BIGMOUTH STRIKES AGAIN: Morrissey gets political at the Majestic Theatre
DALLAS, Texas -- Love him or hate, you can’t deny that Morrissey truly is one-of-a-kind.
I mean can you really imagine any other performer ditching an opening act in favor of a video montage featuring everything from Lou Reed to Maya Angelou to the New York Dolls? It may not’ve been the most traditional start to the evening, but Morrissey has never been much of a traditional guy (or his shows, for that matter).
This past Saturday night, Dallas’s own Majestic Theatre played house to the former Smiths frontman’s last scheduled performance for the year.
It was a miracle in itself that the show even happened given the cancellations and controversy that have accompanied this tour. This particular performance was originally scheduled to take place at McFarlin Auditorium in Dallas last November before being cancelled and rescheduled for December only to be cancelled again. A few nights ago in Tucson, Morrissey played only six songs before walking offstage after losing his voice and ended up canceling his next scheduled show in San Antonio.
But if any fans were nervous of any potential issues or cancellations Saturday night, it sure didn’t show. The Majestic was packed with a sold-out crowd of Morrissey devotees who were wrapped around the building hours before the doors even opened at seven.
Decked out in Doc Martens, Smiths T-shirts, and all manner of Morrissey gear, the crowd was frantic from the beginning. Everywhere you turned were devotees of the Church of Morrissey discussing everything from what his setlist might look like (“If he doesn’t sing “This Charming Man” I’m gonna set myself on fire”) to possible ways to sneak backstage (“I think you and I could take that security guard on the left”).
The hysteria reached a fever pitch when the lights dimmed and a single spotlight shone before the man of the hour casually strolled onstage flanked by his backing band. If I was wondering whether or not Morrissey was going to get political this evening, one look at this bandmates standing in a row all wearing matching “Fuck Trump” T-shirts gave me my answer.
Morrissey with his bandmates, sporting "Fuck Trump" T-shirts. (Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report)
But before you could even catch your breath at the sight of our beloved Morrissey, he went right into opening his performance with “Suedehead.” When that iconic baseline shimmered through the venue, it was impossible not to get goosebumps. “Oh come on, it wasn’t that good,” he exclaimed before mining his discography for gems like “Alma Matters” and “Istanbul.”
SING YOUR LIFE
For such an outspoken performer known just as much for his grumpiness and bad attitude as his music, Morrissey seemed to be in especially good spirits Saturday night. But even if Morrissey has managed to make enemies out of everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Jimmy Kimmel, he’s always held an intensely passionate relationship with his fans.
He regularly touched hands with the clamoring masses in the front row and picked up the gifts they would extend to him throughout the two-hour set. When he ripped open his shirt and threw it into the crowd during the final notes of “Let Me Kiss You,” a tradition at Morrissey shows since his days with The Smiths, a fight broke out that continued into the next song as a group of fans tore the garment to pieces.
Texas may be the ‘BBQ Capitol of the World,’ but I have a feeling some concertgoers may’ve left Morrissey’s performance a born-again vegan.
The long-time animal rights activist who once compared eating meat to pedophilia didn’t hold back when he performed the Smiths classic “Meat Is Murder” while a video depicting various slaughterhouses played in the background. Masses of fans walked out during the blood-drenched video, with the venue coated in red lights as Morrissey sang “The turkey you festively slice is murder, do you know how animals die?” It made for a disturbing viewing experience made all the more powerful by Morrissey’s emotional connection to the song. Equally upsetting was the footage of real-life shootings and police violence that backdropped Morrissey’s performance of his 2006 song “Ganglord.” It was undeniably difficult to watch, but also impossible to look away from.
THIS CHARMING MAN: Morrissey never shys away from expressing an opinion - or a Ramones cover. (Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report)
The “Meat Is Murder” set-piece and Morrissey’s frequent political rants were definitely highlights of the evening. Between the “Fuck Trump” t-shirts and a background image of Morrissey holding a baby photoshopped with the president’s head on it, Morrissey didn’t care about ruffling feathers. He even altered the lyrics of the Smiths hit “Shoplifters of the World Unite” to “Trump Shifters of the World Unite.” Which was especially hysterical considering he was performing in a state as heavily Republican as Texas.
“Sean Spicer. Betsy DeVos. Jeff Sessions,” he deadpanned. “You can’t beat American comedy.”
It says a lot about Morrissey’s virtues as a performer and an artist that even his flashier moments like the aforementioned did nothing to outshine the pure pleasures of his music. There was still plenty of shouting and politicizing, but that hardly mattered when his setlist included songs as perfect as “Everyday Like Sunday” or “Ouija Board, Ouija Board.”
Morrissey and band (with drummer sporting a James Baldwin bass drum head) at Saturday night's Dallas gig. (Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report)
Morrissey hasn’t performed the Smiths hit “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me” since 2012, so you can understand why the crowd went into hysterics. The same can be said of “How Soon Is Now?,” which is arguably the Smiths' signature song with its instantly-recognizable guitar riff that rippled throughout the Majestic Theatre. The response from the audience was powerful, with a fan in the pit even managing to run onstage and bear-hug Morrissey before being thrown off by multiple security guards.
Ending the evening with a cover of the Ramones classic “Judy Is a Punk,” Morrissey capped off a performance that was truly one for the ages. “Be good to yourself, be good to your mother, and stop Trump,” he declared. “To all the Gods in the world, bless you.”
Maybe it’s slightly because everyone’s bar for the show was set as low as “please just show up and not walk off after six songs,” but Morrissey’s performance in Dallas was a transcendent experience that lived up to his status as one of the greatest artists of all time. In both his time with the Smiths and an equally accomplished solo career, Morrissey has cemented his status as pop’s foremost provocateur.
He’s built his legendary career on his own terms, garnering plenty of enemies and even more acclaim along the way. And Saturday night, every element of that career came crashing together to form a funny, poignant, and spectacular showcase for the artist formally known as Morrissey.
Whether you cringed at the political commentary or relished in his otherworldly voice, there’s no denying the entire experience was quintessential Moz.
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