A wide range of folks descended on the Paramount to see the iconic and enigmatic Morrissey on a Sunday evening. Seattleites from all over the subcultural spectrum showed up to sway along with their favorite British crooner.
Capitol Hill hipsters made sure their hair was perfectly styled, goth girls made sure their makeup was fully applied, tattooed hardcore kids wore their Smiths shirts, new Belltowners wore their suits, and a slew of regular people filled in the empty seats between them. Ages ranged from middle school to 40th-high-school-reunion.
There's something special about a singer that can attract such a variety of fans, especially a singer that is not particularly exciting to watch or listen to. Yet, Morrissey has been steadily adding to his fan base since the early '80s. It's a fan base that, while not quite Beatles-esque, is remarkably dedicated. One gentleman way up in the front even cut his hair to resemble the traditional Morrissey shaved sides and pompadour look that he has sported for the past twenty years.
What is it that attracts us to the restrained singing and the gentle walking around the stage that comprise the Morrissey concert? Is it the universality of his lyrical content? Whenever anyone wants to wallow in their sorrow for a while, a Smiths song is the perfect companion. In fact, I bet a motivated researcher could find that the Smiths are largely responsible for the transformation of hardcore punk into the early emo bands.
However, it's been twelve years since the last Smiths record. Is Morrissey riding his former popularity? Judging by the responses to the songs last night, yes. Every Smiths song had a chorus of audience members. Morrissey songs had fewer singalong fans. When he played the first of the B-sides collected on his new record, he asked afterward, "Was that boring?" as the crowd was clearly subdued. The following Smiths song quickly placated them.
Part of Morrissey's crafted public persona relies on approachability and integrity. He mentioned that "turkey is 80 percent antibiotics" and suggested that eating meat, even on Thanksgiving, was "the unthinkable." PETA even had a table at the door. Morrissey also willfully handed the microphone to a front row patron to allow her to introduce Jose from Mexico City who was having a birthday and turning 32 that evening. But if he speaks out for his beliefs, he has tempered them enough not to play "Meat is Murder" after a short speech about turkeys and antibiotics.
Young ladies still hold up signs that say "You're still frinky" for an aging and less waifish Morrissey. He's a modern-day Frank Sinatra: His voice is still unmistakable, and now his fans supply the frinky for him.