Review: Morrissey at the Civic Opera House

morrissey
(Photo courtesy of INTERNATIONAL TALENT BOOKING)

Amid the lookalike quiffs and the essential side burns, the nearly packed Civic Opera House held the one and only Morrissey July 9. The venue’s historical presence and elegance suited Morrissey’s over-the-top character all while embracing his need for exuberance. The anticipation for his performance was amplified by the massive theater, yet the hundreds of Morrissey clones made for a surreal experience, if not frightening.

All the fear of a Morrissey takeover washed away as the onstage screen projected a set of introductory videos of live performances of the Ramones, Ike and Tina Turner, Penetration, New York Dolls, and various other artists. Among the artists shown were clips from television and PETA ads to truly encapsulate what Morrissey is about. After a half hour of suspense, the icon sauntered on stage and performed the classic track “The Queen Is Dead” against the image of the queen giving the finger to the audience.

After playing a few older hits, Morrissey jumped right into his latest album, “World Peace Is None of Your Business,” which left most slightly disappointed. Illness prevented him from promoting the new album this past year, so naturally it was emphasized. Though it’s not the best track on his recent album, “Kiss Me A Lot” proved one of the best songs performed from the new album.

As he effortlessly swung the microphone cord, he sternly said, “‘the past is what it is,’ is a terrible philosophy,” and transitioned into the well-loved “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.” I had a difficult time restraining laughter after each of his interactions with the audience; his humor is still vibrant as ever. He even mentioned his distaste for his attire by stating “when I have better shirts and less mosquito bites, I’m quite an attractive person.” But as lively as the crowd was during each of The Smiths’ songs he covered, unfortunately few found his commentary amusing.

Despite the crowd’s lack of response to his banter, there was even less enthusiasm towards the video clips played during “Ganglord” and “Meat Is Murder.” During his performance of “Ganglord” the screen portrayed police brutality to an unbearable extent. It was clear Morrissey sought to shock the reality into audience members, but the images were often too graphic to watch and I found myself, along with most of the audience, looking elsewhere to avoid nausea.

During “Meat Is Murder” the screen showed clips of animal cruelty, too overwhelming to watch for anyone close enough to make out the gruesome images. Several audience members sat down to avoid the images portrayed before them. “What’s your excuse now?” appeared across the screen at the end of the song and while applause was slow to come, after stomachs settled cheers roared. This was all to be expected since Morrissey is such a devoted animal activist and seeks to do something with his fame, regardless of how opposing it may be to his fans. Even members of PETA were sprawled out throughout the venue, handing out flyers encouraging veganism.

It was obvious the entire performance was close to a spiritual experience from the love-stricken faces of the fellow diehard fans. From the crowd participation in “Everyday Is Like Sunday” to the belting of “Now My Heart Is Full” many members of the crowd were visibly moved to tears. Before walking off stage he even managed to rip his shirt off and throw it to the crowd, after which the front row divided pieces of it peacefully among each other. The only missing ingredient to such a magnificent performance was more – maybe a few more songs or his entire discography. Regardless of my unrealistic expectations, his vocal performance was his best in years, but still lacking some energy due to his health. The night was definitely a wild ride of emotions and left me in a state of shock from being in the same room as such an impactful person.