Morrissey and Interpol Go Classic Post-Punk on the Erwin Center
Weekend’s double headliner doesn’t disappoint
By Alyssa Quiles,
10:45AM, Mon. Sep. 23, 2019
Stephen Patrick Morrissey, 60, brought jokes to his takeover of the Erwin Center on Friday night. The English-born Irishman and former frontman for second British Invasion chieftains the Smiths (1982-1987) also peppered in some classic songs amongst the wry wit for an audience ranging in age from 5 to 75.
Beginning at the stroke of 7:30pm with the lead-off track from their 2002 debut Turn On All the Bright Lights, a single spotlight trained down on Interpol frontman Paul Julian Banks for “Untitled.” Otherwise plunged into complete darkness, the UT drum glowed only with emergency exit signs and dim lights under the stairways. Then someone hit the blinding stage LEDs for the second song, “C’mere,” from the NYC Marauders’ sophomore LP Antics.
For an act that descends musically from the Smiths and its era peers – the Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order – Interpol delivered the goods in warming up for Morrissey. From the deep ocean blue illuminating “The Heinrich Maneuver” to the healing green haze of “The Rover,” no lighting matte repeated in backing the band’s noir-caked post-punk. Both have aged well – sound and sound design. After all, they count themselves classic rock at this late juncture.
That said, not until late in the hour-long set did the audience and then the band warm up. From there, the energy ramp up became palpable. Clumps of people danced by their seats as lead guitarist Daniel Kessler kicked into high gear, moving across the stage in time to propellant drummer Sam Forgarino.
After a lengthy music video interlude, Morrissey entered to sunset hues backing his stage set. The Smiths’ glowering, grand hook menace “How Soon Is Now?” did the rest. Austin’s full house erupted.
Those close enough to the stage got a handshake from the singer, their eyes laser focused on their object of adoration. Security stared stoically past them into the opening minutes of rock concert pandemonium. Any arena-goer lives for such moments.
As the 90-minute, 22-song performance progressed, the headliner alternated catalog standards with new entries, pitting three songs from 2017’s Low in High School (“Spent the day in Bed,” “I Wish You Lonely,” “Never Again Will I Be a Twin”) against a trio of fanatic faves from 1988 solo LP highpoint and debut Viva Hate (“Hairdresser on Fire,” “Break Up the Family,” “Everyday is Sunday”). Interspersed nicely among the originals popped four selections from his new covers album California Sun: Jobriath’s “Morning Starship,” Laura Nyro’s “Wedding Bell Blues,” Gary Puckett & the Union Gap’s “Lady Willpower,” Melanie’s “Some Say I Got (the Devil.”
As a bonus, he threw in Pretenders chestnut “Back on the Chain Gang” (a B-side from Low in High School) and the Smiths’ “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.” All sounded deep, rich, and natural to the arch crooner (“Laura Nyro, who is in her grave, but tonight... Well, shes still in her grave.”) Moz hasn’t lost a step, even as an adopted iteration of this year’s California Son, a “celebration of the best of American music.”
“Many people think it’s Michael Jackson,” he chuckled. “[Or] Twisted Sister, and it’s not ... Twisted Sister.”
As the main set closed with “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” fans leapt to their feet for the standing ovation and chants of one more song, phones lighting the arena.
“As you know – as you’ll always know – whatever happens, I love you,” bowed Morrissey before the band ripped into “Suedehead.”
Tearing off his pink blazer and black t-shirt, he threw them into the ravenous crowd, yelling “I love you” into the mic over and over with more force in each repetition before walking off the stage.