Morrissey - Lyric Opera, Chicago - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Morrissey - Lyric Opera, Chicago

by Jim Cunnar Rating:10 Release Date:2011-12-08

The line to enter is long, snaking down Wacker Drive, filled with 40/50-somethings dressed in black, an occasional pompadour interspersed among the receding hairlines. The line moves slowly, allowing the jokes to flow about how the event staff were frisking the crowd for beef jerkey or how his Spidey sense is going off because of the BBQ pork sliders being served in the skyboxes at Madison Square Garden

But he is here. The tour buses out front are proof. There's no laryngitis, peptic ulcers or general infirmity to deny us the chance to see one of the most important musical figures of our generation: Morrissey.

The energy from the crowd is palpable. In typical Morrissey fashion, random videos from the 70s play as we take our seats, ranging from a Jefferson Starship video to The New York Dolls performing on German television.   

Shortly after 9pm, the lights dim, a split image of Bruce Lee flashes on the video screen, and the crowd erupt as the thumping opening drum solo of 'The Queen is Dead' fills the room. We know we're in for something special. 

'Suedehead' follows, then 'Alma Matters'. He plays a number of new songs off of 2014's World Peace is None of Your Business, including 'Kiss Me a Lot' (which he performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) and 'The Bullfighter Dies'.

Before a brilliant version of 'Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before', he says: "Some people believe you are your past. What a horrible thought". The best songs of the night are an agonizingly beautiful version of 'Yes, I Am Blind' (off 1990's Bona Drag) and a ferocious rendition of 'I Will See You in Far Off Places' (off 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors). 

Moz and his loyal band of mates have been together for years, and it showed - they deliver an incredibly tight set. With Matt Walker (drums) and Mando Lopez (bass) providing the framework, Jesse Tobias (lead guitar), long-time collaborator Boz Boorer (rhythm guitar), and Gustavo Manzur (keyboards, didgeridoo, trumpet, classical guitar and accordian to name a few) craft the melody over which Morrissey croons. His voice is strong, not once losing steam as they move through a setlist which seamlessly blends old with new. 

The lighting and staging are particularly effective, with the band illuminated in different colors as Morrissey is silhoutted with simple white backlighting. On 'Meat is Murder' (Moz introduces the song by growling "Meat... Is... Shit") the band is bathed in red as Morrissey kneels, his back to the audience, with videos of the food industry's grotesque, abhorrent, and inhumane treatment of animals playing in front of him. 

As the final distorted chord of the song echoes away we were left with the line "What's your excuse now?". It is incredibly powerful. The paucity of applause at the end of the song is testament to the statement he's making.

Boorish and moody as he may be, tonight's show proves that Morrissey isn't just a great performer. He is a relevant voice, a pertinent visionary, a true icon whose music has stood the test of time despite the distraction of his snarkiness. He fiercely defends his beliefs, defiantly standing up against hypocrisy and tyrrany, not caring at all what those who disagree with him say or think. He remains true to himself. 

His relationship with his legions of fans is different though. Before wrapping with a scorching version of 'What She Said', Morrissey says: "I apologize for my happiness. I thank you for your lust". As much as he tries to make us think he doesn't care a lick what others think of him, tonight he shows his soft underbelly. 

With those he trusts and who understand him, his fans, he is a beacon of strength, a true punk. And because of that, Moz, we are true to you.  

Comments (8)

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Moz played the Sydney Opera House recently and insisted on menu changes at the venue. A mega-star spat really. Powerful show though, he's lost no charisma.

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It shouldn't be under-estimated what Morrissey has done for vegetarianism. By making a venue go veggie for one night, it forces people to try it...

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...and hopefully change their diet because of it. There's not one reason why humans need to eat meat in this age...

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...do you ever hear anyone saying you must eat 5 portions of meat per day? It's a fact that eating meat causes cancer but they'll never ban it.

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Agree or disagree, he has never, ever wavered off of his stance on vegetarianism. "Meat is Murder" was written over 30 years ago...

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And his performance of it was like a right hook to the jaw. Brilliant.

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Exactly, whether you believe in his views or not you have to admire the way he's never backed down.

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Totally agree with you, Bob!

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