Morrissey at the Hollywood Bowl
October 26, 2019
I wasn’t planning on seeing Morrissey at the Bowl last night. The bovine-like crowds, the 33-mile commute from Long Beach to Hollywood in Saturday night traffic, and the simmering soup of controversy that our boy has brewed up over his For Britain endorsement weren’t things I didn’t want to endure on what turned out to be a rare night without the kids.
After all, the last time I saw Morrissey perform (also at the Hollywood Bowl) in 2017 was perfect. Too perfect to top in 2019, I thought. In 2017, his Far Right endorsement was still eons away. Admittedly, he used ghastly language up until that point (“The Chinese are a subspecies.” "England is a memory now -- the gates are flooded,” and “This is the Mayor of London and he cannot talk properly.” when speaking of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Still, it was easy for me, an American, to justify his bluntness. Most of what he was talking about was local politics, and to be frank, I don’t have the capacity to worry about what Morrissey’s rallying against anymore. I have local problems of my own that take priority these days.
When I saw him that night at the Bowl in 2017, I was blown away by the performance. While the whipped microphone leads and gymnastics on the floor monitors were gone, the voice had richened and reached the depths I never thought it could go. (Compare his yips of “Handsome Devil” to the brute force of “Lady Willpower.”) He held the crowd that night.
And with that, at 47, with Morrissey as the only constant in my life since I was 15, I conceded that that Morrissey show would be my last. It was a perfect gig, and I wanted to take a break from riding the Morrissey train for 32 consecutive years. Finally, I was no longer beholden to sniffing out every release on all formats. I didn’t have to spend hours on eBay looking for that first Belgian pressing of “Suedehead” anymore. I wanted to fade away on a pleasant note and the Hollywood Bowl in 2017 seemed like a healthy parting of ways, on my end anyway.
Why did it take so long for to walk away? Up until a few months ago, Morrissey never planted a flag. He never took sides. He repeatedly said he never voted, he didn’t believe in the system -- it was Morrissey and his devotees against the world. I was all in until he bluntly aligned himself with For Britain. He used to be Miserable Morrissey, the lonely eccentric who used to stand up for animal rights, and rally against British authoritarianism. Now he endorses an extreme far right political party because of something about… animal rights?
Everyone has their tipping point. For Britain was mine.
* * *
I’m thinking about every one of the aforementioned deterrents as I notice that it’s a little after 4 o’clock. I imagine Morrissey was probably stepping onto the vastness of the clamshell stage, looking out at 17,500 empty seats, and running through a couple songs for soundcheck.
The lure was too strong -- too many years together, too much history. I checked online to see what tickets were selling for and thought, “What the hell -- $55 for the terrace box.”
So we went, in spite of reading the articles the Los Angeles Times the LAist, published days leading up to Morrissey’s return to one of his regular ports. Looking out at the buzzing faces of the full house minutes before the lights dimmed, it’s obvious the articles didn’t alter their perception of Morrissey either.
The setlist was unusual, if only because he leaned on his covers album, which gave the performance a bit of a karaoke veneer. But standing there during the encore, listening to “I Won’t Share You,” it was difficult to ignore the pangs of resentment towards Morrissey for ruining a good thing we used to have. He used to produce great art, and I used to buy it -- all of it. That was the deal, and we kept true to the symbiotic relationship, even during the lean World Peace years.
Morrissey may have written the song about Johnny Marr, but to me, it encapsulated the days after my first true love broke up with me on the front steps of our high school -- a typical John Hughes setting if there ever was one.
I won't share you, no
I won't share you
With the drive and the dreams inside
This is my time
“I Won’t Share You” was my song, and now Twitter says the song is tainted. But standing there, listening to Morrissey deliver the lyrics, the resentment subsided, and the song comforted me, just as it did in 1987.
Maybe this For Britain thing is just a phase -- like the boxing and the gangsters, and his other peccadillos that are far more worthy of his attention than For Britain. Maybe I’ll wait around the station for the next LP, and jump on the Morrissey Express one more time. Unconditional love, the kind Morrissey and I had, is difficult to walk away from.