The Great White Way.
The place where dreams come to live and die.
And on Saturday (May 4), it was where Morrissey would ring in the third of his seven-night New York City residency with a performance that was no ordinary concert. No, this was Broadway, and 46th Street was alive with a line of Moz disciples who have grown quite used to the headliner’s own brand of dramatic theater.
The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre was the site of Moz’s takeover, which runs to May 11. There was no Hamilton this evening. This was something a bit more dramatic, and something epic in scope and scale in its own peculiar way.
Pre-performance, I hit the merch table to view the array of shirts, pins, stickers and posters. All new items. All the more to spend my money on. The front row seats were empty as those fans gathered at the front of the stage. I was satisfied with my 10th row Orchestra seat, accepting that I was too old, and my stage attack days were far behind me. Perhaps because this was Broadway, and within it a more distinguished crowd, but there was only one stage intruder over the course of this evening and he was instantly dispatched with by the muscle-bound bouncers at each side of the curtains.
A montage of clips played on a giant screen while we waited. The Ramones. Patti Smith. Edith Piaf. Bowie. All of the Morrissey staples. His faves and ours.
Then it happened. The entrance. The opening. As triumphant as always. The boys in the band donning “Be Kind To Animals” shirts. Moz in a snazzy sport coat and half buttoned dress shirt. Hair slicked back in silver fox mode. This truly is him as a crooner now. The character he has always wanted to be. Him, at the end of his career, singing the classics in under the bright lights of New York City.
He opened with a tune he hasn’t performed in over 15 years, “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get”. This put the seated guests into all-night stand-up mode. Big, bright studio lights lit the back drops of James Baldwin, Joey Ramone, cats, and Paris protesters.
Under the images, Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias ripped their guitars through classics like “Hairdresser On Fire,” the triumphant anthem “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” and “You’re The One For Me, Fatty.”
This night was on. The set list. The band. Moz himself. He looked great. Sounded even better. The energy was there. He even joked about turning “50” soon (Note: Morrissey turns 60 on May 22). He brought his usual schtick of moaning, fits and screams, grabbing hands and mock sexual flirts. He paid tribute to Jobriath with “Morning Starship” from his upcoming covers album California Son. Another cover took the stage by storm — The Pretenders’ “Back On The Chain Gang,” crafted into a traditional Morrissey tune.
Did he do Smiths songs? Yes, he did: “Girl Afraid” for only the second time in his solo career; “Is It Really So Strange?”; and the electric “How Soon Is Now?” where he claimed “I am STILL the sun and the heir.”
It was a night of music and memories. No statements or slurs. No politics. This was pure showmanship. This was Morrissey proving he can still put on a magnificent show. And he even dug into b-sides like “Munich Air Disaster 1958” and “Sunny,” for he die-hards in the crowd alongside me.
I was in my glory with the rest of the 40- and 50-somethings, as we all glided back and forth to “Throwing My Arms Around Paris” and the smoky, red spotlit “Jack The Ripper.” He even joked about one review of the show claiming it was a “Night of sheer misery,” saying: “They have no idea. I’m grateful.”
But it was sheer misery. In the most beautiful, Morrissey way. Fans couldn’t have been happier in the small, 1,500-seat theatre. This was intimate, this was special. Private. All of us together in a small room, listening to our leader as he set the room alight with the early gem “Dial A Cliché.”
There was no “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” or “Suedehead” and that was fine by most. It was perfect as is. The set list changes every night, as he is known to do. On this night there was no “Meat Is Murder” video show.
At the end he ripped off his shirt as usual. His body being a bit beefier as he nears 60, but he still has no fear. And the crowd still goes wild for his torn shirt sleeves.
For his encore he claimed that he wanted this written on his headstone and launched into “The Last of The Gang To Die.” He told us all he luuuved us, as he does and with that, he was gone. A few bows and distortion from the band and it was over. We waited for him to return but, alas, he was gone. Rushed out the backstage door, past playbills looking for an autograph and into a Mercedes and up Broadway. He left his mark on the legendary street. He left his mark on us and once again, left his mark on me.
Mark Phinney is a writer and producer living in Boston.