Friday, December 2, 2011

Morrissey concert review: Pomona, CA

photo taken by Tim Griffin in Austin, TX
A version of my review originally appeared at

Morrissey concluded his sold-out swing through several Southland venues (California Center for the Arts Escondido, The Music Box, Shrine Auditorium) on Monday night with a strong show at the Fox Theatre. 
Whenever the revered English pop/rock vocalist returns to the area, tickets are gone instantly and his large Latino fan base turns up in droves. That was definitely true in Pomona, where the allotment vanished in 20 minutes.
Spanish salutations were made from the stage and one was reciprocated by a female follower. After the Englishman handed the microphone around and people surprisingly shied away from comments (he called them cowards), the gal expressed her love on behalf of the city. 
This year, two new career retrospectives arrived in stores - the import Very Best of concentrates on solo material and music videos; Rhino Records’ The Smiths Complete box set, contains all the albums from Morrissey’s 1980s band in remastered form (plus a lavishly expanded, limited edition Super Deluxe version). Yet the 70-minute concert was basically devoid of alt-rock radio hits featured on those releases.
Instead, Morrissey favored deep album cuts and new tunes from a studio album expected sometime in 2012. The setlists have essentially remained the same throughout the North American jaunt; Pomona ’s was a slightly different order than LA and switched out three songs. 
As on previous tours, concertgoers were treated to an assortment of vintage, grainy European TV clips from the ‘70s, including Shocking Blue, Sparks and New York Dolls before Moz took the stage. He was clad in a tight sparkly green shirt and jeans, while the five-piece band wore matching green UCLA shirts – possibly a sarcastic nod to the Shrine’s horrendous traffic woes attributed to the college’s nearby football game.
Following the chiming sound of church bells, they launched the proceedings in upbeat jangly fashion with “I Want the One I Can’t Have.” The first of two Smiths tracks to bookend the main set, Moz was in fine voice and held out his arms dramatically while singing. The melodic and vibrant “You’re the One for Me, Fatty” (off 1992’s exceptional Your Arsenal) had him shaking a tambourine and was an early highlight.
An intense “When I Last Spoke to Carol” found longtime guitarist Boz Boorer strumming the neck of an acoustic guitar as the band played the festive Bolero-style music and keyboardist Gustavo Manzur soloed on trumpet. 
Though Morrissey is known for penning morose lyrics (on “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell,” he sang “when I die, I want to go to hell” with authority), the words are often life affirming too.
“Speedway” was a prime example in Pomona , where the gloriously eerie sound came paired with an impassioned delivery on the line “in my own strange way, I’ve always been true to you” and included a line of Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.” 
All the new numbers impressed. The midtempo “Action is My Middle Name” featured an alluring keyboard sweep; the harder-driving “ Scandinavia ” boasted shrewd lyrics; “People are the Same Everywhere,” a brawny rocker with noodling synths, definitely has hit potential. Before doing a stellar “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” Moz recounted a previous time when he visited the Pomona Arts Colony’s American Museum of Ceramic Art was “bored s**tless.”
Opening chiming keyboards drew loud cheers and Jesse Tobias added searing electric guitar.
I looked forward to hearing Moz’s version of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love,” but it fell flat. On the other hand, the sway-worthy “Everyday is Like Sunday” was grand as ever and went down well. Having begged off accepting roses from fans in front of the stage all night, he finally took one, smelt it, made an awful face and mock sneezed. 
Set to a disturbing backdrop film of animals being tortured and slaughtered, Morrissey – a staunch vegetarian – definitely got his point across on The Smiths’ bleak “Meat is Murder,” capped by drummer Matt Walker banging a large gong. The applause was minimal; usually every Smiths selection gets a rapturous crowd reception. 
For the encores, Morrissey emerged in a new dress shirt – primed to tear it off moments later – and the band did a banging take on The Smiths’ “Still Ill” amid the usual stage crashers claming to give the man a hug and kiss. Only a few succeeded, thanks to eagle-eyed security. 
Requisite Morrissey opening act Kristeen Young played keyboards, sang and did interpretive dances. The discordant electronic music recalled Yoko Ono, Diamanda Galas and Bjork.
Meanwhile, the merch table did big business in the foyer. Tote bags emblazoned with The Smiths song title “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and a signed, life size cardboard cutout depicting the artist unclothed, were among the notable items. 
Setlist: Morrissey, Fox Theater, Pomona, Nov. 28, 2011
Main set: I Want the One I Can’t Have/You Have Killed Me/You’re the One for Me, Fatty/When I Last Spoke to Carol/Black Cloud/One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell/Speedway/Action is My Middle Name/Maladjusted/Ouija Board, Ouija Board/Scandinavia/All the Lazy Dykes/People Are the Same Everywhere/Satellite of Love/Everyday is Like Sunday/Meat is Murder
Encore: Still Ill

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