Orlando, Fl • July 15, 2007
Not since Elvis tossed out his last lavish cape has a pop audience gone so crazy over an article of a musician’s clothing. He may be 48, he may not have the slender frame he once had, but Morrissey can still remove his shirt and incite a near riot. When he does it not once, but twice, in the course of his two hours on the Hard Rock Live stage, I feel like I’ve truly been witness to a performer who takes his cues from the Elvises, the James Deans- the effortlessly suave icons of decades past. The Moz could have clipped his toenails onstage and made it look cool.
I often gush about this band or that band, admitting how long I had waited to see them or to photograph them. I’ve got a long history of music indulgence, and for every concert that I’ve seen there have been five that I regret having missed. For instance, in 1992 I was a Freshman in high school. That same year I had discovered both The Smiths and Morrissey and threw myself headfirst into the maudlin and merry music. Morrissey came to Orlando that year. Being just 14, and living nearly an hour outside of the city, I missed the show and was left itching with envy the next morning when I had to see a Junior at my bus stop wearing the concert shirt.
To my knowledge, the man from Manchester had not returned to Central Florida since. For those of you keeping score, this means that I had been waiting to see him for 15 years. After a string of cancellations due to sickness plagued this tour, I feared that my waiting would continue, but the concert gods had pity on me and my long wait had come to its end.
The night opened with a surprisingly jaw-dropping performance by Kristeen Young- a woman with the keyboard humping techniques of Tori Amos and the miraculous pipes of Bjork. She was handpicked by Morrissey to not only accompany him on tour, but to be signed to his vanity label, Attack Records. The combination of her operatically intimate vocals and the big muscled drumming of “Baby” Jeff White was somehow erotic. The play of the pair’s shadows, which often intertwined, on the backdrop behind them enhanced the libido stroking music they made. The sound of sex was what Young brought to the already eager and feisty audience.
The first moments of Morrissey’s time onstage, during which I stood at the foot of the stage photographing this man who gave words to my years of teenage depression like no other, were a blur. It was like staring at an old album cover on acid, when the image begins to swirl and come to life- absolutely surreal. What was even more unreal was when he’d toss in an old Smiths song. I counted three – “Girlfriend In a Coma,” “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” and an unforgettable set ending “How Soon Is Now?” Seeing Morrissey do a Smiths song is like seeing Joe Strummer do a Clash song. Unless you’re a big fan you probably won’t understand, but it’s HUGE!
The set focused largely on 2006’s Ringleader of the Tormentors, but mixed in were classics like “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys.” As he slowly strutted across the stage, flicking his microphone cord in the same playful manner he always has, he often leaned into the adoring crowd to touch the hand of a tearful fan. Only one fan managed to break his way through security and onto the stage, but when he did it was to immense applause from the crowd.
Morrissey’s is an audience of such complete devotion as to border on obsesson, and at the end of the show when the second of the aforementioned sweaty shirts were thrown into the sea of bodies- a tug of war got heated and turned into fights.
After the final bow and “goodnight,” I walked outside and ran into one of the lucky few who got a piece of the black buttoned shirt. Manny had come to the show alone, the day to follow was his birthday, and he was so happy with his souvenir that he was shaking as he dragged from his cigarette. On his urging, I smelled the shirt and feel compelled to report that it smelled amazing! To further cap off an already perfect night for me, my new friend Manny tore off a piece of the shirt and handed it to me. In 1995, after seeing Hole, someone gave me Courtney Love’s cigarette butt that she had smoked onstage. I had that for a year before I accidentally threw it away. I won’t make that mindless mistake this time, this piece of history has gone straight into my scrapbook!