Bakersfield, California, USA
June 11, 2007
As regular readers will recall, I have in-laws who live in Bakersfield (I know, another mar on my increasingly tarnished pedigree). So when I found out that Moz was dragging his old bones through Los Angeles' stinky neighbor to the north, I did a quick search on eBay, found a pair of front-row seats, on the aisle, for a cool $70 a piece. An unheard of price anywhere else, but with Bakersfield being a fifth-rate market, I wasn't all that surprised.
So as I said, the missus has family in Bakersfield‚Äîshe was even born there (and I still married her)‚Äîso we packed the family in the SUV and made a weekend of it. She got to visit her grandparents in the 110-degree heat and I got to catch Manchester's favorite son‚Äîin Bakersfield‚Äîthe novelty of it, I thought, would be worth the hassle. The whole time I was wondering, "Did young Steven ever dream, in his tiny Davyhulme council home, that he's wind down his wild rock 'n' roll ride playing auditoriums in Bakersfield?"
I took my five-year-old daughter, Emma to the gig. A fan since the "You Are the Quarry" days, she was more than thrilled at the prospect of a Morrissey gig. I was equally happy considering she's been going in a musical direction I've been none too pleased with‚Äîthe wife loves throwaway pop and I was hoping a good live dose of Morrissey would get her back on track.
Anyhoo, this was only my fourth show of the tour (I attended the three Pasadena gigs), but I can confidently say this was the loosest and best I've seen Morrissey in years. I think a lot of that to do with a "This is Bakersfield, a minor market, and there's no press so let's let it all hang out" attitude. Plus, it was the last show of this leg of the tour‚Äîeven Boz was dicking around with security during the songs.
The venue was small, but wide‚Äîsort of like a high school auditorium. As a matter of fact, my cousin-in-law who lives in Bakersfield told me the local high schools hold their graduation ceremonies in the hall. About two-thirds of the seats were full and about 75 percent of those were Morrissey fans. The other 25 percent were local yokels from Bakersfield who came to see the traveling freak show. We were front row orchestra, right center, immediately behind the one-foot concrete slab that separated us from the sunken pit.
As the band took the stage, they each took a turn at the microphone before they retreated to their instruments. Each one, starting off with one of the Walker brothers shouting, "Lights," then Jessie shouted "Camera," Matt yelled "Action," and so on repeating the words until Boz shouted "Action," (I believe). They were all wearing the same outfits they wore at one of the nights at the Pasadena show: The white Triumph motorcycle riding school t-shirts with white trousers. Morrissey came on with a black suit, black pants and I believe a black shirt. They started off with "First of the Gang" (which thrilled Emma to no end due to the fact that "It's [her] favorite song ever"], "The Last of the Famous International Playboys," and from what I remember, pretty close to the same set list as Vegas the night before.
The two new songs, "That's How People Grow Up" and "All You Need Is Me" are amazing rockers, and I'm the biggest pessimist there is. With the right producer, these songs and the rest of the new LP could be like "Your Arsenal."
The crowd was enthusiastic, but incredibly crude‚ÄîI couldn't figure out if it was because they were from the Bakersfield area (which is a pretty downtrodden town which breeds mouth breathers) or if it was just kids acting dumb. Examples: throwing cigarette lighters at Morrissey, pushing and shoving girls half their size, etc.
There were also two memorable stage invaders: The first one was by a rather large, milk-fed local who ran stage right, gave Moz a quick hug from the back and ran off during "The Boy with the Thorn." He would have gotten away unscathed, but he got cute, raised his arms in the air and played to the crowd. Just then, Moz's big Hispanic bodyguard pummeled him in a half-nelson into the wings. The other was a petite girl, dressed sorta like a French whore with a lacey black tutu and black spiked heels. She attacked stage left, locked her arms and legs around Morrissey and clamped on. By the time she was pried off, even Moz was wincing and pushing her away.
Another odd thing was that he brought up two children on stage with him at two different times: One girl about 10-years-old, and later in the show, a boy, about 4. I counted close to 10 or so kids under 10 years old, including Emma.
He was somewhat chatty. Mentioned the upcoming Letterman appearance, mentioned something about how we all ended up in Bakersfield, introduced "Whatever Happens, I Love You" as "Stand by Your Man" and chatted a lot with the crowd (and yes, the now-infamous sycophant Julia was in the front row. (How in the fuck does she get that seat every fucking time?)
Long story short (I know, too late), this was one of the best shows I've been in ages‚Äîfor some reason, much more fun than the Pasadena shows. The band seemed to be having a better time, Morrissey was in very good spirits and all over the stage, and the venue and its sounds was crisp and crystal clear.
Side note: Opening act, Kristeen Young, was insufferable.