Why ‘Morrissey was attacked in San Jose’ story is overblown

morrissey-2014By The Festival Lawyer //

Morrissey //
City National Civic – San Jose
May 7th, 2014 //

God Dammit, San Jose. This is why we can’t have nice things.

After months of speculation as to whether he would pull the ultimate Morrissey and cancel the very first show of this tour, Morrissey not only showed up in San Jose but gave an inspired live performance.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Morrissey show without controversy and chaos. During his encore, Moz was performing the song, “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” when fans began a stage invasion. To be honest, this isn’t a particularly unexpected occurrence. Although not exactly a Justin Bieber concert, storming the stage pretty much happens at EVERY Morrissey show.

However, this time, there was a “rush and a push” and a figure got thrown off the stage and tumbled backwards into the audience. For a moment, I thought San Jose was going to be the answer to the Rock and Roll trivia question “In what city did idiots accidentally kill Morrissey?” But I quickly realized it was one of the audience members being pushed back into the crowd by security. Morrissey himself had already been whisked backstage.

The show ended in confusion, with the music stopping abruptly and the lights suddenly coming on. I heard some scattered booing and then people slowly filed out. There was a vague feeling among audience members that we had all been cheated somehow. In other words, it was the quintessential Morrissey ending to a Morrissey concert.

You can see some of the chaos here in this fan-made video:

I was told by someone I trust that Morrissey was actually knocked to the ground and that he and the band took the incident quite seriously. So much so that Morrissey stayed in the Green Room until after the venue was totally cleared and he was escorted out to his bus.

The ending was really a shame given how well the show had gone. Morrissey had cancelled the last 6 (!) shows in the Bay Area and had not performed here since 2009. In fact, a whole lot of Bay Area Morrissey fans passed on the show. Most feared another no show and worried that Morrissey was just trying to find a new and more elaborate way to troll us.

Those who risked it and came were rewarded by seeing Morrissey in rare form. His band sounded tight and his voice was wonderful and expressive. He seemed relaxed and …dare I say it?….happy. I don’t mean Pharrell level happy but at least Morrissey level happy.

During his performance of the song “Speedway” it almost felt like Morrissey was trying somehow to apologize to the Bay Area for past snubs. He held a fan-made sign over his heart while reaching out to the crowd and singing, “In my own strange way, I’ve always been true to you.” If not an actual apology it was at least a “It’s a new tour and a new album, let’s move forward” type of moment with the audience.

Morrissey seems to have a more direct political urgency to his shows these days. Playing a song like “The National Front Disco” (about a young man’s drift into racism and extremism) seemed like an especially timely choice given the huge week that racists had last week. (Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, random dude throwing banana at soccer player et al)

After singing the final lyrics to “Ganglord” (“Protect and serve, but what they really mean is get back to the ghetto”), Morrissey remarked, “You know it’s true..” He seemed to want to make sure audiences realized that he wrote the song about police brutality in a “non-fiction” kind of way.

But of course, Morrissey’s biggest political cause has always been Animal Rights. He played the Smiths classic, “Meat is Murder” while some pretty shocking images of animals being slaughtered were flashed behind him. But I suppose shocking was the point.

Oddly, fans leaving the venue were greeted by two street vendors selling…wait for it…hot dogs wrapped in bacon. It was like some kind of crazy irony cherry topping off the sundae of the performance. I didn’t order one even though they smelled fucking delicious. It just seemed disrespectful after what I had just seen and heard. (PS did I mention they were wrapped in bacon?…bacon freaking hot dogs!)

Speaking of bacon, Morrissey performed an astonishing version of “Life is a Pigsty”. Morrissey once said that writing songs for The Smiths was like “setting his diary to music.” A song like “Life” has that same kind of personal intensity. At one point, Morrissey implored the audience, “Can you stop the pain?” while falling to his knees as if he couldn’t handle the emotions being expressed. In fact, much of the set list focused on the darker, more brooding songs of his back catalogue.

Morrissey also debuted 3 new songs from his album. The best of the bunch I thought was “World Peace Is None of Your Business”.

Overall, Morrissey was terrific. If I had any complaint, it was about his set list. I almost felt a kind of strain from the audience. It was like we were enjoying what we were hearing but hoping for one of those “I can’t believe he is playing this song” type of moments.

Of course I could be attributing my own feelings to that of the audience. I had already alerted the concert goers around me that I had a short list of about 5 classics songs in my head that would cause me to “lose my shit” if he played them.

Morrissey did open with “Hand in Glove” and later played the beautiful Smiths song “Asleep”. It’s a Smiths song that he has never performed live as a solo artist before. (In terms of nerd love, Smiths fans hearing a new Smiths song being performed live is roughly equivalent to the joy Star Wars fans get upon hearing news of a new Star Wars movie.) But this was very much NOT a “Greatest Hits” type of show.

All in all it was a great night. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed a bit by the actions of a few knuckleheads. As a person who considers music their happy place, it sucks when someone cuts short a great show through their own jackassery. Serious downgrade for the audience.

But as Nick Laquintano, who performs with The Smiths/Morrissey Tribute Band This Charming Band, points out, this kind of thing happens A LOT:

Of course you never want to downplay any incidences of violence at live shows, but I do feel as if I’ve seen much crazier stage invasion situations at past Morrissey shows that didn’t get anywhere near the press attention this one is getting. In particular I remember a show in Modesto back in 2007 that was really scary as people were jumping on stage from all angles and it all ended with Morrissey getting clotheslined by somebody. I don’t remember hearing much about that incident after it happened. Either way it is a shame what happened in San Jose and thank goodness no one got hurt.”

That was my reaction to the incident as well. Headlines like “SHOW CUT SHORT AS MORRISSEY ATTACKED BY FAN ONSTAGE” miss the point entirely. I’m not trying to say that what happened wasn’t serious. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen. Live performers should always be safe. But longtime fans recognize there is a segment of Morrissey fans who are kind of like drunken St. Bernards. They want to show their love, but somehow just end up knocking you down as you open the door and accidentally rip your work suit instead. Dumb.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. And since no one was hurt, I would file this under The Festival Lawyer’s concert rule that, “Any ending to a concert that leaves you with a good story is by definition a good concert.”

Setlist:
Hand in Glove
That’s How People Grow Up
Ganglord
Speedway
I Have Forgiven Jesus
World Peace Is None of Your Business
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Yes, I Am Blind
The Bullfighter Dies
Life Is a Pigsty
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
Trouble Loves Me
Meat Is Murder
First of the Gang to Die
The Youngest Was the Most Loved
I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday
The National Front Disco
Asleep
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell

Why I will still go and see Morrissey in San Jose (Or at least buy tickets and see if he shows up)

morrissey-2014

By the Festival Lawyer //

So Morrissey just announced the start of another tour. This one kicks off in San Jose May 7th at City National Civic.

As you might expect, the announcement was not exactly greeted with enthusiasm in the Bay Area. Headlines like “Morrissey is pretending to play the Bay Area again” or “Morrissey announces tour dates he will probably later cancel” were the most common reaction.

You can’t really blame people for being pissed. Morrissey has cancelled six consecutive shows in the Bay Area. The last time Morrissey actually played a scheduled gig in the Bay Area was in 2009 in Oakland. Although some of last year’s cancellations were due to health issues, what really pissed people off was Morrissey playing shows either right before or right after the dates he missed for health reasons. It seemed less like he was sick and more like a deliberate snub to the Bay Area. In fact, a local SF store actually started selling “Fuck Moz” signs.

Comments on social media sites were varied, and ranged from, “No I won’t be buying Morrissey tickets” to “Oh HELL NO I won’t be buying Morrissey tickets.”

So having said all that, why am I telling people to “Buy” when it comes to the Morrissey stock market when everyone else is telling their investors, “Sell”?

It’s the start of the tour

Unless Morrissey is trying to invent new ways to mess with us, it just seems super unlikely that he would cancel the very first show of the tour. Also, the first show of a tour is pretty exciting. What’s on the playlist? Which Smiths songs will make the cut? Any new stuff from the upcoming album? And let’s not forget about the bragging rights that come from seeing the first show of a tour.

It’s in San Jose

Morrissey hasn’t performed in San Jose since the 90s. Because of how long it has been and how far south it is, he may not even realize that he is playing in the Bay Area. Plus, if Morrissey cancels we can all head over to Original Joe’s and have a late night dinner and bitch session.

He is one of rock’s great icons

Despite all the drama, Morrissey remains a huge rock icon. Music magazine NME called Morrissey “one of the most influential rock artists ever”. In 2004, Pitchfork Media called him “one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last twenty years.”

A few years back the BBC produced a show called “The Importance of Being Morrissey”. If you haven’t seen it, it is less a documentary and more a 45 minute love letter from the people of England. Suffice to say that most stars have to be dead before reaching the level of hero worship people have for him.

You need to change your perception of what a “ticket” is

Most people would define a “ticket” as a contract to see a certain performer at a certain time perform for you. Morrissey concerts are more akin to a “Morrissey Lottery” than a traditional ticket. The fun part of buying a ticket to a Morrissey concert is that you literally have no idea what will happen. I have a friend who was walking into one of his shows when it was abruptly cancelled. I have another friend who went to a bar after Morrissey cancelled a show and saw Moz there having the time of his life. I’ve been at shows where Morrissey was close to openly fighting with the audience.

On the other hand, he can be a superb live performer when he feels like it. When I saw him in 2012, he whipped the mic around like a pro, sounded great and mixed older and new material with ease. When security kept the crowd from coming on stage, Morrissey announced “It’s your stage, don’t let them tell you what to do.” The response from the audience was close to what I expect you might see from one of those revivalist church in the south. It was fantastic.

2014 could be Morrissey’s year

I asked Tom Hastings why in the world any fan would go see Morrissey after the way he has treated the Bay Area. Tom has been a Morrissey fan for 25 years, and has seen over 50 Morrissey shows. (He also has a cameo in the Coachella documentary and his own chapter in the book, The Day I Met Morrissey.) He thinks 2014 will be a big year for Morrissey.

I am still going to take my chances and get these tickets to see a true legend, an icon really, perform live. I think 2014 is going to be Morrissey’s comeback year. He recently released his critically acclaimed autobiography and he is recording his new album. Moreover, his health problems seem to be behind him now. I can’t wait to see this show, especially on opening night…not knowing the setlist and all. I predict this show will sell out FAST! ~VIVA MOZ!

The idea of a Morrissey comeback may seem crazy to you. But remember, this is a guy who has had at least 4 major comebacks in his career. (Example, in 2004 he went from having no record deal to a top ten album in the UK and top eleven on Billboard.) So a comeback is not at all farfetched.

The Smiths aren’t getting back together anytime soon

Listen, we have to collectively let the dream of a Smiths reunion go. They’ve supposedly been offered insane sums to do it, from UK festivals, and Moz just won’t. Coachella makes a try at a Smiths reunion every year. It’s not happening. The fact is that if you ever want to hear and sing along with classics like “How Soon is Now” or “There is a Light that never goes out”, it’s going to have to be at a Morrissey concert.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Morrissey is a tribute band or will be doing some kind of “Greatest Hits” reunion tour. Remember, he had a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album as recently as 2009. This is a chance to see a great live performer working through a few decades of great material.

(Speaking of tribute bands, if the Blank Club doesn’t book “This Charming Band” for a combination “After party and/or cancellation party” that same night they are crazy.)

The bottom line is that if you are a fan it’s probably worth the risk of getting burned in exchange for the chance that you will see something truly special. Or as Tom Hastings put it, “if you haven’t experienced a Moz cancellation, and then taken a chance on seeing him again, you are not a true fan.”

Morrissey

Presale: February 20 from 10am to 10pm. Use password ARSENAL to buy tickets. Tickets for general public on sale Friday, February 21 at 9am.

Get tickets here.