After a delayed start due to illness, Morrissey’s abbreviated 40 Years of Morrissey Tour ended with a four-night residency at the United Palace in New York City. The concerts were designed to be a retrospective in that the British crooner has no new product to promote. Beyond his four albums with the Smiths and 13 solo studio albums, his Bonfire of Teenagers album, which he expected would be released in February 2023, is still unreleased by the record company, and his next album, Without Music the World Dies, has no record company backing. Hence, on the second of the four nights, Morrissey performed songs from nine of his solo albums, an unreleased song intended for his Bonfire of Teenagers album, plus six Smiths songs.
The support act turned out to be not a live performer but a half-hour of vintage images and video clips. The videos included the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy,” Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else,” Serge Gainsbourg’s “Initials B.B.,” Cecil’s “Hostage in a Dress,” Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” Siouxsee and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden,” Judy Garland’s “Ol’ Man River,” Lulu’s “To Sir, with Love.” The late Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” received the greatest applause.
Morrissey and his musicians came on stage and the audience responded with a standing ovation. The vast majority of the audience, even in the upper levels, remained standing for Morrissey’s entire 90-minute performance. The Smiths’ songs in particular ignited a sea of cell phones.
This was far from a Smiths concert, however. The Smiths was a band with a fair share of spotlights. Morrissey is Morrissey plus a quintet of talented musicians who rarely saw a spotlight. The show was so tightly knit that the musicians had no wiggle room; the few musical excursions were brief. Guitarists Jesse Tobias and Carmen Vandenberg, keyboardist Camila Grey, bassist Juan Galeano Toro, and drummer Brendan Buckley were relegated to a supportive role.
The public came to see Morrissey, however, and he delivered. Now 64, the singer who became an icon of Britain’s 1980s independent music scene at age 24 remains a uniquely charismatic performer. He is a baritone with a lightly achy sound. His lyrics can be odd and amusing, in a dark way. These qualities prevailed at the United Palace.
For Morrissey’s most avid fans, the anticipation lied in which rarities he would perform on this night. Aside from many of the expected songs, he performed “The Loop” and “Jack the Ripper,” two songs rarely performed live and both of which appeared on the 1995 compilation album World of Morrissey. The singer also performed “Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings,” recorded in early-2021 for the as-yet-unreleased Bonfire of Teenagers.
Morrissey, dressed in all black, shed his blazer after a few songs. For the encore of “Speedway,” he entered from the wings wearing one of the Morrissey souvenir t-shirts sold at the merchandise table. This t-shirt had Morrissey’s name emblazoned in large letters and sported a likeness of Billy Halop, an American actor from Queens who appeared in films and on television from the 1930s through the 1960s. By the end of the song, Morrissey removed his t-shirt and, standing bare chested before his cheering audience, tossed the shirt into the audience.
Following a brief break, Morrissey’s tour will visit eastern Asia and Australia in November. In February, he and his musicians will perform in Mexico and South America. Perhaps by then one of his two pending albums will become available.
Unloveable (The Smiths song, acapella snippet)
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (The Smiths song)
Half a Person (The Smiths song)
I Wish You Lonely
Let Me Kiss You
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song)
They Can’t Take That Away from Me (Fred Astaire cover, acapella snippet)
Girlfriend in a Coma (The Smiths song)
Darling, I Hug a Pillow
Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings
Irish Blood, English Heart
Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want (The Smiths song)