February 14, 2000
“Half A Person.”
“Meat Is Murder.”
“Is It Really So Strange?”
“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.”
“Shoplifters Of The World Unite.”
Five Smiths songs. Betcha you’re kicking yourself for not making the drive to Hamilton now.
After dropping so many of the “oldies” as Mozzer so quaintly referred to them, let’s face it, any sort of objective criticism went out the window. And there were more than a few things which could have flown back in Morrissey’s face this night: He chose to play the steeltown of Hamilton rather than Toronto, a mere hour away (but now that I think about it, Moz has always had a strange working-class fixation despite his pure bourgeois ponce). He has no record label, largely due to the fact his last record, Maladjusted, was truly horrible. And, at 40 or so, Moz isn’t exactly the winsome young turk that made sexually ambiguous hearts flutter back in The Smiths days.
Still, by about the third song in, all of the potential black marks against this show were rendered moot, showing just what kind of performance Stephen Patrick could put on.
Moz started out slowly, with a three-pack of mid-tempo numbers that included “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” and “I Am Hated For Loving.” They were warmly received and prompted the obligatory surge of Moz diehards to the front of the stage, which was surprisingly easy considering that Hamilton Place is a soft-seat venue (and yes, everybody was standing throughout the show, something I’m not sure would have happened if Moz had played in the more dour surroundings of Massey Hall in Toronto).
Things really got going, however, when the festivities were sped up with “Billy Budd” and “November Spawned A Monster.” By this time Moz had launched his first sweaty t-shirt into the crowd and had his first stage-invader.
Throughout it all, Moz was peppering the crowd with witty banter, coy lines and even some jokes. He was laughing and jovial, and it truly was a departure from his customary tortured writhing. That injection of humour just may have been what helped get him over this night as well. We know Morrissey’s days of playing to 12,000 at Maple Leaf Gardens are over, and you have to admit he’s haggaring somewhat. But he’s smart enough to know that if he’s getting his people to not only travel an hour from Toronto to see him, but drop $40 for the privilege of doing so, he better do more than leave them stewing in a nostalgic fog recalling how that special boy or girl broke their heart.
I must say though, that nostalgic fog felt pretty good when the band broke into Smiths’ classic “Half A Person.” Like a bolt of electricity, this instantly sent a shock through the crowd. At this point, there were no more questions about Moz’s performance or appearance. Everybody was in the palm of his hand. From there, the crowd lapped up “Hairdresser On Fire” (turned into a faux rip on London, Ontario) and “Boxers” before a tempo change once again with “Now My Heart Is Full.”
With the crowd firmly hooked, the stagelights turned a blaring red and Moz entered into “Meat Is Murder.” If the first half of the show was about a friendlier, Moz-as-entertainer vibe, “Meat Is Murder” brought back all the morbid loathing that drew all those lonely-yet-haughty-types to The Smiths so long ago in the first place. Wrenching and poignant, it would have made a fine conclusion to the evening, except there was still more to come.
A crowd-stoking “Is It Really So Strange?” and “Alma Matter” closed off the regularly scheduled program for the evening. But when Moz and the boys re-emerged at the encore to perform “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” and “Shoplifters Of The World Unite,” the crowd broke into their biggest singalong of the whole evening in addition to prompting a renewed rush of stage invaders.
It was something of an abrupt end considering Moz had only just set the assembled masses into a frenzy, but you’re not going to hear much complaining. About the only thing that could have made the night better would have been a double shot of “Pretty Girls Make Graves” and “Panic.” And besides, how many times are you ever going to hear the Moz play five Smiths songs again?
This review was originally published February 18, 2000 via Chart Communications.