Meatless magic

Morrissey returns, Bank of America Pavillion, July 7, 2007
By MATT ASHARE  |  July 9, 2007
ALL ME NEEDS IS ME: Morrissey's all-consuming spell revolves around Morrissey.

“No Meat,” read the signs posted at the entrance of Bank of America Pavilion — as in, “The Artist” has requested that no meat be served. Inside the Pavilion, the New York Dolls faded from the PA, giving way to a picture show of film and video clips from the Artist’s private stash: an old TV performance by a young British Elvis impersonator; NY Dolls frontman David Johansen smoking some “Turkish tobacco” backstage in the early ’70s. Just the sort of stuff you’d expect from the Artist in question, Morrissey.

A number of people in the growing crowd were already familiar with this lead-up. Less than two weeks earlier, on June 26, Morrissey had taken off his shirt, thrown it into the crowd, and cut his set short, after blaming the freezer-like temperatures in David Letterman’s studio the night before for his weakening voice. Tickets for the truncated show were honored for the Moz’s make-up. “To the nasty little minority who have refunds,” he said, unprovoked, before sticking out his tongue and blowing a raspberry. He also had some fun with the situation when, about a third of the way into what was shaping up to be a more triumphant second go, he stripped off his sweat-soaked white shirt, threw it into the crowd, and left the stage. This time, however, he returned with a warm, knowing smile. “You see,” he mused, “I went and then I came back.”

It was yet another example of Morrissey’s ability to make the mundane seem magical. Never mind that many of the high points of the set — “Girlfriend in a Coma,” “Everyday Is like Sunday,” “Boy with the Thorn in His Side” — dated all the way back to the heyday of the Smiths, or that the rousing Smiths anthem “How Soon Is Now?” dragged as the drummer tried in vain to lock into the tremolo guitar. At full strength, cracking his mic cord like a whip, Morrissey conjured rich melodies out of little more than a phrase like “I’m truly disappointed.” In good voice, he was even able to bring a sense of order to “How Soon Is Now?” Familiar Morrissey symbols were everywhere: three huge images of James Dean loomed over the five handsome young men in the backing band; the words “Art Suffer/England Betrayed” were painted on the kick-drum head. And Morrissey, who urged the audience to have “sympathy for the lobsters,” didn’t even mention Al Gore’s seven-continent concert then under way to save the planet from global warming. He did change one verse of “Irish Blood, English Heart” to reflect the state of the US under Bush. But Morrissey’s all-consuming spell revolves around Morrissey. “All Me Needs Is Me,” he joked, by way of introducing the new song “All You Need Is Me.” Few laughed.

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