Iconic crooner Morrissey had quite an eventful week in Los Angeles. He canceled an anticipated appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! over “animal serial killers,” his description of the cast for A&E reality show Duck Dynasty, who were booked to appear on the same show, setting off a mini-feud with the talk show host.
The singer also demanded that the Staples Center go meat-free for his headlining concert on March 1, which ultimately resulted in a draw. While the nearly 20,000 capacity arena shut down the on-site McDonald’s and offered only vegetarian fare on the main floor, meat items were readily available on other levels.
But for diehard fans of the former frontman of The Smiths, the highlight of the week was a last-minute show scheduled for the Hollywood High School auditorium. Tickets for the special event sold out in a single minute.
Fans began lining up around the famous high school in the wee hours of the morning for the Saturday night (March 2) show, wrapping around the block and stretching down Hollywood Boulevard. Ironically and much to Moz’s dismay, the school is situated next door to one of Southern California’s busiest locations of popular restaurant chain In-N-Out Burger, and kitty-corner to a new Chick-Fil-A outlet.
Security worked frantically to get the massive crowd (which included actress Zoe Kravitz) inside the small auditorium in a timely fashion, with the school’s mural of famous alumni like Judy Garland, Ricky Nelson and Carol Burnett overlooking the chaotic scene.
After an opening set from perpetual Moz tour-mate Kristeen Young, comedian Russell Brand (who caused a commotion when fans spied him in the crowd at the Staples Center show) took the stage to announce Morrissey with a brief but heartfelt monologue about what the singer meant to him growing up in England.
Morrissey and his long-time backing band took the stage and kicked into “Alma Maters,” revealing that the show would be decidedly different than the Staples Center concert the night before, when they started with “Shoplifters of the World Unite.” Fans down front jostled for position to hand Morrissey gifts and to touch his hand, which the singer eagerly obliged.
Roaring through solo hits like “November Spawned a Monster” and “Maladjusted,” Morrissey led the band through a raucous rendition of Smiths classic “Still Ill,” sending the audience into such a frenzy that the auditorium floor buckled under their feet.
The band soon launched into something of a Smiths mini-set, playing “Asleep,” “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” and “Meat is Murder” (complete with a grisly video of animals being slaughtered that elicited gasps and forced many concertgoers to look away) before silencing the room with a gorgeous rendition of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
Just as at the Staples Center show, Morrissey took a moment to hand his microphone to audience members, who delivered emotional testimonials about the singer (“Thank you for all the life lessons you taught us,” chirped one fan). A team of professional cameramen and discreetly placed microphones around the venue captured every moment, hinting at a possible future film or DVD release of the show.
After a muscular take on recent single “Action is My Middle Name,” Morrissey ended the set with “Let Me Kiss You,” singing the line, “but then you open your eyes and you see someone that you physically despise” as he tore off his floral shirt and tossed it to the crowd, eliciting a frantic scrum until one fan emerged triumphant, tattered button-down in hand.
Fans carried on the tradition of crashing the stage during the encore song, “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side.” Morrissey gamely hugged those able to elude security and reach their hero, taking a moment to pull nine-year-old concertgoer Devin onstage for a hug, carrying him around before returning the boy to his parents.
Despite a week of controversy in L.A. on top of a challenging year that’s already landed him in a Michigan hospital with a bleeding ulcer, Morrissey’s triumphant performance at Hollywood High School proved why more than 30 years after the formation of the short-lived Smiths, fans continue to flock and further cement his rock legend status.