this charming man
Steady after all these years: Steven Patrick Morrissey’s adoring fans flock toBass Concert Hall this week
Much like their favorite band’s lyrics, fans of The Smiths are often described as “passionate.” Though the British band (Mancunian, to be precise) technically only existed for five years—1982-1987—they remain popular among both old and new fans. Some remember hearing Meat is Murder on their first car’s cassette player; some heard ex-guitarist Johnny Marr’s work with Modest Mouse and Wiki’d their way to more classic albums. But they all have one thing in common: Morrissey.
Steven Patrick Morrissey, aka Morrissey, aka Moz, was The Smiths to most listeners—a gladiola-waving, warbling handsome man pinwheeling across dimly lit stages to disarmingly catchy guitar lines. Morrissey unabashedly belted out lyrics so personal they could have been lifted from the journal of any awkward, early 80s teen; The Smiths specialized in songs about misery and yearning (“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,” etc).
Morrissey’s enjoyed a steady solo career for the past few decades, selling out huge arenas across the globe—like Austin’s Bass Concert Hall, where he performs on Tuesday, November 15. Austin’s very own The Smites will be holding an after-concert party at Stubb's, for fans who want to top their evening off with even more Smiths covers.
While, ultimately, band politics tore The Smiths apart, their fan base lives on. They’ve spawned a small army of tribute bands (like The Smyths, This Charming Band, The Smiths Ltd, The Songs & Heirs and Sweet and Tender Hooligans), and chances are your favorite indie rock band has covered one of their songs.
A bare-chested Moz struts across the stage as hordes of fans attempt to rip his sweat-drenched shirt off his body.
A slightly subdued (and shirted), but still velvet-voiced Moz serenades a mammoth crowd at this year’s Glastonbury Fest.
Stage-crashing and shirt-grabbing seem more fitting at a Justin Bieber show than a solo act in his mid-50s. An in-depth study of Moz fans in The Believer notes that “this aging and comparatively marginal British singer is blurring the lines between what it means to be a pop icon and a religious icon.”
Moz still has what it takes to attract all kinds of adoration. One of the most infamous is his LA-based Latino fan base, a devoted and growing group that hosts near-nightly Smiths / Morrissey tribute shows and dance parties.
Chloe Veltman explains:
Morrissey's "Latino connection" has been a source of amusement and confusion to journalists who cannot quite see how this skinny, effete Englander with his oblique references to dank Manchester cemeteries could appeal to the traditionally macho, sun-kissed Latino culture. Nevertheless Morrissey dedicated his 1999 ¡Oye Esteban! tour to these fans, once famously told an audience in Orange County "I wish I was born Mexican," and the singer's new hometown is affectionately referred to as "Moz Angeles" by the local Latino contingent.
Comedian Matt Braunger’s “Morrissey Fans” mocks Moz’s LA fanbase.
What it really comes down to is this: The Smiths, and Morrissey, are eternally relevant because we’ll always be obsessed with loss and loneliness.
As The Guardian says of Smiths lyrics:
It's all there: sexual and social confusion, vulnerability and violence, alienation and loneliness, the oscillation between feeling abject and worthless and wanting to take over the world, the fantasies of power and revenge. Morrissey did not just write from within: the almost forgotten "Girl Afraid" is a closely observed masterpiece of stunted teenage courtship.
A bunch of sullen Mancunian teens didn’t invent heartbreak—but they’re awfully good at soundtracking it.