Written by Jason Green Thursday, 24 May 2007 03:11
Moz uttered one line ("I've come to wish me an unhappy birthday"), causing the crowd to fall silent and giving the band—high contrast in bleach-white shirts and pants and black bow ties—the chance to explode out of the gate with a savage take on the Smiths' classic "The Queen Is Dead."
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The Pageant, St. Louis
A St. Louis appearance by the one-and-only Morrissey is a rare enough occurrence for his legions of obsessed fans, but the chance to join with the Smiths crooner on the day of his 48th birthday pushed the festivities into full-on party mode. Moz himself fed off the crowd's energy, offering an ebullient, high-energy set that only amplified the night's fun-filled atmosphere. The sold out crowd packed the Pageant floor wall to wall, making moving more than a few inches a positively Herculean task, but the show's general good nature kept things from being oppressive.
The audience greeted the star of the evening with rapturous applause as he sauntered onstage, looking dapper in an all-black suit and white tie in front of a stage backdrop featuring photos of actor James Dean. Moz uttered one line ("I've come to wish me an unhappy birthday"), causing the crowd to fall silent and giving the band—high contrast in bleach-white shirts and pants and black bow ties—the chance to explode out of the gate with a savage take on the Smiths' classic "The Queen Is Dead." The singer began taunting the crowd with the second song "First of the Gang to Die" (from his 2004 don't-call-it-a-comeback album You Are the Quarry) as he playfully flipped his microphone chord and suggestively loosened his tie before losing it entirely by song's end. From there, it was on to newer territory with a trio of songs from last year's Ringleader of the Tormentors —"The Youngest Was the Most Loved," "In the Future When All's Well," and "You Have Killed Me"—on his way to performing seven of that album's 12 tracks.
Morrissey is nothing if not a crowd pleaser, and his stage banter was frequently greeted with howls of delight, whether he was joking "This is what 48 looks like" or cheekily exclaiming that "It's great to be back in the Lou, and that's spelled L-O-U." He was rightly the center of attention the entire night, the spotlight always aimed on him as his band chugged anonymously in the background. Overall, the musical portion of the evening was indisputably solid, providing a lot more muscle to the songs than their recorded versions might have you expect.
"I try and I try but there's no way of forgetting," Morrissey uttered, seemingly in defeat, before launching back into Smiths territory with a phenomenal run through "Panic," whose tribal drumbeat coerced the crowd into mass dancing. The Quarry track "Let Me Kiss You" provided the chance for a clap-along, and also for the most crowd-pleasing moment of the night. As Morrissey sang the line "Open your eyes," he also opened his shirt, tossing the sweat-soaked black cloth into the crowd, where it was immediately ripped to bits.
Easing back into more new material, the birthday boy reached out to the crowd, many of whom had brought signs, birthday cards, and presents for the occasion, all of which he seemed to be quite appreciative of. Dipping back into older material, "Girlfriend in a Coma" played up the guitar lick over the bopping bass of the recorded version. The song was sandwiched between two classic solo Morrissey singles, the upbeat, almost pop-punk "The National Front Disco" and the crooning "Everyday Is Like Sunday," the latter of which brought the most enthusiastic response from the crowd thus far.
Quarry made another appearance with a savage "Irish Blood, English Heart," the lead guitar roaring to life during the song's coda. The slow, somber "Life Is a Pigsty" brought down the tempo for the only time all night. The song's low-key percussion held the pace at a slow burn, giving the rest of the band a chance to really stretch within the song's spacious arrangement. As the song's extended outro stretched on, Morrissey laid flat on his back, propping his feet on the drum riser and awkwardly swaying back and forth on his shoulders for what seemed like an eternity, the keyboard player plinking out a melody that was a dead ringer for "Auld Lang Syne." Just when it seemed the silliness of it all would collapse under its own weight, the band exploded into "How Soon Is Now?" The notorious song was remarkably faithful to its original studio incarnation, closing with a wall of guitars and a seemingly infinite succession of gong ringing.
Having lost his pink shirt at the end of "How Soon Is Now?" Morrissey entered for the encore with a light green dress shirt. This time, however, it was Morrissey's turn to listen, as the crowd greeted his return with a run through of (what else?) "Happy Birthday" (not to be confused with the Smiths' song "Unhappy Birthday," which would have been a nice touch). The encore started gently with "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want," a quiet song that built to a huge release as the multi-instrumentalist played a mournful trumpet that sounded almost like bagpipes. With only one song left, Morrissey chose to close the show with "You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side" from 1992's Your Arsenal. The song's clanging piano and chugging, near-metal guitar riff brought a rocking, almost-Queens of the Stone Age vibe to the proceedings. The energy was built up to such an incredible degree that the man of the hour could only have one response: why, to lose his shirt for the third time of the night, leaving the ecstatic crowd gasping, clapping, and screaming for more.
Ex-St. Louisan Kristeen Young was hand-chosen by Morrissey to open for his current tour, and she did not disappoint the hometown crowd. The response was appreciative if not quite as enthusiastic as it was for the headliner (but how could it be?). Performing as a duo monikered KRISTEENYOUNG, the set combined the piano-and-drums attack of the Dresden Dolls with the more experimental edge of Björk, her engaging voice and fascinating fashion sense (she appeared to be wearing a dress made of light bulbs) making for an interesting beginning to the evening that made showing up early more than worth it. | Jason Green
The Queen Is Dead
First of the Gang to Die
The Youngest Was the Most Loved
In the Future When All's Well
You Have Killed Me
Let Me Kiss You
I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
All You Need Is Me
I Will See You in Far Off Places
National Front Disco
Girlfriend in a Coma
Everyday Is Like Sunday
The Boy With the Thorn in his Side
Irish Blood, English Heart
At Last I Am Born
I've Changed My Plea to Guilty
Life Is a Pigsty
How Soon Is Now?
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
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