Published on October 23rd, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant0
Concert Review: Morrissey (Saskatoon, October 22nd, 2019)
Morrissey is great at making people upset, which he did once more with the shuffling around of his Saskatoon show. But can we forgive him?
There were a lot of jokes and poor attitudes walking into the lobby of the Morrissey show last night, myself chief among the dour.
Hilariously, the shirts they were selling had the tour dates on the back, which I thought was optimistic for Morrissey at the best of times. One shirt said, ‘Saskatoon – April 20th.’ I actually wrote an article for The Star Phoenix that ran the week of the show that was cancelled (the article ran, the show didn’t happen).
After being rescheduled twice, once on very short notice, leading to a Tuesday night show, I heard from venue staff that his name was sort of a swear word to them. They’d been processing ticket refunds all week, apparently. I wouldn’t be surprised if it caused issues for the babysitters of Saskatoon too. It was a scheduling snafu for more than just Moz.
Add this nonsense to the fact that he’s already a difficult figure, what with his controversial comments in the last few years. He’s the poster boy for separating the art from the artist. More than one person chastised me online for going to the show when I posted the Star Phoenix article or complained about cancellations on social media.
But we decided to push forth anyway. Entering the auditorium, you could see that a lot of people hadn’t. I had been told that it was originally sold out, but TCU Place was easily half full. Or, half empty, depending on your own sense of optimism.
The show was to start at 8:00 and some curt announcements rushed people into the auditorium on time. But once we sat down, we were perplexed to find ourselves watching video clips for over a half an hour. At first it was maddening, after the events that led us to waiting for the show in the first place, but eventually, it became pretty funny, watching people get annoying, checking their tickets to see if they had the time right. Feedback writer Dave Scaddan reminded me that being so weird and difficult, even with just starting the damn show, was on brand for Morrissey. By this time, I had decided not to be dour, to take what he was throwing at us with bemusement.
Then, Stephen Patrick Morrissey stepped out on stage and dryly declared, “Tonight has not been cancelled,” which brought a chuckle from the crowd.
It was an interesting way to see him, because it was, as Morrissey himself called it, “an intimate candlelit dinner.” If you’re in Europe or South America, you’re probably seeing him in a huge stadium with tens of thousands. I was slouched comfortably in a chair while he put on a show 15 feet away from me with maybe 800 people in the room. (And I should give him props for being classy to those people that rushed the stage to grab at him. He gave them a quick embrace before security would toss them off the stage. But these people could learn a thing or two about consent).
Most importantly in all this, Morrissey sounded great. Sure, maybe his voice would get a bit thin at the top end of his range, but I’m willing to bet most people wouldn’t notice it. For a 60 year old, he has more of the old magic in his croon than Sinatra did at 40. He slowly moved around on stage, almost a sashay, doing little pantomimes and using the mic cord like a little lasso or whip. (Ripping his shirt off at the end was a bit much, but apparently that’s a thing he does?).
I might have wanted to hear a few more classic tracks (even he pointed out that the audience may not know a lot of the songs), but I understand that can get tiring for a performer, and to be fair, many of the less recognizable songs were off his recent cover album, ‘California Son’). But he played a few of his solo hits, as well as three Smiths songs, including a rousing encore of ‘The Queen is Dead.’ He charged through the set with hyper efficiency, so efficient that the band occasionally stepped on his banter.
In the end, I was a lot more docile about all the bullshit leading up to the show. Was it a real mind-blower of a gig? Not really, unless you’re a die-hard fan. But it wasn’t lost on me that it may be one of the last chances to see one of the biggest legends of 80s music. Around these parts, he may not have reached the stratospheric heights of Madonna or Michael Jackson, but he means much more on an international scale and his influence even today can’t be argued. So, even a laid-back Morrissey performance on a Tuesday night in Saskatchewan showed enough of the charisma and performance to remind me that I was living a moment I would have regretted missing.
Oh, and he did apologize for all the cancellations. One has to imagine it’s hard to get an apology out of ‘ol Moz, so that’s something in and of itself.