Morrissey at The Mondavi

I’ve been to very few concerts in my life, but I feel that this one was unique. I doubt that any other concert I will attend will be delayed for several months, feature a video montage of songs from the 60′s that is as long as the opening act and end with several members of the audience rushing onto stage to hug the performer.

Soon after transferring to UC Davis this year, I found out that Morrissey was set to perform at the Mondavi Center in November. I immediately bought tickets since Morrissey is my favorite lyricist and one of my favorite musicians. I revere him to the point that I go by my last name in my personal life as an homage. Sadly, the concert was delayed until March due to Morrissey’s mom unfortunately falling ill. Additionally, Morrissey fell ill with an ulcer at the end of January, which caused him to cancel several shows. I feared he would cancel again. Thankfully, he recovered and played the show on time.

The opening act was a performer named Kristeen Young, who previously opened for Morrissey on his 2007 tour supporting his album Ringleader of the Tormentors. I had heard bad things about her, which ended up being a good thing because I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. She ran the stage by herself for about 25 minutes, going between playing the piano and dancing around the stage. The music and vocals were incredibly loud, which led to the words becoming indecipherable. The biggest problem is that, while she was great, her music isn’t a stylistic fit for a Morrissey concert. It’s like having Daft Punk open for Bob Dylan.

After this, the lights came back on and a bunch of old music videos began to play. This was strange, because it negated the point of having an opening act. It was like an admission that Kristeen Young’s musical style is very different from Morrissey’s and so these old musicians Morrissey likes would be a better fit. Also, the montage began with a PETA advertisement that made me feel bad for eating fish and chips before the show.

At 9 o’clock – almost an hour after I sat down – Morrissey got on stage and I became overwhelmed with feelings of hero worship. I was actually seeing the man who soundtracked my life in high school. I wasn’t the only person there feeling this way, as I was sitting behind a man who listened to so much of Morrissey’s music that he was able to synchronize his arm movements with the guitar riffs. It was rather spectacular.

I was a little worried when he began with a song I hadn’t heard before, but thankfully he performed a lot of great songs from his solo career, such as the political “Irish Blood, English Heart” and the post-apocalyptic narrative “Everyday is Like Sunday.” Some of the song choices seemed a little absurd, such as the almost novelty sounding “Ouija Board, Ouija Board.” It didn’t matter, because Moz was tearing through the songs with the vigor of a man half his age. He and his band sounded almost exactly like the records.

It got even more impressive when Moz tackled a couple of his songs from The Smiths. While it would be ridiculous to expect him to just play Smiths songs (although “This Charming Man” and “There is a Light that will Never Go Out” are sorely missed), the few he played were all highlights. In particular, his performance of acoustic classic “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” was ridiculously moving and obligatory vegetarian anthem “Meat is Murder,” which was combined with gruesome PETA documentary “Meet Your Meat,” moved my gut.

However, the best part of the show was the final song, the all time classic Smiths anthem “How Soon is Now?” The live version was distinctly louder and faster than the studio version, and it felt more like My Bloody Valentine than The Smiths. Especially since the last minute featured a light show so crazy that I wasn’t sure whether my vision was being damaged more than my hearing.

During the encore, which was “The Boy with the Thorn in his Side,” a woman jumped onto the stage and hugged Morrissey, which cements the dedication that Moz inspires in his fans. This led to the most thrilling ending to a concert I will probably ever see, as tens of people began to climb up onto the stage in attempts to hug Moz. The craziest part was that about half of the people climbing on stage were able to hug Moz before security threw them back into the crowd. It was kind of thrilling and frightening – since I didn’t want Moz to get hurt – but also strangely heartwarming.

I definitely hyped up this concert for myself (which usually ends in disaster), and amazingly, it lived up to the hype. Morrissey killed it. Hell, his opening act killed it. If you can go to any of his shows, do it. You won’t be miserable.

JOHN KESLER can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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