Sunday, April 12, 2009

Morrissey / The Courteeners - Live 2009.04.08 The Pageant, St. Louis, Missouri

When I heard Morrissey was coming to town again, I knew I couldn't say no. This time I actually went with a friend and happened to meet up with a couple more at the show. Coincidentally, the last time I saw Moz perform, I wrote my first review for this blog.

Artist: Morrissey
Venue: The Pageant
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Date: 8 April 2009
Opening Act: The Courteeners

01. This Charming Man
02. Billy Budd
03. Black Cloud
04. How Soon Is Now?
05. Irish Blood, English Heart
06. When I Last Spoke to Carol
07. How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?
08. I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
09. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
10. Something Is Squeezing My Skull
11. Seasick, Yet Still Docked
12. The Loop
13. The World Is Full of Crashing Bores
14. Death of a Disco Dancer
15. Best Friend on the Payroll
16. I Keep Mine Hidden
17. Sorry Doesn't Help
18. Ask
19. Let Me Kiss You
20. I'm OK by Myself

21. First of the Gang to Die

The night opened up with the Courteeners, a five-piece alternative band from Manchester. They played ten songs in about 35 minutes. They sounded somewhat Britpoppy, but with more of a post-80s feel. These guys were obviously fans of the Smiths, and they said as much on stage. I wasn't blown away, but they were friendly and made decent music. The fit the bill as an opener for Morrissey, and I liked that they seemed like a young band that might otherwise belong in smaller venues.

After they left the stage, just like Morrissey's last tour, music videos and other clips were projected onto a big screen covering the stage. This time the video featured plenty of Shocking Blue songs and a live television performance of the New York Dolls, a documented love of Morrissey's. The stage fell a few minute before 9:00pm to reveal a background filled with a massive, buff sailor. After the intro music ran for a minute or two, the band hit the stage and burst into the classic Smiths single "This Charming Man".

Morrissey split his set fairly evenly between tracks from his new album, Years of Refusal, songs from his solid 2004 comeback album, You Are the Quarry, and old Smiths songs, with a few older songs from his solo career thrown in. The choice of his songs is quite interesting in terms of what was and wasn't represented. Among the Smiths songs he played, three were charting singles, two are slightly obscure but great album tracks, and "I Keep Mine Hidden" is notable as the last recorded Smiths song, found only on the b-side of "Girlfriend in a Coma" (and the extremely belatedly-released "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" single). The solo tracks were rather curiously focused; Morrissey nearly completely overlooked his entire early career (no "Suedehead" or "Everyday Is Like Sunday"!?) in favor of five or six songs each from two of his latest albums. Nothing from his first three albums was included, only one song from the next three was present, and nothing from his relatively recent 2006 album, Ringleader of the Tormentors was to be heard. Did he suddenly turn his back on that album? It may not be as good as the new album or You Are the Quarry, but it certainly wasn't bad.

Regardless, I can't complain with what he did deliver. The band rocked out in top form, except for a few guitar problems (e.g., lead guitarist Jesse Tobias had one of his strings break during "Ask", so he couldn't do the lovely lead parts at the end of the song). Morrissey sung perfectly, but he just didn't seem quite as spirited as he could be. He was in a good mood; he still talked some in his normal coy manner and received plenty of gifts from the audience (including what appeared to be vinyl copies of the first two Smiths albums), but he said at one point, "We had a great time in Kansas City, you may be jealous," and said that even though he liked St. Louis, he liked KC better. He certainly wasn't having as good of a time as last time he was here, although, to be fair, that was his birthday.

Standouts included "How Soon Is Now?", done as a shortened version but with an extended guitar and kettle drum outro, "Death of a Disco Dancer", also featuring a great outro with rhythm guitarist Boz Boorer on clarinet and ending on something of an instrumental freakout, and "First of the Gang to Die", which concluded in a big collective bow by the band. "Seasick, Yet Still Docked" was new to me but sounded fantastic. It was just about the only slower, less rocking song of the night, and it featured acoustic double bass and guitar. The instrumental was particularly beautiful. The only real low point was "I Keep Mine Hidden". It's cool for Morrissey to pull out such an obscurity, but it just isn't a good song, and considering how many amazing Smiths songs there are to choose from, why pick one of the weakest ones?

I was surprised that the encore only consisted of one song – I wondered if Morrissey was snubbing us after a good night in Kansas City, but apparently that's the norm for this tour. Really, the whole band performed quite well, and the songs rocked. It was a lot of fun, but I do wish Moz had put just a bit more energy into it all.

The Courteeners: B-
Morrissey: B+

P.S. This time he only took his shirt off and threw it to the audience once. (Last time it was twice.)

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