Live Review: Morrissey the Prince Marches On at Radio City Music Hall
High-energy discontent for adoring fans.
At one point, Morrissey looked out over the 6,000 sold out seats of Radio City Music Hall and remarked how it was supposedly impossible to "create an atmosphere" in such a grand hall. "But breathe in, breathe out," he said, "We're all one tonight."
It's what an audience wants to hear; we want our performers to be not just practiced but present -- committed, passionate, immediate. Without any doubt, in this first of three sold-out NYC-area shows, Morrissey was present and connected, even if that connection often felt less communal than begrudging.
It was a testament to the crooner's decades of ethereal honesty to see so many adoring fans packed into this stately theatre. We have every reason to think Morrissey is an unhappy fellow, judging by the pronounced misery in his prolific output, and the curmudgeonly insensitivity he often reveals through interviews and on-stage rants. But there was much in his live show to belie such unhappiness -- his five-piece band gives muscular backbone to his Vegas showman strut, and his dapper, well-groomed appearance matches well the constant spotlight. And most of all is that voice, that strange hybrid of nakedly emotive warble and punk-rock anger. Standouts were The Smiths tune "I Know it's Over," which evokes equal parts horror and persistence; "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," a blatant cry for love; and "Still Ill," one of many songs in which he found more growl than melody. It's little wonder so many fans risk bouncer injury to rush the stage.
Morrissey was well aware of such adoration, but barely played into it. Instead, his attitude was nigh-sour, as though he deigned to strut his art before his loyal subjects. Which isn't to say he was distant -- on the contrary, his attitude only emphasized the self-obsessed quality of the songs and the depth of his enigmatic, iconic persona. One could easily be put off by his aloofness, if one were comfortable living in a lonely minority. These fans love the songs, but more than that, they love the singer.
There's a big difference between Morrissey and the aging rockstar who fakes his way to a paycheck. By all means, everything he did onstage was perversely honest, and you'd be hard-pressed to claim he wasn't "one" with his community -- even if in this community, some folks are bigger than others. The Queen might be dead, but the prince marches on, and what a delightful march it is.
|"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"|