MORRISSEY | HOLLYWOOD BOWL BY JOHN HOOD
November 1, 2019
Call me irresponsible, but I’d prefer not to address the generally left-leaning Morrissey’s support of the far-right For Britain Movement. In fact, I don’t even want to think about it. Oh, it’s not that I don’t care. (I do.) Or that I’m not puzzled. (Who isn’t?) But rather that it’s not my place to say which way he or anyone else swings. I mean, I wouldn’t tell Morrissey who to love, so why should I tell him which party to go to?
That said, this is Morrissey we’re talking about and Morrissey is political. Always has been. Always will be. So it’d be impossible to review the man’s most recent Hollywood Bowl show without somehow touching upon politics. It also only makes sense that one of the most fiery and caustic moments of that showing was the politically-charged “I Wish You Lonely.”
Taken from 2017’s Low in High School, “I Wish You Lonely” is an agit-pop fight song for shut-ins. A sorta J’accuse for the recluse, if you will. Think of it as the kinda track a bed-ridden Proust might write if he wore a Yellow Vest and had a kickass band behind him. The place where taunt meets lament and comes out as anthem.
It’s also just a little bit epic.
Live it’s even more so. The stir is more stirring. The churn is more churning. The roar more roarful. The song may be driven by a march beat, backed by a heart’s throb and bolstered by flaring harmonics, but it’s led by Morrissey’s melodic malevolence.
And his inarguable adamance. This is how it is, baby. Deal with it. But don’t fall for it. Whatever you do.
By the time the song sides with the holy sea creature over the evil Norwegian gunships, you’ve become the pursued, and you’ve vowed never to give in to your pursuers, even if your life depends on it.
Because, of course, it does. Which, of course, is the key to Morrissey. He sings of living through lethal things. Love. Loss. Murder. War. You name it. That he does so with a cutthroat wit and a killer croon only makes the songs – and their subjects – that much deadlier.
And that much more vital. It’s there in You Are the Quarry’s “Irish Blood English Heart,” it’s there in Years of Refusal’s “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” and it’s there in Viva Hate’s “Everyday is Like Sunday.” It was there in every other song sung at The Bowl on Saturday too, including The Smiths’ classic “How Soon is Now.”
But though “How Soon is Now” actually ended the evening, it was the raucous one-two punch of “Jack the Ripper” and “Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on Stage” that truly crashed out the main event – and left the 17,000+ in attendance gently reeling into that long Hollywood night. We were bruised. We were battered. And we were happy. In fact, we were ecstatic.
Imagine being hit by the world’s most beautiful fist. That’s what the night felt like. I don’t know if the blow came from the left. And I don’t know if the blow came from the right. But I do know I’ll be cherishing the black-and-blue for the rest of my life.