My Surreal Night In Spokane With Morrissey
Flashback 1997. Miami. Maladjusted tour. Robert English giving me surprising looks when we were shocked and amazed to discover not one, but two Smiths songs ("Paint A Vulgar Picture" & "Shoplifters") in the set. Flash forward one decade later to Spokane Washington of all places, where I witnessed the most intimate and inimitable Morrissey concert of all time.
I arrived in Spokane, on the east side of the Evergreen State, 4-hours after speeding away from Seattle in my uninsured Ford Focus. The gig was originally booked at the grandiose INB Performing Arts Center, but the demand for Moz on the eastern part of the Wash was anything but overwhelming, so the fanatics were herded into a smaller pen, built to hold 1500. Listen to me now - by my head count there were only 300 bodies in the room. It were as if Morrissey graciously agreed to play a Make-A-Wish show for me and 299 other party patients affected with terminal Moz fever. You couldn't have imagined the fright in the air as we diehards fluttered like Ritalin butterflies in fear of a short set or abrupt cancellation. The excitement kept us paralyzed with anticipation. Strangeways, there we were.
In the back of the building, at around 3:30, I locked into a conversation with this fellow named Brian Bateman, who flew in from Boise, Idaho. Moz guitarist Boz Boorer recently signed Brian's stub and spilled the beans of a giant black bus with a Florida license plate that left about twenty-minutes ago to retrieve the singer from his secluded retreat. Frantically, almost as if on cue, Brian speaks out of the corner of his excited mouth, "oh my god here comes the black bus." I quickly grabbed my Olympus camera as Brian cemented himself in the pathway of our idol. Walking a pace in front of us and heading into the sound check, gliding on a wave of class, came Steven Patrick Morrissey.
At 8 p.m. Kristeen Young and her drummer "Baby" Jeff White greeted the cold, quaint crowd with the surefire ice breaker, "Hello Spokandy." I have great respect for Young, whose face resembled Bjork and whose yowl clawed crazier than PJ Harvey, as she belted out her impressive thrust of energy while fearlessly tangling with an intoxicated heckler. "What's your name?" the sloshy waster yelled. When Young pointed to that violent keyboard of hers, which bore her name in sparkly silver lettering, the drunken dolt admitted "I can't read." We, the antsy partygoers and I, let it ride. Then, like the reveal of a bummer narcotics officer, the saucey stinkpot shits all over our celebration cake when he belts this out; "we love you Tori Amos." The tsunami of groans almost caused Young's eyes to flood. Ever the professional, whose hands were attractively held captive in the plastic holders of a 6-pack which were clipped together but a series of close pins, Young took a deep breath, and let the pain momentarily subside. From there the set was even more vitriolic and fierce. I was close enough to see that the vixen is a shaver. I want more of her.
Shortly after 9 a series of Moz-selected videos began to roll, including one foreign music show that was blessed by a fabulous performance of "Looking For A Kiss" from The New York Dolls. A British female voice over began spouting off free association words. Morrissey comes out in chocolate brown shirt and pumpkin tie. Matt Walker, the power sticker, skips into the sickening drum intro of "The Queen Is Dead" and the music critic melted into a screaming, sweating, sobbing blob of a boy. Here is what you will remember for the rest of my life.
During the fourth song of the set, towards the end of "Disappointed," just before the audience screams "no," Morrissey kneels down and with eyes bluer than the sunniest day, he clutched my lucky hand. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, then the defibrillator paddles brought me back to life.
As the thump of lightning shattered down into the heart of "Life Is A Pigsty," Morrissey lay down on the stage, on his back with feet up on the drum riser, and while the green light illuminated the keyboardist on the far right, Mozzer gradually humped the open air until the staggering ignition of "How Soon Is Now?" The old man, who at 47 doesn't appear to be getting off the stage any time soon, continuously joked behind the good natured attempt at a southern accent. "Where is everybody on a humdinger of a Saturday night in Spokane? Are they out hunting? We should go hunt the hunters." I felt that he was in high spirits despite the punch his ego must have felt, especially since the Los Angeles date of this "Greatest Hits" tour, just sold 17,500 tickets.
Oddly enough, it was during "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy," when Moz threw his third shirt of the evening, a long-sleeve dark blue number, right into my arms. Did I mention that I was front fucking row with 299 stark mad partygoers behind me?! Seconds before he threw it I clearly remember explaining to myself, "Ok Anfinsen, he's going to throw that shirt, and when he throws that shirt, you are going to jump your boney white ass as high as the sky will allow and while you are up there you better pray to god that you come down with that shirt," I explained to myself, "or else you oughtn't not come down at all."
As that sweaty parasol of blue descended, I leaped like a Gazelle and sure as smoldering hell I snatched that shirt, leaving Morrissey without a stitch to wear. Upon landing, my too good to be true body was smothered by avalanche of hunger. Those wolves pounced on my salty flesh. Kicks were felt against my skull but the pain failed to derail my steam rolling smile. My lucky hands had the bulk of the shirt as my new nemesis, the girl with the merciless claws, held the right sleeve of the blue shirt hostage. Those next few minutes were filled with a violence that was neither kind nor appropriate. And I took that time, along with scratches and slaps, to explain to myself, "Ok Anfinsen, you are a thirty-year old man, and right now you are the floor of a night club wrestling a woman over a damp article of clothing."
At the very end of the extremely brilliant set, just after Morrissey belted out this twisted line, "Spokane, my face is leaving in 10 minutes, and you'd better be on it," a pin size hole in the dam popped, releasing a stream of loonies onto the right hand side of the stage. A rush and a push and the small girl next to me saw her chance. We boosted this tiny person up to the top of the guard rail which she bravely leaped from. When she landed on the stage, she didn't realize how mighty of a force gravity truly is, but she found out very quick as she plummeted painfully down onto the floor. Things appeared to be broken. Above the screaming amps and wailing fans, I could hear her writhing in agony. We all felt her pain, including Morrissey who showed a great deal of concern as she was carried away.
When the sharply dressed boys evacuated the torched stage, flame-throwing guitarist Jesse Tobias chucked a handful of yellow picks. One stuck to my shoe like glamorous glue and another other one was quickly snatched and given to one of those cool kids from Boise. Then, like sample day at the Amore store, I gave free love to everyone. High-fived Moz's security guard, bear hugged the merch guy, and lip smacked the sweet cheek of the 50-year old gal who told me that besides Morrissey, her favorite part was watching me in total awe.
Around one in the morning, atop the naked mountain highways of Central Washington, a big black bus with a Florida license plate, like two lovers entwined, passed me by. With a face full of bleary eyes, deaf ears, and indestructible smile, I calmly explained to myself, "Ok Anfinsen, your favorite musician in the history of life, the greatest artist that you will ever experience, this charming man that made your hand smell like an expensive brand of Old Brit Spice, is on the bus directly next to you, on a deserted North American highway, in the middle of this storybook night and you'll probably never see him again, oh, not until the next time."
May 5, 2007
Queen Is Dead
First Of The Gang To Die
You Have Killed Me
Youngest Was The Most Loved
All You Need Is Me
National Front Disco
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
Irish Blood, English Heart
I Will See You In Far Off Places
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Let Me Kiss You
Life Is A Pigsty
How Soon Is Now?
In The Future When All Is Well
I Want To See The Boy Happy
You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side