National Front Disco
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell