Published Mar 24, 2009It seemed somehow fitting to be hurdling down the QEW to the armpit of the United States to catch Morrissey in support of his latest release, Years of Refusal. His closest show to the Big Smoke since refusing to play another show in Canada (because we club seals), one couldn't help but be extra-dour (even for a Morrissey show) arriving at the University of Buffalo's Center for the Arts and thinking they were attending a high school battle of the bands, complete with 40something teachers with identical haircuts taking tickets and policing the seated masses.
The lively yet uninspiring set from the much-heralded, Manchester-based quartet the Courteeners appeared as though the band were nervous (it was their first show on the U.S. Morrissey leg). Their anxiety unfortunately was met with polite disinterest for the majority of the set, with most of the faithful more keen to just sit and check their Blackberries or run to the lobby for a drink than give the band their due.
Disinterest gave way to curiosity and anticipation as the lights dimmed and a silhouetted, eerily three-dimensional topless flexing sailor chomping on a cigar, lorded over the stage, with some loudly noting that they were there simply to "witness the train wreck." The Prince of Sulk was, however, up to the task and quickly launched into "This Charming Man" the first of no less than five Smiths tunes - peppered around selections from his solo career - that would be played over the course of the hour and half performance.
It didn't take long for the adoring to take their stab at dodging security and embracing the man himself, with equal attempts made by heart-struck men and women (kudos to the woman who, while being dragged away managed to grab onto Moz's leg, eliciting a quip of "that's my foot" mid-song). Even with rhythmic mic chord gymnastics and pelvic gyrations generating a number of wardrobe malfunctions (shirt ripped off, tossed into audience), the crowd seemed disappointed with some of the song selection and at times made a boring Toronto crowd appear energetic.
Nevertheless, backed by a stellar quintet of musicians, who at times carried the day in terms of energy, excitement and stamina, Morrissey was content to (aside from a little very awkward between-song banter) have the music and his near flawless vocals speak for themselves.