On Sunday, October 15, Belmont’s Fisher Center – a beautiful performing arts theater notable for its ornate, neo-renaissance-based architecture – became the setting of Morrissey’s strange but captivating, “40 Years of Morrissey” tour. Morrissey, founder and frontman of The Smiths, turned solo act, made a stop in Nashville as part of his second and final leg of shows in Tennessee, a quick circuit through the state as part of a two-month-long tour commemorating both his time as a band member and individual artist. The venue, an operatic-style hall bearing upwards of 1,700 seats, was filled to the brim, garnering a crowd of Generation X-ers and Boomers alike, with younger, newer fans sprinkled in between.
The show began slowly, with a 30-minute video meant to pay homage to Morrissey and his career, which, in actuality, was a random, slightly odd mashup of songs from the 70s, 80s, and even 60s. While this confusing, yet vivaciously paced mini-movie had little to nothing to do with Morrissey himself, it still managed to get the crowd excited for what was to come, with each recognizable song being used as a karaoke track by an audience of giddy adults.
This impressive, big screen display served to build the energy of the venue, and the shared buzz of the audience practically exploded with the abrupt, loud introduction of Morrissey’s first song, “We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful,” and his subsequent quick, unannounced run onto the stage. The song – punchy, satirical, and the most recognizable from his 1992 album, “Your Arsenal” – solidified itself as a perfect start to the show as its rock undertones, and almost unserious mood, remained consistent throughout the concert.
Each song that followed was accompanied by a little spiel from the man himself; he expressed his gratitude towards Nashville, proclaimed that Memphis gave him insomnia, and burped into the mic once or twice. Morrissey was comedic, laid back, and developed a good banter with the audience, balancing his casual nature with a set that was nothing short of incredibly entertaining.
Morrissey’s voice held a consistently gorgeous tone, a feat that was only amplified by the acoustics of the Fisher Center and the grand, almost imposing sound system located near the orchestral level seats. His performance was further strengthened by the theatrics of the show, as Morrissey, 62 years young and not as able to command the stage as he used to, was highlighted by colored strobe lights, artificial fog, and an array of artistic images on the screen behind him. The show, at its core, managed to stay extremely engaging even in the midst of slower, more depressing songs such as crowd favorite “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” from The Smiths. Morrissey’s setlist was, ultimately, incredibly well thought out in this regard, oscillating between lively and heartfelt with instrumental solos from his drummer, Brendan Buckley, and his guitarist, Carmen Vanderberg, threaded in between.
However, one of the highlights of the show, at least in my opinion, was his performance of “Jack the Ripper” and the chaos that ensued from it. The stage was covered in fog and engulfed in red lighting, rendering the set completely out of focus and making Morrissey an unsuspecting target to some spectators. Not even one minute into the song, a woman in the front row felt it was the right time to jump atop Morrissey’s rostrum in a very lame attempt to drag the singer into a rather hostile embrace.
What came after was a series of events reminiscent of a slapstick skit, with Morrissey and his aggressor running in frenzied circles across the stage before a security guard caught the, probably intoxicated, woman and threw her back into the crowd in an unwilling stage dive.
And as quickly as the conflict started, it ended. The lights turned on and Morrissey was nowhere to be seen, releasing a flurry of anxious murmurs among the crowd. From a man who would take any opportunity to not perform, this attack could have very well been the reason to end the show without a proper finale.
But alas, Morrissey did step back on stage, with the only indicator of the skirmish being a change in wardrobe and a new, somewhat spiteful attitude towards the entirety of the audience. He quickly, and rather timidly performed his last song, “Suedehead,” and left the stage. But this time, for good.