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New York, NY (Feb. 25, 2000)

Shoplifters: Morrissey Live in Manhattan (review)

Posted By: Mr Sammler's Planet
Date: Saturday, Feb. 26 2000, at 6:17 a.m.

Very brief, because I’m weak and quivering and fevered, wired on Benadryl and Kingston spliff. I said I would write something quick, because there were people in Swansea and Bremen who contributed once when I wanted to read words.

Before the show, speakers play punk, and Elvis singing ‘Tiger Man,’ and there’s unmistakably some reggae, and Maya Angelou.

As usual, I was worried about getting so close to the stage, getting a handshake, getting on stage. I lost perspective. Afterwards I wished I was in one of those VIP seats off to the side, at a remove, sitting pretty, relaxed, composed, with a table and a drink. If I would have been well-dressed, in those VIP seats, I would have been away from that lecherous crowd. This is how I like my Morrissey, when all is said and done: distant. I am twenty-four. It is no longer time to be hysterical. There was a mad crush on the floor.

‘Welcome. All my children,’ he says, first thing. And he’s right on about that. ‘All I can say is Thank You.’

When you’re lower than the stage, the white light shines through his quiff and you can see it’s a wiry old grey hairsprayed quiff. He’s in PVC, and it’s bulging. It looks ridiculous, and don’t tell me I don’t know my Elvis. This is OK, though, because the first song is ‘Swallow.’ I say he’s acting childish and foolish, and he doesn’t mind.

Some things I didn’t like. Boxers acoustic doesn’t work. It’s weird seeing Spike Smith get up, move to the front of the stage, and pound bongos, pretending that we can hear the sound. It’s just not good acoustic. Also, Hairdresser. You have all these people, guys in Polo shirts, singing along in my ear, crying, you know they just don’t get it. November: is that a song you go crazy to? It’s about a cripple. It’s contemplative. Does it work as a concert song?

There were poignant moments. Best are when he sings, proud, with poise and class up there, lines that still have meaning. I think that’s the tradition he created: straightforward and proud beliefs. These are the lines you can really celebrate in public. Like Break Up The Family, about being glad to grow older. And Is it Really So Strange, it’s a song that has immediate meaning, about not changing your mind even if it means getting your teeth broken. Also Last Night: ‘The story is old—I KNOW. but it goes on’ That’s how it is in your liner notes for Strangeways, in caps. He knows this pop thing can be, as Bob Mould said, a tired epileptic charade. As he repeats ‘Goes On’ in a falsetto that’s echoing, I’m watching a beautiful couple kiss off in those VIP seats. It Goes On. No Hope. No Harm. They kiss. False Alarm. It Goes On.

There’s also a moment, one of those many gestures, where he pushes his shoulder back with one hand, then throws his head back, then lights out, and the song’s over. It’s like a robotic glamour pose, postmodern breakdancing. It’s a good move. Even better: a fan fights his way to the stage, flailing, reaching out his hand, the goons are moving in to get him. Morrissey’s right there, he can save him. The fan’s reaching out his hand…and Morrissey reaches…and then pulls away and walks off. Fan bites dust.

Good to see Gary Day back. He was just bopping around. But the neck tats were not too visible.

And then Shoplifters. A statement about being a fan. I took from old pop stars, he says. Now you take from me. Alabaster’s crashing down, and it’s all very poignant. Shoplift, Shoplift me. Take over. But do your own thing.

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