This is behind a paywall so I'm cutting and pasting. Glowing, yet intelligent review from the esteemed Neil McCormick (very well-respected music journo of long standing).
Key quote: 'this is a show that should be seen, a slice of rock theatre as life-enhancing, thought-provoking and emotionally powerful as any West End drama'.
Morrissey, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Broadway, review: a hair-raisingly magnificent outpouring of hurt and anger
You want more? Morrissey rips off his shirt during the encore CREDIT: TAYLOR HILL/ GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA
8 MAY 2019 • 1:22PM
Morrissey on Broadway: what image does that conjure up? The former Smiths
star in stockings with a chorus line of sad tap dancers unfolding umbrellas? Or perhaps, in the style of Bruce Springsteen’s year-long theatrical stint, the dour Mancunian telling anecdotes about the woeful events that inspired the composition of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now whilst a guitarist strums doleful chords?
Either scenario might have been amusing but, in the end, Morrissey
stormed the heartland of New York theatre by doing exactly what he has been doing for nearly forty years: crooning lyrically audacious, melodically gorgeous songs about the trials of being Stephen Morrissey while a tightly drilled band conjured up a wall of thrilling rock sound. The lighting was artful, the background visuals were stimulating, the sound was crisp, the audience excited and attentive, but right at the centre of everything was one man singing about his life in a set overflowing with emotion, humour, aggravation and provocation. It was hair-raisingly magnificent. Or, in the words of the man himself, “not bad for a week night”.
At 59, the controversial British icon is performing a seven-night stint at the 1,500-seater Lunt-Fontanne theatre, just off Times Square and directly opposite award winning musical sensation Hamilton. He could have reached more fans doing one night at Madison Square Garden, as he has in the past. So presumably Broadway itself matters to Morrissey, an obsessive fan of popular music.
His distinctive voice was in fantastic shape, a creamy baritone rising up to sweet falsetto, descending into gruff barks and extending into melismatic yodelling warbles. He delivered his material with a theatricality reminiscent of such pre-rock’n’roll troubadours as Anthony Newley and Charles Aznavour, turning up the collar of his jacket to evoke isolation during an utterly bereft Seasick, Yet Still Docked, or whipping his microphone cord as if in combat during a stinging The Bullfighter Dies.
It was an odd set, packed with album tracks and B-sides. Although Morrissey has a new album of cover versions out later this month, he previewed only one song from it (the lovely Morning Starship by Jobriath). The album is titled California Son, emphasising his allegiance to his adopted home. Morrissey’s controversial support for right-wing political causes (including For Britain and Tommy Robinson) has created a quandary amongst a British fan base
who perhaps idealised him as a liberal champion of the oppressed.
Morrissey performing his Broadway debut at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre CREDIT: TAYLOR HILL/ GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA
There were moves to boycott his tour last year
, which was pre-emptively cancelled, and no UK dates have been announced for his latest venture. Yet, much of this American show seemed aimed at Britain. He poured a world of withering sarcasm, hurt and disdain into If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me, a minor 2006 B-side to which he improvised the very British pay off: “Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
“Do you get it?” he asked the New York audience, who loyally cheered whether they got it or not. The unfolding narrative was a depiction of Morrissey’s feelings of bewilderment, hurt and anger at his homeland turning against him. And he delivered it with such passion and pizzazz, that it didn’t matter to his US audience that the message was not intended for them.
The universal element of all his hit songs, from Smiths to solo career, is that each of us has a universe of feelings beneath our skin that the outside world can never see. This was a message driven home by a monumental version of Smiths classic How Soon Is Now?, with Morrissey wailing “I am human and I need to be loved… just like everybody else does!”
The audience responded to every song as if it were a classic, because, frankly, in that intimate venue, in that moment, every song sounded like it was. Morrissey has been pretty consistently great over the years, and right now, on the cusp of turning 60, he is performing like his life depends upon it. And even though he has said many ill-considered things – the UK press-enraging “I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia” is a particularly memorable example – it strikes me as a tragedy that this extraordinary Englishman no longer feels welcome in his homeland. Because this is a show that should be seen, a slice of rock theatre as life-enhancing, thought-provoking and emotionally powerful as any West End drama.