Since my first concert, way back in June of 1988 (guess who that was), I’ve seen more than a hundred concerts, but there are few artists that I’ve seen more than a handful of times. Morrissey is one of them. I’ve seen him so many times, in fact, that my mother actually recognized his name when I told her I was on my way to see him at the Hollywood Bowl. (To put this in perspective, she still doesn’t know who Nine Inch Nails or Bjork is.)
My many Moz concerts have had their moments. When I saw him at the Palace of Auburn Hills, back when I was in college at UM, I landed choice floor seats and snuck up so close his sweat sprayed me when he whipped the mic around in his humble trademark move. Near the end of the show, he bared his chest (this was before his pudgy phase) and then — and I swear this — he looked straight at me as he flung his shirt into the crowd. I’m fortunate to be taller than the average greaser, and so caught the sleeve just before a multitude of hands ripped it to shreds faster than you could recite one of his song titles (admittedly, a long time). I managed to cling to a small blue-checked patch, which I kept sealed in a plastic baggy above my desk for many years. (Note to self: Check hope chest for baggy next time I’m back at Mom’s.)
A few years earlier, during my high school years on Long Island, I also managed to weasel my way to the front, this time just as the Jones Beach crowd began to swarm the stage. I’ve never felt the urge to ensnare one of my idols in a bear hug — at least, not enough to catapult myself over a moat of security thugs. But when the five rows behind you decide to simultaneously rush the stage, there’s not much you can do but ride the tide — that is, until a meaty-handed thug shoves you by the face back into the sweaty, teeming masses from whence you came. The highlight of the event came hours later, while my friend and I huddled by my phone to relate the tale to the local radio station. Had my high school been the least bit cool, I would have had classmates congratulating me for my call-in the next day. But dirtbags, JAPs, and stoners didn’t listen to way-cool WDRE (aka WLIR).
Although my experience at the Hollywood Bowl show this past Friday was much more mellow than any of my melodramatic Moz encounters of years past, it was still memorable. The two friends with me put up with my narrating (“This is the song based on the Krays!” “This is the song he stopped in the middle of when we rushed the stage back in ’91!” “He used to live in LA, you know. That’s why all the references.”), which I couldn’t help doing despite how much it bothers me when others do so. After about five songs I stopped, but more because of the waves of nostalgia than due to any notion of propriety.
It was more than just the music, the pop-culture-laden references, and memories of concerts of yore. In the middle of the concert, I found myself texting, for Chrissake. “At a Morrissey concert. Wish you were here,” I pinged a friend up north. Due to a mutual loss, his music means more to us than it should. And last Friday night, the emotions came swelling back — but kindly, this time. And for the first time in nearly ten years, I listened to “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” with a smile, even if the lyrics pleaded otherwise.