Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Believe I Will See You See You Somewhere Safe

Had to skip the very worthy Madison Area Music Awards and head out of town last night. It's a long story that's got nothing to do with the actual content of the show--in fact, I was really looking forward to seeing such acts as Bob Manor and the Getaway Drivers. Yet some very good and rather odd reasons arose. Groan.

Let's just say those reasons, among other shit, made it an all-too-perfect weekend for sulking in splendor with Morrissey at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.

Trying to understand all our strange emotional stirrings is like trying to read the facial expressions of a jar of leeches. So we magnify them and pretty them up and distort them until they make sense in our terms. And if anyone's guilty of doing this to excess, it's Morrissey, parading his doubt, anger, and pity with all the subtlety of a vaudeville show in a strip club on D-Day. This really means that Morrissey songs are horribly, perversely accurate, and that nobody wants to admit it. What a precious, self-involved twerp, and what a perfect companion for, well, anybody who can stomach the thought that they're one as well. Oddly enough, the few memories of mine that include Morrissey or Smiths songs are all pathetically precious.

So of course:

-His shirt came off during "Let Me Kiss You," just as he reached the line, "But when you open your eyes/ you see someone you physically despise," and he threw it into the audience and promptly trotted off stage to get a new one.

-Of the dozen or people who tried to rush the stage during the encore, the last was a skinny young man with an eerily perfect, lacquered head of Morrissey-type hair.

-His five backing musicians wore matching tight pants, short-sleeved button-up shirts, and close-cropped hair. One juggled guitars, keys, trumpet, trombone, and backing vocals. And the drummer had an enormous bass drum and gong that he pounded at the end of "How Soon Is Now."

-The stage backdrop: three ceiling-height photos of James Dean.

Apparently he's been bringing back more Smiths songs on this tour, and he opened with "The Queen Is Dead." The band lent itself best to newer songs like "I Will See You In Far Off Places" and "Irish Blood, English Heart," and even originally more delicate tunes like "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" got a loud, electric-guitar-heavy treatment. Granted, this didn't make for a ton of sonic variety, but Morrissey's voice tied it all together--just a couple of brief rough patches throughout the set, and otherwise as silky, wistful, and theatrical as ever.

The only negative, all in all, is that opener Kristeen Young was atrocious. Imagine if PJ Harvey and a donkey had a child, and that child got run over by a Mary Kay car. It was a rather hurty 45 minutes, and if there was anything redeeming about it, it was nothing that didn't seem borrowed from Harvey or Tori Amos.