By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The only logical place to go after Tuesday night's Morrissey
concert was the Fur Shop, a downtown watering hole just blocks from
the Brady Theater and owned by several fellow Morrissey fanatics.
One of them, Mike Aston, floated through the bar wearing a dumb
grin and one of his dozens of Smiths T-shirts, boasting that he
actually touched his hero at the edge of the stage.
The stereo attempted to play Morrissey's "Kill Uncle'' album,
and the crowd just glowed. Collegiates and curmudgeons alike
maintained airy, blissful faces as they guffawed about the
particular moments of the show — "Did you hear him introduce the
band as a Tulsa band?'' "He couldn't stop touching his hair!'' and
"Look! I got a piece of a stem from the flowers he threw out!''
Complete strangers stopped at our table to discuss the concert.
These were Morrissey fans being ... gregarious. Bring on the
The show was short but stunning — and I say this not
solely because I am a lifelong fan of the former Smiths leader. I
had entered the Brady Theater with trepidation, steeling myself for
a letdown. He's so pompous and so British, he'll hate Tulsa and
make fun of us, I thought. He's pushing 40, he's been looking tired
— the publicity photos for the current album have been nothing
short of embarrassing — and he'll have lost his spark, I thought.
By mid-show, I thought, I'll be throwing back into his face his own
lyrics from a song called ""Get Off the Stage'' ("You silly old
man, you're making a fool of yourself, so get off the stage'').
But from the first song, ""Boy Racer,'' when he licked his palm and
criss-crossed his chest with it, all fears were allayed. Clearly,
the man who introduced sexual ambivalence and ambiguity to the
mainstream of popular culture maintains a surprising sex appeal.
The spark is still there, and as the show progressed it grew hotter
and hotter. The crowd, estimated at 1,800 and from throughout the
region, was putty for the next hour.
For a tour that is intended to support the new album,
"Maladjusted,'' he nearly ignored that batch of songs, performing
only the single, "Alma Matters'' (which has more much-needed umph
in concert), and the laborious street-crime dirge "Ambitious
Outsiders.'' Instead, Morrissey and his crack band tore through
material from his last three solo albums, concentrating on 1994's
"Vauxhall and I'' (seven of the 11 tracks).
And then came the Smiths songs. Having not performed the songs
of his old band in several years, the appearance of one Smiths song
— let alone two — was reason for intrigue. Perhaps Morrissey
simply missed singing some of the old standards. Perhaps the recent
royalties lawsuit against him from the Smiths rhythm section — a
case that he lost and is none too bitter about — inspired the
brief retrospective. His lone encore, "Shoplifters of the World
Unite,'' alludes to the former possibility, but the other choice,
"Paint a Vulgar Picture,'' surely indicates the latter.
This was the moment midway through the show in which Morrissey's
real passion surfaced. Until then, he had been dashing and suave,
but his much-revered noble chin had been twisted in more than a few
smirks and possibly derisive comments to the audience ("Thank you
for pretending to know any of these songs''), which screamed and
trembled with as much mania as any Morrissey audience I have
encountered. For "Paint a Vulgar Picture'' (which he introduced as
a Glen Campbell song), though, any provincialism fell aside and we
watched the Morrissey of our heady days of youth — mildly bitter,
endlessly clever, worthy of pity and simultaneously biting and flip.
"Paint a Vulgar Picture,'' from the 1987 posthumous Smiths
album "Strangeways, Here We Come,'' was the first song in which
Morrissey abandoned his lyrical ambiguity and went straight for the
jugular. Its ridicule of the entire music business, as well as the
fanatical fan adoration that feeds him, still rings alarmingly true
after 10 years — and it still backfires, turning the ridicule more
on himself than others. But if the lawsuit was indeed the catalyst
for the kind of passion he poured into this old invective Tuesday
night, perhaps he should be dragged into court before every tour.
But the substance of this show wasn't as titillating as the
style, particularly for a majority crowd that likely had never seen
him live before. (This is Morrissey's first-ever appearance in the
Sooner state, and on this tour he's strangely avoiding Texas, far
more populated with Morrissey fans.) The mere presence of the
godhead before the masses incited the usual frenzy. Beefy security
men fought a hard battle to tear away desperate young men and women
who had managed to crowd-surf onto the stage and wrap themselves
around their hero. It happens at every single Morrissey show, and
he hardly misses a note anymore. After one particularly boisterous
girl had been pried off his person, Morrissey sat down on the stage
and actually seemed to marvel at the occurrence — amazed that it
still happens, even in Tulsa, Okla.
At least he still marvels. When he takes it for granted, that's
when I start singing "Get Off the Stage'' in earnest.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.