From the moment Morrissey announced his 2014 North American tour dates in February, the jokes started rolling across social media about the inevitable cancellations, which have become a hallmark of the former Smiths singer’s recent solo career as a result of health problems and, in some cases, suspected general antagonism. Well, Morrissey doesn’t care if you care, but one show is in the can, and until the last song was abruptly cut off thanks to some crashing bores in the audience, it was a total delight.
Mozzer launched the new run May 7th at the San Jose City National Civic, already a victory for the Bay Area, which has seen Morrissey cancel six consecutive shows and was starting to feel like that joke wasn’t funny anymore. But fan trepidation for this one didn’t just come from fear it wouldn’t happen; 2012’s big tour was largely regarded as a disappointment, with Morrissey’s voice in poor shape, and set lists seeming deliberately to avoid much of anything that fans came to hear. Not so in 2014: maybe it’s the improved health, or the response to his wonderfully incendiary autobiography, or the confirmation of his forthcoming album, but Moz is clearly in the mood to entertain.
The evening started with a set by Kristeen Young, the keyboardist/singer whose abrasive electro-rock has somewhat bafflingly opened nearly every Morrissey show since 2007, save the short period that year when she was dismissed from the tour for suggesting on stage that the headliner gave good, well, head. You don’t do that.
After Morrissey’s traditional montage of video clips featuring a range of his Sixties and Seventies idols including the Ramones, the Move and the New York Dolls, he opened with the Smiths’ debut single “Hand in Glove.” One thing that immediately stood out: Instead of one of the solid-colored button-downs that Morrissey always wears to sweat through, throw into the crowd, and replace at least twice, the singer was wearing a black blazer. Would he dispose of a blazer? Would he give us those well-earned moments of shirtlessness? Was he really wearing nothing under it? The answer to all three questions was no, proven at the end of the set when he removed his blazer (but did not offer it to the audience) to reveal a deep-V-neck mesh-chested black shirt. Close enough.
The set represented most periods of his solo career, including three new songs from upcoming album World Peace Is None of Your Business: the title track, “The Bullfighter Dies,” and “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet.” Morrissey also dipped into the Smiths catalog with “Asleep” and “Meat Is Murder,” accompanying the latter with a graphic video of disturbing slaughterhouse footage. He brought the same video along on the 2012 tour, and it seemed at first that this more upbeat outing might forgo it, but no such luck. Thankfully, even Morrissey doesn’t want to ruin the party — he immediately salved the grief in the room with an exuberant performance of “First of the Gang to Die,” the second single from 2004’s You Are the Quarry.
After his string of issues, it was gratifying to hear Morrissey’s voice at its best, especially during some big-time balladeering on “Trouble Loves Me” and “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Some Day.” The energy and attitude in the room was so encouraging that by the end, the fan-favorite tradition of skirting bouncers to hop onstage and bearhug Morrissey was in full force. Unfortunately, a few affectionate fans disregarded the well-established polite etiquette for this ritual, rushing the singer and causing a pile-up that forced his band members to stop playing to pull people off. Show closer “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” ended mid-sentence, everyone was yanked off the stage, and the lights came up.
The tour continues tonight in Santa Ana before heading to Los Angeles on May 10th, with special guest Tom Jones, hopefully making for a true battle of the deep-V-necks. Behave yourselves.
1. “Hand In Glove”
2. “That’s How People Grow Up”
5. “I Have Forgiven Jesus”
6. “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”
7. “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”
8. “Yes, I Am Blind”
9. “The Bullfighter Dies”
10. “Life Is a Pigsty”
11. “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
12. “Earth Is The Loneliest Planet”
13. “Trouble Loves Me”
14. “Meat Is Murder”
15. “First of the Gang to Die”
16. “The Youngest Was The Most Loved”
17. “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”
18. “The National Front Disco”
20. “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell”