Dan MacIntosh Review: Morrissey Lets Music do the Talking at Novo Show in LA




Morrissey is about the fans. Novo Review by Dan MacIntosh - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Morrissey is about the fans. Novo Review by Dan MacIntosh - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

By DAN MACINTOSH

It’s tempting for Morrissey fans to confront the idiosyncratic artist and shout, ‘Stop talking; just sing your songs!’ Morrissey can’t seem to keep his big mouth shut and say, if not blatantly offensive, at the very least overly annoying things.

Morrissey’s powerfully focused concert in downtown los Angeles, though, reminded us why we fell in love with the man’s music in the first place. He said little when speaking between songs, but spoke volumes whenever he sang.

Morrissey’s setlist was a nearly perfect mixture of the old (meaning Smiths songs) and new (solo recordings). He opened with The Smiths’ early work “William, It Was Really Nothing,” and capped the night with a credible recreation of what might be the only Smiths song one can un-ironically describe as a jam, “How Soon Is Now?”

Although even the best Morrissey solo music mostly pales in comparison to The Smiths’ best (call this the Johnny Marr factor), his post-Smiths selections tonight were across the board top drawer. It was fun to hear “Hairdresser on Fire,” which succinctly describes harried modern London life, while the apocalyptic “Everyday Is Like Sunday” is as relevant now as it was back in 1988. Even newer choices from Morrissey’s mostly disappointing 2017 release Low in High School came off well in this concert context. “Spent the Day in Bed” worked as a peppy, lighter break, when placed among darker musings, like “November Spawned a Monster” and “Jack the Ripper.’

Morrissey image courtesy of AlterLatinoMusic Instagram:

 

Morrissey Performs ‘Back on the Chain Gang’

Morrissey, who can sometimes appear distracted while performing live, was truly ‘in the moment’ from start to finish. His voice was strong, and his band was tight. He appeared to be fully invested in every song he sang. It’s this intensity that made The Smiths such an influential ’80s act. 

As an added treat, Morrissey sang a cover of The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang,” which is from an expanded version of Low in High School. For Chrissie Hynde, this song described the trials of carrying on with the rock and roll lifestyle after experiencing tragedy. It’s not clear what this song’s words mean to Morrissey. Morrissey and Hynde are longtime friends, though, so perhaps it represents a celebration of their friendship. 

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts opened the show with a strong set of punchy rock & roll tunes. Jett sang with gusto, even when she belted out the rock music worship song (meaning the worship of rock, that is) “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” Jett doesn’t overcomplicate or overthink music; she just rocks out and does it with power and class. 

Morrissey will more than likely continue to say regrettable things in the press. However, if he also continues to put on shows like this one, we won’t give up on him quite yet.

Morrissey Video by Baby J: