Rob Sheffield: No Apology Needed for Morrissey at Radio City

The more he ignores us, the closer we get

Morrissey
Matthew Eisman/WireImage
Morrissey performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
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"There's a mad moon at midnight. So don't . . . don't let how you feel go to waste." With these words, Morrissey took the stage last night at Radio City Music Hall, his first New York show since rocking Carnegie Hall in early 2009. He began with a bold move, launching right into the Smiths' quiet-storm torch jam "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me." He ended the show with another hyper-emotional Smiths classic, "Still Ill." In between, he brought the crowd the ongoing melodrama of midlife Morrissey: he is human, he needs to be loved, he likes to take off his shirt and frolic topless during "Let Me Kiss You."

The unquestioned highlight was "I Know It's Over," which Moz played straight and rode all the way home. By the end, after a few dozen "over"'s, he was crouching in a fetal ball in the spotlight, almost as if he was embarrassed to have brought so much passion to a song that actually deserved it. He shook maracas for "You're the One For Me, Fatty," cavorting with the boys in his backup band, all decked out in matching "KILLJOY" T-shirts. And he sent the fans into raptures with "Shoplifters of the World Unite," even as he gave the lyrics an ominously timely update: "Last night the plans for a future war with Syria were all I saw."

It was a typically eccentric set list, skipping most of his strongest solo work, touching on songs old and new, good and bad, with a hilariously blasé sense of not being able to tell the difference. So Moz alternated between surefire crowd-killers ("Every Day Is Like Sunday," a surprisingly spunky "Ouija Board, Ouija Board") and mediocrities that weren't worth his time or ours. (The chickens sitting next to me pecked themselves to death rather than endure "Meat Is Murder.") Morrissey even quasi-apologized a few times for the moments of flagging inspiration, admitting, "It's difficult to create what's known as an atmosphere. But by all means – breathe out, breathe in. We are as one."

Yet no apology was needed – he's always been a moody bastard. Even as he rushed through the climactic "Still Ill," his voice was enough to give a fan sore lips. All the way home I hummed the song I always hum departing a Morrissey show – "Break Up the Family," from his 1988 solo debut Viva Hate, an obscurity I've never heard in concert or on the radio even once. Morrissey was cranking out classics so fast back then, even a song that great could get lost in the rush-and-push. (Although James Murphy must have liked it, judging by LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends.") After all these years, Morrissey still isn't sure what to do with all the love we throw at him – he doesn't know whether he deserves it, or whether we love him for the right reasons. All he knows is he craves more of our love, and the more he ignores us, the closer we get.

Set list:

"Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"
"You Have Killed Me"
"The Youngest Was The Most Loved"
"You're The One For Me, Fatty"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"Shoplifters Of the World"
"Every Day Is Like Sunday"
"Ouija Board, Ouija Board"
"Black Cloud"
"Spring-Heeled Jim"
"People Are the Same Everywhere"
"Meat Is Murder"
"To Give (The Reason I Live)"
"Let Me Kiss You"
"Speedway"
"I Know It's Over"
"One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell"
"I'm OK By Myself"

Encore:
"Still Ill"