Morrissey And Interpol At The Hollywood Bowl, Saturday October 26th 2019
When the double bill Morrissey and Interpol was announced, I was under the impression the two acts would be equally sharing the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, however, Morrissey was undoubtedly the star of the night,… a man sitting next to me didn’t even know who Interpol was. Despite everything that has been said about Morrissey and his controversial political views, the Hollywood Bowl seemed packed to the sky, and it took me forever to exit the venue while walking through a very dense crowd.
It was certainly not a coincidence if the LA Times published this very woke article just a few days before Morrissey’s show at the Bowl, it looked like a campaign to do some damage or at least to slow down the ticket sales. However, after attending the concert in the pool, after standing so close to the stage among his most adoring fans, I am happy to report that many people are still moved to tears when listening to Morrissey, and the expression of joy on all these faces was real. So where is the controversy? Where was the woke culture last night? It was nowhere to be found, but it jumped right back at my throat after posting a few pics on social media, I could not believe the shitstorm… There is no middle ground for Morrissey, he is either adored or hated, venerated like a god or described with the vilest insults. Last night, the love fest at the Hollywood Bowl never addressed any controversy and problematic statements that Morrissey may have made about Brexit, immigrants or Chinese people. Morrissey didn’t say too much on the subject either, just ‘I would like to remind you, be brave, speak out, it’s contagious’, and that was about it, as his most political move may have been showing photos of the yellow jackets in France during ‘I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris’.
Interpol opened the show, and I would say they did it quite humbly, well aware they were opening for Morrissey. As usual, they played new and old songs with plenty of crowd-pleasers (‘C’mere’, ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’, ‘NYC’, ‘Evil’, ‘Rest My Chemistry’, ‘Narc’, ‘Slow Hands’…) and you have to just admire the endurance of these songs. They still resonate strongly for many people with this intact dark beauty, and yes there were more than a few Interpol fans around. Paul Banks and his gang were wearing their impeccable sharp suits and sunglasses while bathing in a thick dark red smog, and that was probably what was making all the difference between them and a Morrissey embracing the crowd’s love, touching the reaching hands and even inviting people to jump on stage. Be careful whom you are opening for, Interpol and Morrissey could not have been more different in their approach of a show, cold and hot in full contrast.
However, everybody has to have his or her own trip, I saw many fists in the air during ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’ and ‘Evil’, and I was close enough to see Banks’ shy smile disappearing behind a cloud of red fog while the rest of the band was executing the song with the magnetic precision of perfect machines. Interpol are not known for their stage antics, no pun intended, so their one-hour set, which started at 7 pm sharp, passed like a foggy dream, with certainly less to report than for Morrissey, but filled with their inventive guitars, lugubrious bass lines and Banks’ vocals blending a sinister cold feel with a numb sex appeal. All I can say is that I am not sure how this was perceived in the far away benches of the 17,500-seat Hollywood Bowl, their sound was certainly intact, with their distinctive obsessive soundscapes and authoritarian to claustrophobic guitars, they looked like ready to dominate the world but they obviously could not shine brighter than the pop star of the night, Morrissey.
As I was surrounded by a forest of iPhones raised in the sky, Morrissey made a grand entrance on stage, shining in a green glittery outfit that made him look like a star, and there is no doubt that the first song, ‘You’ll Be Gone’ a Presley cover with a Latin vibe and sung in front of photos of young Elvis, made him look a new King. There was plenty of bravado in his stage moves, he was using the mic cord like a lasso, he was restlessly walking the stage from left to right, touching all the fans who were stretching their arms to reach him. Standing in the pit was truly the right way to see him, looking at his facial expressions and seeing every detail, from his tongue shaking in his mouth during a chorus, to his crazy facial grins.
I was surrounded by Latino people, and a couple on my right was especially absorbed by the show, staying very silent in comparison to the enthusiastic crowd. I saw the man weep during a song while the woman was kissing the photos she had taken with her phone, and at the moment, I thought: Does it matter what was said and rehashed in the news ad nauseam? Does any of Morrissey’s controversial views matter right now? There were only smiles, fervor, and love around me, Morrissey makes people happy and nothing else matters.
‘I am home, I am home, I am home’ screamed Morrissey just after the first song, which was received like a warm kiss by the crowd cheering at the next song, a high energy ‘Suedehead’ with plenty of sing-alongs,… but this would continue throughout the night, while Morrissey never forgot about his large Latino crowd, with a few ‘Muchos Gracias’. From the passionate ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ to the more melancholic ‘Is It Really So Strange?’ borrowed from the Smiths’ catalog, the crowd never detached its eyes from this shiny green man.
There were a lot of covers during his set, from ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ by Laura Nyro, ‘Days of Decision’ by Phil Ochs, Some Say (I Got Devil) by Melanie – three songs he recorded for his last album, ‘California Son’ – to many equally obscure (to me) tunes, such as ‘Morning Starship’ by Jobriath, the first openly gay glam rock musician, to ‘Lady Willpower’ by the ‘60s pop band, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, which was exulting a sort of Neil Diamond enthusiasm. And of course, there was the always excellent cover of The Pretenders, ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ with photos of a young Chrissie Hynde in the background.
With barely an interruption between the songs, Morrissey was shining like a too-close bright pulsar, getting dangerously close to the edge of the stage at times, crooning like no other on ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’ or any other title of his impressive catalog.
He got so friendly he talked about inviting someone on stage ‘to interview the band members’, at the condition that this lucky person would introduce each band member: ‘Do you know the names? He asked someone.. ‘I don’t!’. If nobody came on stage at this moment, the craziness started at the classic ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ that Morrissey sang with an undefeatable spirit. At this moment, people started to climb on stage to hug him under the watch of his buff security guard. But each time, it was full body contact between Morrissey and the bold fans, and I must say Morrissey seemed to enjoy this.
‘Congratulations you are still here’ joked Morrissey before his wild rendition of ‘Jack the Ripper’, he then removed his sparkling jacket and disappeared behind a screen of dark smoke with a sinister laugh. For the encore and two Smiths songs, Morrissey showed up with an elegant blue jacket barely hiding the writing on his black shirt ‘Fuck the Guardian’… But this became totally visible when he threw away his jacket in the crowd, revealing the profanity in plain view.
‘I am human and I need to be loved’ sang Morrissey during ‘How Soon is Now?’, which seemed to be an overstatement looking at the loving hysteria around me. Then, he ripped his ‘Fuck the Guardian’ shirt off and threw it in the crowd, causing a mini-riot around me. Everyone wanted a piece of it and the passion of these people was incredible and infectious, they were simply fascinated by the man and I felt part of something, part of some collective experience. This is a rare thing since very few performers achieve this level of charisma…
At the risk of starting another shitstorm, I would say Morrissey had all the rights in the world to wear a ‘Fuck the Guardian’ shirt while the newspaper is constantly dissing him. But they failed to spoil the night, as none of the fans was interested in this current rampant cancel culture, and nobody was looking at Morrissey’s flaws. On the contrary, they were embracing the depressed romanticism that has always characterized the songs of the Smiths’ ex-frontman, they were celebrating art and this long life attachment you can have to a song, a line, a piece of music. At this point, ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ barely belonged to Morrissey, it was everyone’s soul-saving anthem, it was everyone’s piece of eternity in this vast messy universe.
If You Really Love Nothing
The Heinrich Maneuver
Stay in Touch
Rest My Chemistry
You’ll Be Gone (Elvis Presley cover)
Irish Blood, English Heart
Is It Really So Strange? (The Smiths song)
Wedding Bell Blues (Laura Nyro cover)
Morning Starship (Jobriath cover)
Lady Willpower (Gary Puckett & the Union Gap cover)
I Wish You Lonely
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Home Is a Question Mark
World Peace is none of your business
Why Don’t You Find Out for Yourself
Days of decision Phil Ochs
Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders cover)
Yes, I Am Blind
Never Again Will I Be a Twin
Some Say (I Got Devil) (Melanie cover)
Everyday is like Sunday
I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty
Jack the Ripper (My Chemical Romance cover)
Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage
I Won’t Share You (The Smiths song)
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song)