“We were supposed to be here previously, and we couldn’t make it,” Morrissey said at Echostage Wednesday night. After a dramatic pause, he added, “The suicide rate in this band is very high.”
Speaking in reference to several cancelled shows in the DC area over the past several years, the latter part of that statement was offered as sardonic consolation to the audience via a bit of typically morbid humor from the Poet of Manchester, who actually then proceeded to put on a damn fine show.
The very very full Echostage was held rapturous as Morrissey and his longtime band (all of whom are hale and hearty despite his witty offering) dove into a robust set of 19 songs and one encore. The set focused heavily on rather good new material by Morrissey from the album World Peace Is None of Your Business — an odd album to be certain as it is not widely commercially available at the time of this writing due to a fallout last year between Morrissey and his label.
Regardless, Morrissey’s concert performance was entertaining in its own right, and what better way to get to know new songs than to enjoy them live? And more than enough people knew the lyrics to numbers like the title track “World Peace Is None of Your Business,” which revisits typical Morrissey themes of economic inequality and government suppression.
After that song, Morrissey played several other new tracks, including the surprisingly happy and upbeat “Kiss Me A Lot,” which is simply about the joys of kissing, believe it or not; “Istanbul,” a parable of coming of age in a faraway land; and “Scandinavia,” a rather lovely song actually speaking in typical Morrissey tones of finding redemption through love.
Watch a fan video of “Istanbul” performed by Morrissey in New Orleans on June 11:
As the show went on, Morrissey and his band gained steam, setting a fine, leisurely pace and visibly enjoying themselves. The relaxed confidence of the performers resulted in a strong second half of the show, particularly in a very dramatic “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” an ode to loneliness, from Years of Refusal, that was performed with welcome dramatic flair. Moz went then straight into perennial fave “Every Day Is Like Sunday” from solo debut Viva Hate, inspiring an audience singalong and hearty applause.
Moz next performed one of the best songs from his new album — “Neal Cassady Drops Dead,” which offers Morrissey multiple opportunities to do what he likes to do best: reflect mournfully on life’s adventures, be literary and steep himself in nostalgia. It’s a great song that gave a buoyant Morrissey a tremendous opportunity to fire on all thrusters.
You would be disappointed if you came to this show demanding to hear songs by The Smiths, the Manchester rock quartet that catapulted Morrissey to fame in the ’80s, because they were in short supply. And at this stage, that seems appropriate! Morrissey has enjoyed the best sales of his career in the 21st century, and he clearly has plenty of fresh, and exciting, material to draw upon. And so recognition of The Smiths is reduced to an overwrought and humorlessly extended performance of “Meat Is Murder” (which I’ve witnessed probably 10 times now in the past several years) and the rarely performed treat in “What She Said” from the same album (in my personal opinion, the weakest of the four proper studio albums by The Smiths).
Morrissey is the rare artist who draws tremendous loyalty from his fans as well as powerful criticism from his detractors. Although I confess I occasionally find him quite sanctimonious, I side with his admirers largely because of his clever, insightful prose, his worldly if withdrawn voice, and the tremendous care he puts into his craft. And as an admirer, I’ll say again to others what I’ve said previously: Let the man grow old. He’s infinitely more interesting as a person and as an artist as he continues to build out his catalog over the years.
Morrissey performs next tonight, Friday, June 19, at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del. If you’re there, GO SEE HIM. He appears next in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 20, and then parades up the East coast, across the Midwest, and along the West coast throughout the summer. (I see him next in New York with Blondie on Saturday, June 27 at Madison Square Garden.)
Morrissey and his band are in fine form. I’ve seen him perhaps 12 times in the past eight years, and his Echostage performance ranks in the top three shows by him I’ve witnessed. You won’t regret going out of your way to see him on this tour.
Perhaps apropos of nothing, it is worth mentioning to die-hard fans out there that my regular concert companion Yasmin finally succeeded in getting a large piece of the “Shirt of Morrissey,” in this case tossed into the audience at the end of the one-song encore. It is indulgent to share that observation, but I do use this blog as a way to record my personal experiences during these concerts, and it was a highlight certainly for the lady in question!