“I was on the sofa, both hands shoved into a big bag of Ruffles, and… sure enough, the blasted telephone rings,” Morrissey recently told the audience at The Anthem in DC by way of introduction for his new song, “Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings.”
The song, the only unreleased tune performed during the show, was a solid rock stomper with an unrelenting rhythm, espousing a very Morrissey view on disillusionment: “Who wants my money now?” he queries in response to the phone.
Morrissey smiled when announcing the song, foreshadowing not only its lyrical bite but also suggesting that he was in a very good mood this night. And why not? His voice was better than ever, and The Anthem was just a few tickets shy of being sold out. Morrissey was in fine form indeed.
At The Anthem on Oct. 18, Morrissey appeared for an entry in his 40 Years of Morrissey Tour, celebrating a decades-long career that began with The Smiths precisely 40 years ago. The Smiths only carried Morrissey through 1987 with four studio albums, however, after which he started a very successful solo career, now at 13 albums strong and counting. For whichever phase of Morrissey’s carer may be your favorite, there was plenty to like during his performance at The Anthem, which covered a lot of ground in 19 songs, including five from his days with The Smiths.
Standouts from The Smiths selections included an early rendition of “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and a mid-set performance of “How Soon Is Now?”
Watch Morrissey front The Smiths for a 1985 performance of “How Soon Is Now” on Top of The Pops via YouTube:
I’ve seen Morrissey in concert perhaps 16 or 17 times — all within the last 20 years — and this date at The Anthem was one of the finest performances that I’ve seen. Morrissey’s distinguished baritone was in top shape, and his vocal delivery was crisp and clear. He stalked the stage like a lion, ready to roar his way through the next song as the opportunity arose. The audience swooned for his voice but also his commanding presence and his chiseled features.
Morrissey is an old-school rockstar, part of a dying breed. He’s a performer, and he’s notoriously private. And in that, he maintained an air of glamour and mystery. Still, Morrissey was extremely graceful, expressing his gratitude to the audience throughout the show. “Thank you. I am speechless,” he told The Anthem in appreciation.
Well, Morrissey earned all of his accolades with terrific and memorable songs, winning the audience out of the gate to start the show with “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” from his beloved early album Your Arsenal (1992). The wooing of the audience continued with “Suedehead,” another classic Morrissey song dating from his debut solo effort, Viva Hate (1988). He also performed the wonderful “Everyday Is Like Sunday” from Viva Hate toward the end of the show.
Watch the official music video for “Everyday Is Like Sunday” by Morrissey on YouTube:
These hits were welcome! But for Morrissey diehards, and there were many in this audience, it’s the rarities that make the show, and Morrissey again delivered. About two-thirds through the show, Morrissey performed “The Loop” and he closed the main set with “Jack the Ripper” — both rarely performed live and both of which appear on a 1995 compilation called World of Morrissey.
Morrissey also stirred the audience with more recent offerings, crooning through “I Wish You Lonely” from Low in High School (2017) and thumping along to “Irish Blood, English Heart” — a hell of a tune — from You Are the Quarry (2004). And so all surprises during the show were very pleasant surprises, including the one true cover of the evening, a very effective and fitting performance of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” by Waylon Jennings.
Of course, Morrissey was smartly and capably assisted by a carefully chosen touring band: Juan Galeano (bass), Jesse Tobias (guitar), Camila Grey (keys), Carmen Vandenberg (guitar), and Brendan Buckley (drums). These musicians hit every note from the rollickin’ “Stop Me” to the romantic “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” and beyond.
Such is the mystique of Morrissey that stage invaders are par for the course during the British singer-songwriter’s concerts, and this show at The Anthem was no exception. Morrissey closed the song with a single song encore of “Speedway” (1994). But he ended the song a little early when security corralled a female stage invader to stage right. Morrissey is concerned a great deal about dignity, not only for the sanctity of his stage, but also for the decorum of his fans. And the scene clearly upset him. Rather than escalate the situation, he departed for the night.
Morrissey completes his USA leg for 40 Years of Morrissey with two more dates in New York City at United Palace on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25. (He already has completed two dates of a four-night residency there.) He’s in the best performing shape of his career, and he is not to be missed whether you’re a diehard fan, a passing admirer, or a curious listener. He is then off to Australia for more dates in December.
Here are some photos of Morrissey performing at The Anthem in DC on Oct. 18, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter with kind authorization from Morrissey’s management.