Morrissey is an outspoken stage presence, attracting headlines throughout the past 30 years for his rants against Madonna, the Cure, the British royal family, the cast of Duck Dynasty, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and meat-eaters worldwide. It comes as a bit of a surprise, then, that he apparently has a soft spot for country outlaw Waylon Jennings.
Halfway through a recent show in Visalia, California, on August 29th, Morrissey launched into Jennings’ two-chord chart-topper “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” It was an unusual choice for the former Smiths frontman, who sandwiched the mid-Seventies song between “Kiss Me a Lot” and the live debut of “Oboe Concerto.” Dressed in a Star Trek-worthy jumpsuit and joined by his loud, guitar-driven road band, he clapped, crooned and shoulder-patted his way through Jennings’ infamous kiss-off to second-rate country music, which first hit the charts 40 years ago this summer. The performance was thoroughly Morrissey-like. . .and utterly mesmerizing.
“Lord, it’s the same old tune/Fiddle and guitar/Where do we take it from here?” he sang, while the crowd — likely unprepared for a classic country cover at a Morrissey show — clapped along tentatively. Morrissey has a built a career on left-hand turns and unpredictable choices, though, and his Jennings cover is one of the strangest tricks he’s ever pulled out of that Captain Kirk-worthy get-up.
Jennings, who died in 2002, was honored earlier his summer during a blockbuster concert in Austin — “Outlaw Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings” — with performances by Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Eric Church and son Shooter Jennings.