"I started something, I forced you to a zone and you were clearly never meant to go."
Last Saturday was supposed to be a good day. It was Record Store Day and business was positively booming. Plus I had a ticket, and a very good ticket, mind you, for the Morrissey show scheduled for that night at the Paramount in Oakland. I was truly pumped to go to the show, but I tempered my excitement with caution because every time I have ever purchased tickets to and saved the date for Morrissey's live shows in the past he has cancelled with very short notice. And, wouldn't you know, he did it again! One could argue that my finding out about this most recent "I told you so" Morrissey no-show before I was on my way to the venue is the equivalent of "good timing" as far as the Morrissey-time contiuum, well, continues -- however, it was still very frustrating! A good friend of mine who was to accompany me to the show was especially hurt by this sad announcement, as her anticipation had built up to the extent that she had developed an extremely intense, emotional investment in the event, becoming more and more chuffed as the days and hours counting up to what was to be our time with Morrissey flew by. She went from compiling her very own hopeful set list of Morrissey and Smiths songs she'd just die to hear played live to drowning in the very depths of despair. Morrissey sings in his hit single "Suedehead" from his Viva Hate album, "Why do you come here when you know it makes things hard for me/ when you know, oh why do you come?" I think it nothing if not fitting verse for the deflating occasion that marred what should have been an otherwise splendid weekend, pun intended. But that was then, before the magic happened.
"There is no hope in modern life."
Morrissey is currently touring, and occasionally canceling dates, in support of his latest release, Years of Refusal, which, I have to admit, is a pop triumph comparable to his 1994 album Vauxhall And I. It's just great through and through, top to bottom, beginning to end. The ol' Mozzer seems as tremendously comfortable in his skin as he's ever been -- his whip-smart wit a-lashing and his pashernate lyrics dashing hearts to pieces, again. The weirdness evoked by the bejewelled baby propped on Moz's hip on the cover of the record should melt off as "Something Is Squeezing My Skull," Refusal's opening track, heats up with lyrical threads like: "I'm doing very well/ I can black out the present and the past now/ I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out/ Thank you/ Drop dead." Even the videos for Refusal's singles thus far ("All You Need Is Me," "Throwing My Arms Around Paris," and "That's How People Grow Up") are really great, each featuring prominently what I like to call Moz's "cute T-shirt boy" backing band (never mind the seven inches of scandal pictured on the inner sleeve of the "Throwing My Arms Around Paris" 7" single). And while I'm pleased to host many of these catchy new songs mentally in semi-regular rotation, the hits have definitely suffered a loss of exuberance beneath the shadow of disappointment -- dammit, Morrissey, what gives?
"Sing your life, any fool can think of words that rhyme."
Well, I'll tell you what gives: the local lads of the excellent Smiths/Morrissey cover band better known as This Charming Band gave an impromptu free show at the Blackthorn Tavern in San Francisco on Saturday night after the Mozzer dropped the bomb on bummed out fans both local and wilted from their respective pilgrimages. There were folks there from Washington, Oregon, Nevada and elsewhere within California who all came to the area originally for one night with Morrissey, only to end up in a tiny pub seeking whatever release they could get from the band or from the bar, or, as in my case, from both. And I like to think that it wasn't necessarily the bomb that brought us together that night, but instead, love: dumb, nerdy love spurred by This Charming Band's three hour(!) set of cherished Smiths/Morrissey A-sides and deep cuts with the icing-on-the-cake being lead vocalist Orlando's remarkable voice that not only mirrors Moz's impressively but also managed to stay in one piece as night crawled to early morning. Standout performances of "Bigmouth Strikes Again," "The Loop," "Sing Your Life" (sung by a random dude in the crowd who got to live the dream, if only for a moment), "Cemetry Gates," "What She Said," "Still Ill," "Tomorrow," "Picadilly Palare," and, well, I could go on, but you get the picture: these guys were just killing the audience and we couldn't get enough. There came a point late in the set when the bassist sat on the floor, presumably from fatigue, yet the band played on, often shining in their spirited renditions. A roomful of voices sang in unison along with them as the microphone was passed around the crowd several times throughout the lengthy set, highlighted by a few fans who sang portions of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" in Spanish.
And you know what? My friend was so relieved by the end of this experience that she left without any mention of "breaking up" with Morrissey (though for all I know he may still be in the doghouse). All I have to say is thank heavens For This Charming Band, for if it wasn't for their last minute, hastily thrown together free show at the Blackthorn Pub, we'd surely still be miserable now. Check out these live performances by This Charming Band of "This Charming Man," "Glamorous Glue" and "Well I Wonder" and bring your dream Smiths/Morrissey set list to their next show at Slims on May 22, 2009 (Morrissey's birthday) because, chances are, many of your best selections will be happily checked off: