Thursday, May 24, 2007

Morrissey / Kristeen Young - Live 2007.05.22

[Note (2014.06.05): Welcome to the first post of my blog! As my meager attempt at an introduction here hardly represents where I stand anymore, I recommend reading the About page for a more current and complete perspective. I really have no idea why I chose to describe my tastes as "somewhat pretentious", anyway.]

Hello. My name is Patrick Vacek, and I'm a somewhat pretentious music listener (and musician). In the spirit of others who have already been writing review-related blogs, and in consideration of the fact that I no longer have a reason to update my past blog on the grounds that my semester of studying abroad in Vienna is now over, I felt like it would be interesting to start a little blog of my own dedicated to the music I listen to. I expect that the only consistent thing I can promise is a review of just about every live performance I attend (and I say that because I don't actually get out to see a lot of concerts). I also plan to be posting reviews of albums, whether they be new releases, simply a recent purchase on my part of an older album, or just an old album I've had for a while but feel inspired to write about. Every once in a while, I might even post news, but don't count on that, because you already have Pitchfork and a dozen other publications that can already do that job without my input.

My first review will be of the concert I just had the pleasure of attending:

Artist: Morrissey
Venue: The Pageant
City: St. Louis
Date: May 22, 2007
Opening Act: Kristeen Young

Main Set:
01. Unhappy Birthday (tease)
02. The Queen Is Dead
03. The First of the Gang to Die
04. The Youngest Was the Most Loved
05. In the Future When All's Well
06. You Have Killed Me
07. Disappointed
08. Panic
09. Let Me Kiss You
10. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
11. National Front Disco
12. I Will See You in Far-Off Places
13. All You Need Is Me
14. Girlfriend in a Coma
15. Everyday Is Like Sunday
16. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side
17. Irish Blood, English Heart
18. At Last I Am Born
19. I've Changed My Plea to Guilty
20. Life Is a Pigsty  Piano solo
21. How Soon Is Now?

Encore:
22. Happy Birthday
23. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
24. You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side

Review:
I was still in Vienna when I heard of this concert and bought my ticket. Ridiculous as it may have been to buy my ticket so early and while abroad, it was a sold-out show, so I think it was for the better. Kristeen Young, a St. Louis native (and graduate of Webster University, the school I attend) was the opening act. She played her keyboard (except for a few songs which were pre-programmed) and sang, accompanied only by a drummer. She performed fairly well and was received well by most of the audience. After her performance, several assorted video clips were projected. I found some, such as an "East of Eden" wardrobe display and a German TV appearance of the New York Dolls, telling of Morrissey's character, but others were less interesting.

Finally, the band hit the stage, entirely dressed in white except for the suited Morrissey. The one-time Smiths singer was in great form, and as Kristeen Young insinuated, the day must have been his birthday, because he came out singing the first verse of "Unhappy Birthday" a capella. The band quickly launched into "The Queen Is Dead", which, like just about every time the band played a Smiths or older Morrissey song, elicited copious boisterous applause. Morrissey continued his longtime tradition of shaking audience members' hands at different points in songs and making short but witty comments between songs, such as warning the audience that "this is what 48 looks like". However, he has kept up his appearance well and knows this, as he twice tore off his shirt and threw it to the audience. He also took several birthday cards, presents, and posters that audience members reached out to him. Someone in the audience brought some balloons in, but every time one made it to the stage, a crew member would run out and take it.

The setlist was truly great. My memory of the order of latter half is a bit foggy, but I'm pretty sure I have the songs right. There were just a couple I didn't recognize, including the apparently newly-written "All You Need Is Me". Just like the rest of the audience, I completely ate up the older songs he played, as these are some of the songs I've grown up upon – I mean, I've not only learned how to play all the old songs, but I've performed some of them live myself ("Girlfriend in a Coma" and "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side", specifically)! Morrissey did a good job of mixing Smiths songs with his own older material and still performing songs from his latest two comeback albums.

Several songs merit special note. "The First of the Gang to Die" featured a different bridge with the keyboardist playing a horn solo. "Disappointed" garnered especially loud audience response following the "this is the last song I shall ever sing" line, which Morrissey then replied with "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" (whereas in the studio version he sings "no, I've changed my mind again" and a fake audience track boos). "I Will See You in Far-Off Places" had some crazy effects or samples going on, because at several points there was a seriously extreme low-pitch boom that shook my entire body. A couple songs ended in the drummer (who I believe was Matt Walker, famous from just about everything, but as far as I'm concerned, working with Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins) hitting a huge gong, deafening the entire venue, and a few other songs featured him banging a huge kettle drum which also shook my entire body. "Life Is a Pigsty" started with longtime guitarist and music-writer Boz Boorer pooring water into some glasses and tapping them throughout the first half of the song, then trading the glasses for his guitar, at which point the song built up considerably, ending in some heavy drum crashes and then a protracted keyboard solo. Somehow at just the moment the keyboardist finished his bit, one of the guitarists tore into the wonderfully effects-laden riff of "How Soon Is Now?" The last repetition of the chorus of the song was cut, providing a premature finish, but then the drummer went a bit wild and the guitarist kept repeating the F# chord that the song is built off of. This went on for a few minutes and then the band left the stage.

It was quite clear that there would be an encore; this was no guessing matter. Sure enough, the band walked back after a quite short pause and the instrumentalists began playing "Happy Birthday", which the audience happily sang as Morrissey pretended to be annoyed and uninterested in listening. Then the band jumped into "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want", repeating the first verse to add some length to the normally terse song, and finishing with a trumpet doubling the tremolo guitar notes of the ending instrumental. The band finished on "You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side", which was unfamiliar to me, and the song ended quite dramatically with continual deafening gong crashes.

The audience was clearly completely enthralled by the entire performance. Morrissey has built up quite a fanbase and somehow they never stop coming back for more. The setlist was a good compromise between recent singles and fan favorites, although one could complain that not many recent album tracks or obscurities were played (and by not many I mean two: the album track "Life Is a Pigsty" and the unreleased "All You Need Is Me"). I was hoping for a cover in the vein of Patti Smith's "Redondo Beach", which he performed in 2004 and I consider a good choice for him to do, but alas, Morrissey stuck to what he knew best. I suppose that's fine. I really can't complain, though – it was a thoroughly enjoyable show, and I had a great time. Morrissey's still a great performer, even at 48.

[Retrospective Scores:
Morrissey: A
Kristeen Young: B]

[Edit 4.4.09: Check out the page for this show on the fansite Passions Just Like Mine for more information. Since my memory was questionable in accuracy, I revised my setlist based on theirs.]