Moz Gives It All For Fans at Wolf Trap

Morrissey's Monday gig was the first after several postponements; afterward he postponed his Baltimore show as well.
Morrissey's Monday gig was the first after several postponements; afterward he postponed his Baltimore show as well. (Wolf Trap)
By David Malitz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 4, 2007

"I'm really not singing too bad, am I?"

What might have been an offhand quip on any other night was a serious question from Morrissey on Monday evening. The British alternative rock icon's performance at "unfortunately named" Wolf Trap (his words -- he's a vegan and animal rights activist) was the first after three postponements because of a viral infection that left his voice in shambles. The audience responded to his question with predictably wild applause -- nobody has more adoring fans than Morrissey -- but it was the right response, too.

The pompadoured Pope of Mope's dramatic croon wasn't flawless, but it was close enough. There were a few times when he did seem to be laboring, clutching at his chest with an almost pained look on his face. But then again maybe he was just, you know, being Morrissey.

The Mozzer didn't skimp on the set list, offering up spirited versions of 19 songs from throughout his career. When he walked offstage after an especially heavy version of "You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side," he had the look of a spent man who had just given it his all. Turns out he did. Last night's show in Baltimore was postponed because of voice woes, and the status of his next few shows is up in the air as well. So the folks who packed Wolf Trap's pavilion and lawn were doubly lucky: Not only did they get to see a show, they got to see an excellent one.

Morrissey will always be most associated with the Smiths, perhaps the definitive British band of the '80s. Though chestnuts such as "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" received some of the biggest ovations of the evening, the Smiths material sounded flimsy compared with his more recent tunes. His powerhouse five-piece backing band seemed much more comfortable tackling muscular rockers such as "I Will See You in Far-Off Places" and "First of the Gang to Die," which made better use of the double- and sometimes triple-guitar attack led by Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias.

But Morrissey was obviously the main attraction. He reached down to touch the hands of fawning fans, only two of whom rushed the stage. He accepted their homemade trinkets. He joked about Fox News and President Bush. He even went shirtless for a brief moment. (Pretty buff, if you must know.)

Most important, he sang like there was no (show) tomorrow. His unstable vocal condition is clearly the biggest story of this tour, but Monday at Wolf Trap, it was really nothing.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company