By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Morrissey at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, Florida – October 10, 2023
For months, I have been waiting for October 11th, the night of the Morrissey concert. There have been a few episodes of cancellations due to health reasons. I wondered if I would actually have the opportunity to see him—for the first time. He contracted dengue fever in Mexico in September and canceled the South American leg of the tour. Considering he performed earlier in the week in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, my fingers were crossed. I wanted to see the hero of “doom and gloom” as he was characterized during his days with the Smiths and later in the late-80s when he went solo. In the mid-90s, his CD Maladjusted was a staple in my player, with its melancholy lyrics juxtaposed with upbeat melodies.
After arriving at the Mahaffey Theater, I heard the show was sold out. No doubt because the lobby was jam-packed with Gen X’ers and their offspring, dressed in black concert t-shirts and Doc Martens. I spied a few goths in the crowd with their spooky face makeup, which surprised me because Morrissey’s music is not goth per se. PETA had a table set up with Morrissey leaflets. There was a large poster of him with a cat on his head saying, “You wouldn’t eat your cat, why eat a chicken?” For decades, he has been a proponent of veganism, evident in the Smith’s album Meat is Murder.
At approximately 8:45 p.m., the chattering of the seated audience hushed as a 30-minute video entertained the crowd with images of mostly Brit pop culture icons of the 60s and 70s. Siouxie and the Banshees, Roxy Music (“Virginia Plain”), Dana Gillespie (“Andy Warhol), and even Lulu (“To Sir With Love”) graced the screen. The audience murmured when a video of Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) appeared. After it ended, a gush of clapping filled the air in approval.
At approximately 9:15 p.m., the concert commenced with Morrissey stepping out on a dimly lit stage, looking very dapper in a black shirt and suit. Flanked by five superb musicians, the band’s sound was vibrant, and his voice was on point with “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” The audience rose to their feet, sang the “ha ha ha” part, and danced from the get-go. Even with the luxury of velvet-covered seats, they opted to stand for the entire concert. The audience’s loud cheers, screams, and exclamations no doubt, inspired Morrissey because he delivered a riveting performance. All eyes were fixated on this icon as he brought 40 years of classics from the Smiths’ and his solo era to life.
One of the more recent hits, “Darling I Hug a Pillow” was well-received. Morrissey asked, “Are we really free?” before launching into “Speedway.” Taking off his jacket, he crooned, “Let Me Kiss You.” With stand-up bass and a steady beat, the mood became country with Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” and “The Loop,” from his Beethoven Is Deaf (1993) album.
He introduced the band members, who earned an abundance of cheers, especially drummer Brendan Buckley, who had several friends in the audience. Morrissey’s current touring band consists of very talented musicians as follows: Juan Galeano (bass), Jesse Tobias (guitar), Camila Grey (keys), Carmen Vandenberg (guitar)
Morrissey said, “I’m expecting a call,” and launched into the rocking “Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings.” He announced a new song, “The Night Pop Dropped,” which was surprisingly good, especially the lyrics saying, “The best thing you can do is be yourself.” He proved his voice is as good as ever by hitting the high notes on “Please, please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
A highlight of the show was the performance of “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” It appeared every audience member, from the floor to several levels of balconies, was dancing and singing along. The stage exhibited an eery mood with ominous red lighting and a thick haze for “Jack the Ripper.” The concert’s end was an unbelievable gift with five minutes of glory as Morrissey delivered the gem,” How Soon is Now?” The distinctive tremolo guitar riff, the smoke, Morrissey’s voice—a perfect ending. The crowd worked into a frenzy, and a woman lifted herself onstage, trying to hug Morrissey as he kept singing without a beat. A security person quickly swooped her off of him. At that moment, my jaw dropped. I later read a woman did the same thing at the Fort Lauderdale concert. Apparently, this has been an ongoing occurrence for years.
After the band left the stage, a looped black and white video of a man blowing his brains out shone on the screen. A pretty odd ending.
Overall, the concert was better than I expected. I had anticipated “bad behavior” but Morrissey appeared to feed off of the audience’s energy and adoration. We were gifted with a satisfying performance.
**I know there was a biopic called Made In England. If there is another one planned, Joaquin Phoenix needs to play Morrissey. He looks a lot like him!
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