Don't Forget the Songs...

The most impassionate song
To a lonely soul
Is so easily outgrown

…But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you

—The Smiths, “Rubber Ring”

Morrissey decided, for some inexplicable reason, to do only a single US show on his world tour in support of his latest album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, since its release in April. And because he didn’t want me to plunge myself into a fit of despair, he chose Chicago, of course. So last night, I got to spend the evening with my dearest love, Mr. Shakes, and my longest love, Morrissey.

I’ve written before about seeing the video for How Soon Is Now on 120 Minutes, and hearing Viva Hate for the first time, and how The Smiths’ and Morrissey’s songs have provided the soundtrack to my life, so familiar, such a part of me, that I regard them with the same wonder, and take them as much for granted, as my own thoughts. I’ve been told I sing them in my sleep. If you’ve ever heard a song that makes you feel it must have been written just for you, that climbs inside you and stays there, never losing its meaning and ever being able to inspire as a new idea yet comfort as an old blanket, you know what I mean. About every last song Mozza has ever given me.

Even the bad one.

What I love about the concerts is all the people who feel the same. I always hope I am surrounded by people who will dance and swoon and sing at the top of their lungs, who will laugh knowingly and cheer when he cheekily changes the lyrics, as is his wont. (Upon hearing for the first time the lyric off the newest album, “Living longer than I had intended / Something must have gone right,” I commented to Mr. Shakes, “He’ll sing ‘something must have gone wrong’ at the concert,” and he did.) I look down, from the first row balcony seats overlooking the stage for which I race to plant my ripe old arse these days, at the desperately outstretched arms at the front the ballroom floor, and I root for them to graze their fingertips against those of the man who means so much to them. They’re so unlucky, I think, with contemptuous regard for the six-foot barrier now standing between them and the stage. We held him, and he held us, back in the day.

I always hope that I’m surrounded by people whose eyes will well with tears at an encore consisting, simply, of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, just like mine did.

To love music, and a man behind it, so profoundly is a very personal thing, particularly when the source of that adoration is so firmly rooted in that about which he sings—human experience, love, loss, pain, joy—so specifically, from the perspective of a mute witness, or a disfigured girl, or a young man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. The concerts afford me the chance to see that deep appreciation for his gentle insistence on empathy flowing through so many others, and they make me hopeful and happy. The only thing that can make me tear my eyes off of Morrissey is the crowd.

Last night’s show was his ninth stop in Chicago over the course of five tours since 1991, including three others at the same beautiful venue—the Aragon Ballroom—and I’ve been at all of them. I always will be.


A bit of amusement: This was, truly, one of Morrissey’s best concerts I’ve ever attended. He was in splendid form—his voice was spectacular, the staging was spot-on, and his band was smoking. And he was unusually chatty, though predictably mischievous. During I Will See You in Far Off Places, which contains the lyric, “…and if the USA doesn’t bomb you,” he changed the line to “…and if George Dubya Bush doesn’t bomb you,” to much cheering and applause.

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