It’s March 2, 2013, and some of the 1,800 fans crammed into the theatre at Hollywood High School just can’t contain their enthusiasm for the special guest headliner.
One can’t blame them, really, given the main attraction is English pop star / poet laureate Morrissey—the man who practically invented “alternative” in the early ‘80s with The Smiths and turned brooding into uber-cool romantic art. Now in his early ‘50s, the harmonious heartthrob gave a rare intimate performance at the L.A. arts school the evening following a sell-out bash at the nearby Staples Center sports arena.
Director David Russell’s (R.E.M., Queens of the Stone Age) multiple high-definition cameras captured all the action for the new legacy DVD Morrissey: 25 Live (Eagle Rock), plopping the iconic singer and his inimitable five-piece band before a crowd of exuberant die-hards who, when given the chance on tape, profess their allegiance and thank the quiff-haired crooner for his songs, for his inspiration, for his just being alive. A few fans gush for cameras while walking in and out of the venue (which sold out in 12 seconds), but many vent so boisterously between numbers during the show proper that the object of their affections can’t help but toy with their devotion a little. Moz even surrenders the microphone to a couple folks down front, surely knowing their catharsis will manifest in the praise and adoration befitting a modern-day messiah: “Tonight, you belong to the ages!”
“Shouldn’t you be doing dishes, or something really useful?” the singer deadpans later, playing at humility. “You don’t have to whoop if you don’t really want to.”
But whoop they do, eating out of Morrissey’s palm throughout the dramatic, nineteen-song concert. Dressed for comfort in loose-fit jeans and a floral print shirt, Moz bullwhips the slack in his mic cord and ignores the front-row revelers proffering roses long enough to get through “Alma Matters.” He looses up for kitschy, carnival keyboard number “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” high-fiving a few lucky individuals whilst patrolling the rim of the stage. Six-year old Devon is literally swept up by the singer during the encore, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” and spends a few precious moments holding hands with his hero onstage.
Talk about a killer first concert.
1991’s Kill Uncle and 1995’s Southpaw Grammar are sidestepped, but just about every other solo Morrissey disc is represented, from 1988’s Viva Hate (“Everyday is Like Sunday”) through 2004’s You Are the Quarry (“Let Me Kiss You”). The Lancashire native skewers the crown on “Irish Blood, English Heart,” debunks anachronistic class warfare with “Still Ill,” and condemns the carnivore lifestyle during “Meat is Murder” without sounding preachy.
View the Morrissey: 25 Live trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iFRGfOVjN0g
The sound is sublime, even if the lightning is hit or miss. Blues and reds saturate the stage on “Irish Blood, English Heart.” Violet spots enhance the already ethereal mood of “Speedway.” Angry crimsons dominate “Meat is Murder,” and green starbursts grace piano-driven Frankie Valli cover “To Give Is the Reason I Live” late in the set. Moz is illuminated nicely, but the band is relegated to the shadows—unlit and mostly unseen save for their beefy, linebacker-like silhouettes. Russell over-relies on a fisheye lens planted front and center, but the majority of camera angles is otherwise choice.
Other Smiths cuts include “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.” “You’re the One for Me, Fatty” harkens back to 1992’s Your Arsenal. Sinister, tribal-drum track “November Spawned a Monster” hails from a 1990 non-album single—and demonstrates that Morrissey’s pipes have yet to crack after three decades.
Longtime guitarist / musical director Boz Boorer cranks the heat with his jangly Telecaster while co-guitarist Jesse Tobias (Alanis Morissette) colors the measures with pedal-effect distortion and reverb. Boorer swaps his electric for an acoustic in a couple places (“I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”), and even contributes a clarinet solo or two. Keyboardist Gustavo Manzur mans the Nord Electro and Korg X2, weaving poignant piano strains on “Action Is My Middle Name” and lightening “Let Me Kiss You” with jazz chords. Anthony Burulchich keeps tempo on a Ludwig kit with illuminated timpani and gong (“Ouija Board”) as Solomon Walker thumps a Fender bass.
“They have to be flipped vertically every ten minutes,” Morrissey says of his players, who re-introduce themselves in a more conventional manner later.
Moz changes shirts three times, tossing his discarded threads into the audience. The band also changes for the encore, returning to the stage in matching Brooklyn Nets basketball tees.
Bonus features include four Studio Session tracks (“The Kid’s a Looker,” “Scandanavia,” “People Are the Same Everywhere,” and “Action Is My Middle Name”), a video tour of Hollywood High School, and a clip of funnyman Russell Brand’s intro the concert.