Some fans of Morrissey have a problem letting the man grow old. Certain blogs will heap upon their readers pictures of him from 25 years ago with his shirt open and flowers sticking out of his pockets. And even the most conscientious Morrissey fan will at some point in the conversation wistfully say, “I really looooooove The Smiths,” as if the powerful but fitful start of Morrissey’s music career was all there really ever was of it.
In a way, these fans can be forgiven. In his appearance at the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, Md., Wednesday night, Morrissey opened his show with “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and closed it on “How Soon Is Now?” He played several other songs by The Smiths along the way in the 20-song set. But make no mistake — this is not the Morrissey that folks have under glass, frozen in their minds. He’s older, wiser, and dare I say, happier?
I’ve seen Moz in concert a whopping eight times in the past five years thanks to the charming Yasmin, who hooks me into following him around on short arcs when he’s in the area. Although it was more obvious in his performances of four years ago, it still seems plain as day to me that Morrissey is much more content and confident, as a person and an artist, than he was earlier in his career — at the time when people would freeze him for posterity. And it’s quite becoming, I would say. The older Morrissey is eloquent and erudite. His passion for causes really flares up only in his ongoing partnership with PETA, where he protests the eating of animals as cruel, particularly in an elaborately staged rendition of “Meat is Murder.” (Sorry, Steve, but I’m going to eat chickens no matter how many times you show me a video of their admittedly terrible treatment at the hands of some farmers.) But outside of his vegetarian activism, Morrissey seems to know when enough is enough.