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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #382  (Vol. 8, No. 29) This edition is for the week of July 16--22, 2007.

The Tampa Film Review for July  by Nolan Canova, Chris Woods, and Chris Passinault
"I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"  by Mike Smith
Moz Mania: Morrissey in Concert....Crowded House is Back!  by Andy Lalino
Asshole....Anyone Seen Raymond Burr?...Baseball....Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 25: Joe Pantoliano  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Moz Mania: Morrissey in Concert
Ruth Eckerd Hall - July 12th, 2007

For a brief two hours, alternative music fans were immersed in a welcome reprieve from pop princesses, boy bands, and American I-dull losers, in the form of ex-Smiths member and solo crooner Morrissey. You're not likely to find a more brilliant rock lyricist that ol' Moz, whose solo work matches or occasionally outshines Smiths material. With titles like "Shoplifters of the World Unite", "Vicar in a Tutu" and "Girlfriend in a Coma", we Generation X'ers knew this was no ordinary wordsmith (excuse the pun), and even with all the groundbreaking achievements in music accomplished during the era, The Smiths/Morrissey uniquely distinguished themselves/himself among fellow art-rockers.

Morrissey's biting vocals and undeniable charisma, both as the Smiths frontman and solo artist, helped seal the deal with the international audience, bringing him a lasting fame and rabid fan base even during this pop culture cesspool we're forced to tolerate now. I'm not sure how we as a pop culture nation went from The Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" to Ashlee Simpson, however I'm so glad Moz has far from thrown in the towel and is on a crusade to showcase just what a talent he truly is.

Well, I could complain all day about the Kelly Clarksons, Hillary Duffs, and Clay Aitkens, if I couldn't restrain myself, but I have real music - not marshmallow fluff - to review, so let's get to it.

Promptly arriving at my house were fellow alt-rockers Andrew and Vanessa Allan. My wife, who unfortunately is not wild about concerts (but loves The Smiths/Morrissey), bowed out of this one but cheerfully volunteered to chauffeur us, driving us the short distance to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, where Morrissey performed before.

Inside, it was mainly an older crowd, and I might say much less "gay" than the Erasure concert I had attended the week before (for those who don't know, Moz is not straight). Andrew and Vanessa greeted a couple who were friends, introduced me to them, and we chatted for a while. Finally, the opening act, Kristeen Young, was wrapping up her set and we took our seats.

While the roadies were wrapping cords and making way for Moz's band, the audience was treated to a sampling of bizarre video clips from an eclectic array of concert footage, film, and stage, projected on a massive canvas. Leave it to Morrissey to envision a montage of David Johansen smoking a joint, James Dean's wardrobe tests from "East of Eden", a Muzikladen jam with The New York Dolls, and some soused dame singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas", circa 1950's/early '60s. Great stuff.

Then, all went black. Red spotlights roared to life behind the stage at eye level, scoping the audience like The Terminator. Through the speakers, a mysterious British monotone voice uttered a strange brew of words, from "Senator Jesse Helms" to "rape". After minutes of this mind-bender, Moz and the band strutted out onstage with a song I thought I'd never hear live: "The Queen is Dead". I preferred the studio version, but to hear him sing: "The pub it saps your body, the church all they want is your money" was quite a thrill. He followed with an array of both Smiths/solo hits in an impressive mixture of the old and new.

Current material included: "Irish Blood, English Heart", his latest single "You Have Killed Me", "In the Future Where All is Well"/"The Youngest Was the Most Loved" (both off the new CD "Ringleader of the Tormentors"), and "The First of the Gang to Die". Fans were aching to hear classic Smiths tunes, which included: "The Boy with a Thorn in His Side", "How Soon is Now" (The Smiths' breakout single in the U.S.); and his solo work "Everyday is Like Sunday" and more. Perhaps the finest moment of the night was when the audience swayed to the classic "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want". Performed with simple piano accompaniment, it sent chill waves through the air, reminding everyone what a privilege it was growing up during that all-too-brief window when New Wave reigned, from 1983 to 1986.

The crowd, as one would expect, was insane with Moz fever. Sing-alongs were commonplace, some waved banners while others took pot shots with cheezy cell phone cameras. The section in front were lucky - they had the opportunity to grab at one of Moz's sweaty dress shirts which he routinely stripped off (at one point I swear I almost saw someone strangled to death). Girls (and at least one guy) lept on stage to cop a quick feel. It was sonic chaos!

Moz's backup band was young, for the most part, but very good. All were dressed in light blue short-sleeved shirts and bow ties. The most recognizable musician was guitarist Boz Borrer, who in 1995 worked with Adam Ant on his hit CD "Wonderful". Part of the drummer's set included a colossal gong and kettle drum. Of course, Morrissey's sense of humor and badwill toward the conservative right was on display. The first half of the show, he spitted many a sarcastic moment, and when in a fleeting mood, refused to sing select lines from songs. During one song, "Irish Blood, English Heart", I believe, Moz attacked Republicans! There was also a funny moment when Moz handed the microphone to an audience member who proceeded to give her life story in the middle of the show! Thankfully, she was booed down by an angry crowd eager to get on with things. Leave it to a chick to chit-chat even during the middle of a Morrissey concert.

There were a few other funny moments when Morrissey said a few phony words about Ruth Eckerd (God, how that must have bothered the blue-haired usher volunteers) and proudly lamented how American radio had no interest in promoting his current songs. I recall back in the early '80s it was still like pulling teeth to get pop radio stations to play alternative. God forbid we forgo Gloria-fucking-Estafan to hear one song by The Smiths. I'll tell 'ya, FM radio is one sour beast that I can't wait to see go way of the Do-Do bird.

The show wrapped at about 10:30pm, with Moz and the boys encoring with "The Last of the International Playboys". Morrissey actually played more songs that I was dying to hear than I expected. Three casualties were: "There is a Light That Never Goes Out", "Shoplifters of the World Unite", and "Panic".

We all looked forward to Moz's next Tampa Bay area appearance. And after just coming off the Erasure show a week ago, it's been a gay old month.

Crowded House is Back!
There's great news on the horizon: Neil Finn's post-Split Enz band Crowded House is back with an all-new album and big tour on the way. I should have known something was afoot when VH1 Classic was showing their 1996 "Farewell" concert in Sydney. Those buggers! They didn't even tell me a reunion happenin'!

The new album is called "Time on Earth" and reunites surviving Crowded House members Finn and Nick Seymour (drummer Paul Hester committed suicide in 1995). Apparently, many of the songs deal with Hester's passing, and the effect on those left behind. Reminds me of Roland Orzabal's perspectives on Tears for Fears songs after Curt Smith left the band.

The good news: Recognizable New Wave gods Steve Lillywhite (producer on Simple Minds "Sparkle in the Rain" and U2's "War") and The Smiths' Johnny Marr have contributed to the album; the bad news: so have more current 'artists' like the *groan* 'Dixie Chicks'. You should have left it pure, Neil, you should have left it pure.

Despite the presence of the 'Dixie Chicks' on this CD, be sure I'll be picking it up. And what's to follow is an ambitious worldwide tour, and if it's anything as good as the aforementioned Sydney show, it's one you won't want to miss. No news if Tim Finn will join the tour.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.