Alternative/indie rock fans of all ages gathered at the Met in Philadelphia on cold and windy Saturday night on December 3. It was there that they spent an evening with legendary singer/songwriter Morrissey. Since November, the enigmatic former frontman of the Smiths has been touring the US. Thus far, it has been an interesting tour to say the least: there’s been cancelled shows, postponed shows and even a shortened 30 minute set at the Greek Theatre. Along with this, Morrissey has a new album in the can. The album, Bonfires of Teenagers, has had its release delayed for a year or so now. Whether that can be chalked up to bad luck or Morrissey himself is a matter of debate. Despite these hard times, Morrissey and his band were able to put on a solid show that Saturday night, filled with songs both new and old.
Walking around inside the Met, there was a unique mix of concert goers in attendance that night. In the genre of alternative/indie rock, the music usually appeals to teenagers and/or young adults. Looking around the venue, there were people of all ages: there were young adults, old adults and families with their teenage children. There were even small children there, including one little girl who was wearing Morrissey beanie. As she sipped on a soft drink through a straw, this girl looked like she’d rather be anywhere else but the show. Luckily for her, Disney on Ice will be in town several weeks from now.
At around 8:30 pm, videos started to play on the stage’s big projector screen. Videos from Eddie Cochran, the Ramones and the New York Dolls all played for the audience for a good half hour. At 9 pm, Morrissey and his band took to the stage and to roaring crowd of people. For the next hour or so, Morrissey performed a total number of 20 songs. The songs on the set list that night can be broken up into 3 different categories:
Songs from Bonfires of Teenagers + I Am Not a Dog on a Chain (his two most recent albums): 7
Smiths covers: 5
Solo Tunes from 1988-2004: 8
While that looks nicely organized, some of the songs played that night might not be known by casual music listeners. Looking around in the audience, there were several times when people weren’t singing along. Looking through Morrissey’s setlists in recent years, he tends to take deep dives into his catalogue. Even then, the audience was still enthralled, which meant they were overjoyed when hearing songs such as “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
Watching Morrissey, the man knows how to work a stage. While singing, Morrissey looked well poised and pantomimed to the lyrics. Vocally, the 63-year-old singer still sounds strong. While his voice is not as youthful as it once was, Morrissey has taken good care of his voice. If one song stood out more than the others, Morrissey’s voice sounded particularly strong and dramatic during the bleak “I Live in Oblivion.” Crooning about being force-fed hospital food, he was able to emote all of the feelings in the song.
Contrary to his reputation, Morrissey seemed to be in good spirits that night. As mentioned before, the weather was not great. After playing “Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings,” Morrissey spoke to the audience.
“Despite the weather, it’s a great joy to be here” Morrissey said to an enthused audience. “And I’m not just saying so that you’ll go ‘Oh!’ But you’ve done it so…”
Further into the concert, Morrissey became more chatty. Prior to playing “Knockabout World,” Morrissey preached about the problem with “idiot culture” and about how it has taken over the world.
“It’s taken over our politics, sports and I’d say music but there is no music scene now” Morrissey explained to the audience. “May it rest in peace.”
At other parts in the show, Morrissey showed a more humorous side to him. Before going into the Smiths classic “Girlfriend in a Coma,” he introduced the song by informing the audience he was once the singer in a band during the 1980s. As Morrissey took a dramatic pause with every few words, he soon revealed that the name of this band was…Blodwyn Pig. Towards the end of the show, Morrissey expressed his surprise in that the audience was still there.
“Don’t forget all those people who told you you shouldn’t come tonight” said Morrissey. “They were right.”
Another thing worth noting about the show is Morrissey’s use in pictures and videos on the big screen. For each song, there was a picture and/or video to go with the song. Fans might be aware of the artwork used for Smiths and Morrissey albums and singles: it’s usually a black and white still from an old-timey movie and/or a portrait of someone that was an influence to Morrissey. For example, during “Our Frank,” a still picture of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster was shown.
The most effective and touching use of these photographs came into play during “Rebels Without Applause,” when a picture of David Bowie and New York Dolls singer David Johansen appeared. The song itself is loving tribute to Morrissey’s heroic “bawdy boys” and “girls all gone wrong.” As Morrissey sang the last line of “I love them all,” he knelt down towards to big screen projecting the picture.
If you’re on the fence about seeing Morrissey, you should probably catch him while you still can. While the setlist isn’t perfect, the man knows how to put on a show. For that fact alone, take your chances and see him for yourself.
1. We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
2. Our Frank
3. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
4. I Am Veronica
5. Jim Jim Falls
6. Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings
7. The Bullfighter Dies
8. Knockabout World
9. Girlfriend in a Coma
10. Rebels Without Applause
11. I Live in Oblivion
12. The Loop
13. My Life is a Succession of People Saying Goodbye
14. Everyday Is Like Sunday
15. Half a Person
16. Irish Blood, English Heart
17. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
18. Saint in a Stained Glass Window
19. Jack the Ripper
20. Sweet and Tender Hooligan
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.