The Last of the Famous International Playboys

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I saw Morrissey in concert at Radio City Music Hall two nights ago and I’m still reeling (around the fountain) from the experience. He played newer stuff and older stuff, solo stuff and Smiths stuff. He’s 53 but he commanded that stage like someone half his age (and he changed his shirt three times in an hour and a half!) His voice sounded as amazing as it always has. In short, it was an incredible night.

Well, I suppose it could have been slightly more incredible had he preformed all the songs I wanted to hear, but someone with such an extensive catalog can’t play everything, right? The Smiths’ songs he sang included “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and “Meat is Murder.” Solo stuff included “Ouija Board,” “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “You’re the One for Me, Fatty.” Not too shabby.

As are many concerts for me these days, this one was steeped in nostalgia. The Smiths’s reign over the ’80s alternative music scene perfectly coincided with my college years; they released their first album when I was a freshman and broke up the year I graduated.

That said, I wish I could report that I was an angst-ridden student who wore all black and had The Queen is Dead on heavy rotation on his dorm room stereo, but that just wasn’t the case. While my friend Tom had hair like Mick Hucknall from Simply Red and wore cool vintage overcoats with the sleeves rolled up and listened to Echo and the Bunnymen, I wore my hair like Hermie the Dentist, wore K-Swiss sneakers, Levi’s 501s, a striped rugby shirt with the white collar turned up and Ray-Bans… while listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

Shortly after graduation, however, I began to embrace modern rock music, if not the wardrobe. The Smiths had broken up, but Morrissey was just embarking on his solo career. I heard Morrissey’s “Suedehead” on a cool radio station and immediately bought Viva Hate, the CD on which that song (and “Everyday is Like Sunday”) appeared. I spent countless Saturdays combing local record stores for a copy of the single of “The Last of The Famous International Playboys,” only to find it on a UK import 12″ in a used vinyl shop in Berkeley, California, a year later.

The first time I attended a Morrissey concert was 21 years ago. I saw him twice in Chicago in 1991: in June at the World Music Theater with my pal Greg and then November at the UIC Pavilion with my friend Susan. The first show really caught me off guard, as I was surrounded by Asian teenage boys who had brought bouquets of white gladioli and would throw them on stage throughout the show. I did not get the memo on that. After the second concert, Susan and I went to Berlin, a club on Belmont Street, to request more Morrissey from whomever was spinning that night. If memory serves, we also requested The Charlatans UK.

But back to Wednesday night at Radio City… I would have felt really lucky to have heard “Lucky Lisp” and I was disappointed that he didn’t sing “Disappointed.” These are minor complaints, however, because the guy can really do no wrong in my book. I hope “This Charming Man” is around for years to come.


Which of this weekend’s new movie releases do you want to see most?

Here Comes the Boom
Seven Psychopaths

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