Promptly at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, Morrissey walked onstage at Carnegie Hall dressed in a dashing black tuxedo and rattled off a nonsequitur that could have been a Smiths lyric.
“And to think, it was by Grand Central Station I sat down and wept,” the British rock icon and former Smiths front man said to the several thousand screaming fans who had come to see him play at the stunning venue. The ornate setting was a stark contrast both to his intimate performance at the 550-capacity Bowery Ballroom less than a week earlier and his equally “downtown” Webster Hall concert the previous night.
As any fan would tell you, seeing Morrissey at a venue as small as the Bowery was something of a once in a lifetime experience, a sentiment that became immediately apparent at the onset of the show when the crowd—packed in as it was like sardines—exploded to the opening chords of “This Charming Man,” that most sacred of all Smiths songs, which Morrissey only recently incorporated into his live repertoire. Swoon! We presume this moment alone made it worthwhile for the handful of fans that had camped out overnight on Delancey Street in roughly 30-degree weather to secure a spot within arms reach of Morrissey’s shins. (Note to said fans: We get it. But people in New York City don’t show up to concerts early, so next time, it’s OK to get to the venue a little later. Trust us!)
Of course, the intense and ritualistic fandom that has surrounded this singer for the past three decades is what makes shows like his Bowery appearance so … amazing. Especially when the set list, as it does on this current tour, leaves something to be desired—partially because it includes so many of the same songs Morrissey played when he was last in New York back in the fall of 2007 for a five-night stint at Hammerstein Ballroom, save a few new additions, like the relatively obscure Smiths tune “I Keep Mine Hidden” and several tracks from his new album, Years of Refusal. (We fear, Moz, that we’ve seen you play “How Soon is Now?” ten too many times at this point. Sigh.)
As for his show Wednesday evening at the raver-esque Webster Hall—well, we’re not really sure what to say about that place, but the consensus among those in attendance seemed to be: Bad sound, bad vibes, and what was with that very pungent Nag Champa meets Christmas Tree meets B.O. smell permeating the bar area? Perhaps Morrissey said it best himself when, upon taking the stage, he wondered aloud, “Where the hell am I?”
Fortunately, the sheer classiness of the Carnegie gig made up for Webster’s shortcomings. And what a treat it was to meet Sebastian, the young son of Morrissey’s longtime tour manager, Charlie Browne. Yes, that’s the baby Morrissey is holding on the cover of his new album, and with whom he re-emerged following one of his notorious de-shirtings.
The concert ended as all Morrissey concerts do: with a massive rush to the front and hordes of fans—most of them grown men—attempting to get onstage. Tonight, only one such individual succeeded, planting a gentle kiss on Morrissey’s cheek. But if moments like that aren’t worth the $80 ticket price, we’re not sure what is!