ARTICLE BY CHERYL CHENG
PHOTOS BY TONY MOLINA
MARCH 1-2 | LOS ANGELES / HOLLYWOOD—Moz Angeles, the term affectionately used to describe the state of Los Angeles when Morrissey is in it, descended upon the city this weekend. Treating fans to two consecutive shows at the Staples Center and Hollywood High, Morrissey returned in top form after recovering from a bleeding ulcer and Barrett's esophagus. Although the Staples Center show had many highlights and a few songs that were not performed the following night (namely, "First of the Gang to Die" and "How Soon Is Now?"), the intimacy of the Hollywood High performance fostered a greater connection between the fans and Morrissey. If anything, the shows served as a complement to one another. The first night was a showcase of Morrissey's ability to headline a nearly 20,000-capacity venue, drawing a large crowd despite his controversial and sometimes polarizing views. The second night, held in the unusual choice of the Hollywood High auditorium, provided a unique opportunity for fans to be within incredibly close proximity of the man himself.
Patti Smith co-headlined the Staples Center show, performing several of her hit songs with much enthusiasm and energy. After announcing that tonight was her wedding anniversary, Smith dedicated "Because the Night" to her late husband, Fred Sonic Smith. It was a beautiful tribute to her husband of 14 years. She closed with her rousing cover of Van Morrison's "Gloria." (Smith's merch booth sold tote bags with the song's lyric "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine.") Throughout the show, Smith was full of positivity, which she shared with the audience. The world is full of suffering, she admitted, but we as a people can change it. Winning over most of the crowd by set's end, it was an inspiring performance in both music and message.
Before the start of his performance, Morrissey declared, "Mama, I'm a singer!" and then opened with Smiths classic "Shoplifters of the World Unite," an immediately accessible song to those in the Staples Center who may be unfamiliar with the singer's more obscure or recent songs. "Shoplifters" instantly enthused the large audience, and the band sounded great—even from the nosebleeds. However, a major downside of the show was the absence of video screens. Even though Morrissey and his band were at their best, many were heard lamenting of being unable to see anything on stage.
Morrissey was in high spirits at both the Staples Center and Hollywood High, but also, interestingly, much of his in-between song banter focused on mortality, such as when he dryly stated, "You will excuse me if I drop dead." When he said, "I'm graciously thankful," it was unclear if the statement was directed toward his fans, in regards to his improved health, or both. Later on, Morrissey admitted, "I could die right now, and I wouldn't care." He also added jokingly, "I found that the best way to avoid ending your life as an embittered wreck is to start out as one. And here I am standing before you." Displaying his keen sense of wit, Morrissey had plenty of smart remarks, much like Oscar Wilde, whose picture was printed on a few of the Morrissey shirts at the merch booth.
Before Smiths classic "Meat Is Murder," Morrissey said, "I never ever watch the news because I'm already depressed, but the rhino is more or less extinct. And it's not because of global warming...but Beyonce's handbags." Per usual, during the song, the video screen behind the band showed clips from the PETA video "Meet Your Meat". Morrissey emphatically gestured toward the video screen as he sang, "This beautiful creature must die." In regards to the much discussed issue of whether or not Staples Center would be 100% vegetarian, the venue offered only vegetarian items on the floor, but the upper levels served such meat items as pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs. (There were no concessions at Hollywood High.)
On both nights, Morrissey handed the microphone to the audience, inviting fans to have their say. At the Staples Center, a fan emotionally told him, "Thank you for keeping us sane!" To which Morrissey replied, "Thank you for keeping ME sane." The near religious devotion that Morrissey incites in his fans was on display, and many ardently stated how the singer had positively impacted their lives. In a particularly touching moment at Hollywood High, Morrissey said, "Please remember I love you," as his watery eyes looked upon the crowd in appreciation.
Because the high school auditorium was so small, many in the pit were able to pass gifts to Morrissey, including a handmade sign that read "Class of '77 - Voted Best Hair" with a photo of a younger Morrissey and his famous quiff. He held the sign next to him with an amused expression. In reference to performing at a high school, Morrissey declared, "You know you never ever ever escape from school. It crushes and crushes...well, it did me anyway." It was an indirect reference to his miserable time at St. Mary's Secondary Modern School, of which he had said he was glad headmaster Vincent Moss had died (a statement that sparked controversy in 2007).
As always, when it was time for the encore, many fans in the pit had readied themselves to attempt to get on stage and hug Morrissey. Only one fan at the Staples Center show was able to attempt this feat, but the Hollywood High show—because of its much smaller size—allowed more fans to touch the singer, and one 9-year-old boy named Devin even walked across the stage with Morrissey holding his hand. By all accounts, this was an unforgettable weekend for fans of the singer, who proved to be healthy, happy, and ready to return to the stage. Morrissey stated, "Viva Mexico!" at the beginning of Saturday's set, and the same could be said to him. Viva Morrissey!
SET LIST: Morrissey at Hollywood High on March 2