WHERE: The Detroit Masonic Temple
WHEN: July 8, 2015
Standing inside the “temple of filth,” as Morrissey called it last night, was electric. If you know anything about this charming man, you know he has pious fans, to say the least — fans that will throw flowers (sometimes their bodies) onto the stage and fight their way to the front of general admission to have a proper “Moz” handshake. He even has fans, dare I say, loco enough to forgo the Rolling Stones at Comerica Park for him.
“They’re playing tonight, yes?” Morrissey asked sardonically in between songs. “Well … I wish them well.”
It’s that delicious British cheek that listeners have come to adore. He seems a far cry from his hapless Smiths days — the current, 56-year-old rock star has been content without the band that started it all for him since 1988. It’s hard to believe The Smiths’ career spanned a fleeting five years, as they’ve reached iconic status in indie land (see: “How Soon is Now?” and “Asleep”). But then again, so has Morrissey.
There was no opening act, only a giant projector screen covering the whole stage playing old performance clips. “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, a live version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits,” and footage from the New York Dolls all contributed. It was entertaining and interesting to see a montage of everything that’s inspired Morrissey through the years, though much of the audience grew restless with it and kept howling for the star of the show.
Prayers were answered. The screen was lifted and there he stood, clad in a deep V-neck and jeans, like the low-key rock priest he is. The concert got off to a solid start with the likes of “Suedehead” and “Istanbul,” two steady grooves that reassured the crowd of Morrissey’s impregnable talent. His voice sounded just as crisp, just as silky as it does on 1990’s Bona Drag, and without any overexertion or force.
The audience sat pretty tight in their seats at the beginning of the concert, especially when things got political. A chilling rendition of “Ganglord” mixed with disturbing clips of police brutality lent to a pensive shift in energy. The same was true of The Smiths’ “Meat Is Murder,” which was accompanied by stomach-turning video snippets of slaughterhouses and the like. He was to play only two other Smiths songs for the rest of the concert, and I was to never eat again.
It all got chipper again, though, as soon as the opening chords of “Everyday Is Like Sunday” struck. The stage lights got brighter, almost everyone in their seats stood up and cheered, and it seemed the entire venue was singing along to the blissful tune. “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” had everyone yelling out “stop me, oh, stop me” in perfect time as Moz sashayed around the stage, whipping his microphone chord in front of him like he was making fire dance.
The only word that comes to mind to describe the whole shebang, in an all-encompassing, simple sort of way, is: powerful. The politics, the melodies, that voice. We can only hope he’ll keep touring for the sake of witnessing that power again.