The short answer: Most definitively, it was worth it.
The longer answer: Wow, Moz, you really know how to put on a show. From your opening take on your Smiths favorite “Hand in Glove” to the melodic closing of “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” – when a fan quickly climbed the stage, took hold of you and almost-violently tackled you into the front row of the crowd as two security guards scrambled for your return – Saturday night’s show was one of the most memorable evenings of live music in a long, long time.
With Morrissey, the music is always central – and the message is always a close second. A great storyteller, Morrissey would often break between songs with a short story of some sort.
“With all the many changes that are happening throughout the world you might think the world is having a nervous breakdown. But it isn’t,” he said early in the show before launching into his new single “World Peace is None of Your Business,” a song that has stronger music than lyrics.
Later he started in on animal-rights, an issue that dominated the evening: “Of course freedom does not just mean for humans. I drove past the Denver Zoo, which boasts 4,000 animals from around the globe but I suppose what they should really say is 4,000 trapped, unhappy, suicidal, imprisoned animals,” he said before leading into, “Yes, I Am Blind.”
And then came his prelude to “Meat is Murder,” another travelogue of sorts: “I drove through Greeley, which is of course the murder capitol of Colorado. And if you don’t believe me, ask a cow.” As Moz worked through the emotionally charged “Meat is Murder,” graphic videos on the screens behind him showed pig processing plants, overcrowded and inhumane chicken coops and other clips that had much of the crowd looking away in horror.
It was the musical equivalent to one of those anti-abortion busses wrapped with too-graphic images of aborted fetuses and such. And while it was hardly artful, it presented a message that was impossible to misunderstand – especially as ear-piercing guitars closed the song as Moz fell to the ground and writhed as he looked back at the bloody, unsettling images on the screens, his head slightly cocked.
(Yes, this was one of two moments the crowd fervently talked about as they made their way out of the opera house after the show.)
The other moment: Seeing a fan on the stage hug-tackling Morrissey and successfully muscling him back into the crowd before two security guards could bring him back on stage. And was it coincidental that such an act happened during “One Day Goodbye Will be Farewell,” which contains the eerily serious lyric, “Always be careful when you abuse the one you love”?
When Moz made it back to the stage, looking thoroughly taken by surprise, disheveled and more masculine than ever, he shook it off and said, “I’m O.K.,” before taking up the song where he’d left off. Another fan, this one a woman, again broke the fourth wall – this time only to hug Morrissey, which he and the security guards nervously let happen.
But while the setlist lacked inspiration (and was potentially cut short because of the front-row’s unruly antics), Morrissey nearly made up for that via his consummate showmanship that made for a truly lovely, if weird, evening.
His voice is still there, that bulbous and rounded – manipulated yes, but bloated no – baritone that is so familiar and loved. As he sang, “I really don’t know and I really don’t caaaaaaaaare” in “Hand in Glove,” it was his way of telling the crowd, “Yeah, I still got it.” His pitch was perfect throughout the night, to boot.
His dour sense of humor, too, is in tact. At various points throughout the show Moz would let fans speak into the microphone, and of course one of them said the most obvious thing possible, “I love you, Morrissey” — to which the singer said, “Well, it’s legal – perfectly legal.”
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.