Photo by Geoffrey Smith II
Did they just kill Morrissey? That’s what I’m thinking as I watch the craziest end to a concert I’ve ever seen in my life unfold.
Moz, opening his 2014 tour at the San Jose Civic on Wednesday night, has just come back for the encore, playing his third Smiths song of the night, “Asleep.”
I am pondering whether the selection of this song, with its lyrics “Deep in the cell of my heart, I will be so glad to go,” is some kind of clue about whether retiring from music is still on his mind. A couple of years ago, most fans know, Morrissey announced he planned to retire in 2014, but since then he’s done things like sign a two-record deal (the first of which comes out in July) and launch a tour, so clearly that isn’t happening yet. But still, with his recent assertion that he’s found more success as a writer than he ever did with music, you gotta wonder if he’s dropping hints about heading to the exit.
After “Asleep,” Morrissey launches into what could be considered an even more loaded choice for the set list: “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell,” my favorite song from his 2009 album, Years of Refusal. Fans are now jumping on stage wanting to touch him, which starts out cute but quickly gets annoying. Who are these creepy people always demanding hugs, anyway? Don’t give me that crap about the unique understanding they have with their rock idol. If I was Moz, I’d be petrified that one of these crazies was going to slip me the loveknife. I wouldn’t show up for my own concerts, either!
Sure enough, eventually a bunch of these jackass fans bumrush the poor guy all at once. Stage security is just completely overwhelmed. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever seen those big dudes on stage at shows get overwhelmed? No, their whole existence is about being whelmed exactly the right amount. But this group gets by them, in a chaotic scene that recalls one of those shakycam fights from the Bourne Identity movies where you have no clue what’s going on. Morrissey just disappears, swallowed up midway through the line “And before you know, goodbye will be farewell.” It’s not clear if they dragged him into the wings, pulled him off the stage, or what.
The lights immediately go up, the PA music goes on, and a thousand Morrissey fans are now just staring blankly at each other, completely confused. Is the show really over? Did that just happen?
Again, I’m left fearing for Morrissey’s safety, but as the roadies milling on stage don’t seem too worked up, I figure he’s got to be all right. But it does make the opening lines of “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” seem bitterly ironic: “Always be careful when you abuse the one you love/The hour or the day no one can tell/But one day goodbye will be farewell/And you will never see the one you love again.”
If that was indeed the last song he was planning to sing at this show, it bookended well with the opening “Hand in Glove,” with its repeated lyric “I’ll probably never see you again.” Was that a message? And was it significant that he opened with the Smiths’ very first single, and ended (we have to assume) with a farewell song from his last record?
Maybe. But otherwise, this set didn’t feel like Morrissey had one foot out the door. It wasn’t a greatest-hits show in any way, with a slowed-down “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and a Latin-tinged “First of the Gang to Die” (the highlights of the night) the only solo hits he played. Perhaps you could count “That’s How People Grow Up” or “I Have Forgiven Jesus, or the closer “The National Front Disco” among the favorites, but that’s only because Morrissey’s fans love all his songs.
This was in fact a very unsentimental show, which is another way to view the use of “Hand in Glove,” which is one of the most unsentimental love songs ever written. “Meat is Murder” was a particularly vivid example of this raw approach, accompanied as it was by brutal slaughterhouse footage that was Moz at his most militant. (PETA also had a booth inside the Civic for the show).
Most tellingly, he played several songs from his upcoming album, World Peace is None of Your Business, including the title track, the flamenco-tinged “Earth is the Loneliest Planet,” and “The Bullfighter Dies.” The songs are more varied sonically than on his last couple of rock records, although the band was ready to rip all night. The rest of the set was made up of some interesting offbeat choices, like the B-side “Ganglord,” Vauxhall and I’s “Speedway” and Maladjusted’s “Trouble Loves Me.”
This was not a set designed by a guy who thinks he’s going away for good. Morrissey is definitely looking ahead on this tour, and if he can dodge the hugs, he should be fine.