I don't know about you, but when I was in high school it seemed like Morrissey t-shirts were standard issue for sexually confused teenage boys. This is one of the reasons why it was so amusing to see him in concert at the Bowl on Friday. The L.A. Morrissey/Smiths fanbase is largely Latino, as some may know, and while there may still be the legions of depressive, sensitive types there were in the early 90s, I saw a lot of tough-guys and their girlfriends in attendance. I overheard one guy say in passing, "There are some GAY motherfuckers at this show!" The surprise in his voice was so impressive it was hard to get distracted by the homophobia. It made me want to pull him aside and give him a little personal history....
By the time I was in high school in Arkansas, Morrissey had pretty well established himself as a solo artist apart from his success as The Smiths. I was socially savvy enough to detect enough ambiguity in his persona to think it unwise to form too much of an attachment. There was enough alternative cred in The Smiths that my town's indie rock tastemakers deemed them acceptable, but Morrissey without the guitar-rock cool of Johnny Marr just seemed too fey to me to be considered listenable.
The summer after my sophomore year I went to a theater camp in northeast Arkansas and spent three weeks with kids from all over the state putting on a production of Babes in Arms. One of the guys was just that kind of depressive sensitive type, and he IDOLIZED Morrissey. He had that standard issue t-shirt and he wore it proudly every day. Although we spent at least a little time talking about the girls at the camp, I think we might've found kindred spirits in each other as a result of the hesitancy and anxiety in our voices when we did so. Who knows? Maybe that kid's happily married with three kids now, but something makes me think otherwise. Either way, I hope "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" isn't his favorite song anymore.
Even after my friend's championing, I still resisted Morrissey until one of the Hendrix Queens (more on them the next time I'm feeling confessional...maybe) recommended I check out Bona Drag after I panned Southpaw Grammar in the entertainment pages of our college paper. I was pretty well hooked by then.
So you can imagine it was a warm, wonderful experience getting to see the Moz over the weekend for the first time. I've attempted to get tickets to his shows just about every time he plays in L.A. ever since I moved here almost five years ago, but the damn things sell out so fast I never stood a chance. When he started up with "The Queen is Dead" my face flushed and I must've smiled so big; rock-n-roll nostalgia sure does make me feel like I'm growing older, but it can be such a nice feeling too, you know?
About 20 minutes into the show, it seemed like dozens of fans, both male and female, had already thrown themselves onto the stage and at the singer. He had shed the coat of his white suit and was strutting around in a half-unbuttoned black shirt -- one which he dramatically took off for a self-conscious pose at the end of "Let Me Kiss You," before running offstage for a quick costume change. In the midst of all this, I turned to JW and said, "He's like the Tom Jones of modern rock." JW nodded even though he couldn't hear me; he'd put in his earplugs, mostly because of the teenage Latina all in black and screaming at the top of her lungs intermittently and without warning.
I wasn't the only one who made the Tom Jones comparison, as I found a critic had made a similar observation when I was searching online Saturday for reviews of the show. I was going to link to that article, but I can't seem to find it after Googling for some time. I think I found something better, though -- a fan's pics of the show on her MySpace page.
Now that I've waxed nostalgic and taken a look at those pictures, I want to rephrase my earlier statement. He's like the Tom Jones of modern rock, but foxier, and you know, good.