Morrissey in Visalia. To paraphrase what a writer for the south valley’s own Lifestyle Magazine had written: in Visalia, “culture is on the rise.” Personally, as a fan, the best parts of the evening were witnessing performances of beloved songs like “Suedehead” and “Stop Me If You think You’ve Heard This One Before” and shaking hands with guitarist Boz Boorer outside the venue. After our dinner at the wonderously yummy Little Italy (it’s all about the red sauce), we sat at a nearby bench across the street from The Fox and chatted while the line at the doors progressed. The place was a sell out and it was cool to see a crowd like that downtown, the locals driving along Main Street, rubbernecking to see who’s headlining in little ol’ Visalia. A man quickly walked by rather unassumingly, hands in pockets, head down. I looked over and recognized that it was Boz Boorer. I turned over to the wife and said “holy shit, that’s one of his guitarists!” She replied “Only you could recognize him.” 🙂 I caught up to him and got his attention. All I asked was if he minded if I shook his hand. He smiled and said ‘sure!’ with that charming Brit accent. I wished him a good show and he continued on his way, a lady recognizing him (her eyes got super big) as he quickly strolled by.
This was one of the hottest shows ever, temperature-wise. There were plenty of out of towners from the Bay Area I believe, unprepared for the valley heat and the muggy conditions inside the venue, especially in the upper balcony. We were sweating up a storm. It was very uncomfortable, leading to frustrated and impatient concert goers. Sweaters and hoodies were quickly peeled off, some of the guys wiping their foreheads with their sleeves or their outerwear. There were sour faces left and right. It was so uncomfortable that we left immediately after “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” the somewhat cooler outdoor air being a welcomed relief in comparison to the sauna in the balcony. It was a special treat to see the Mozfather in my hometown, it’s just too bad it was so damned hot and the set was a little lackluster. I was so hoping that the set would be heavier with more celebrated material, “Suedehead” as an opener got us going but the momentum never quite returned to that level of awesomeness. There were definitely some noteworthy and enjoyable moments, such as Gustavo’s solo pieces on lead vox, classical guitar and brass throughout the set. Boz also performed parts on Oboe and snare drum. Newer material like Istanbul, The Bullfighter Dies, World Peace is None of Your Business, Kiss Me Alot, and People are the Same Everywhere went over well – Much of the newer material was definitely strong, but fans (especially Valley fans) are going to expect the classics, the popular, the “old” stuff. And to be fair, playing the “old” stuff doesn’t make an artist a nostalgic act (I think Morrissey is desperately trying to avoid that label). Good music is good music, regardless of year or era. But unfortunately for us, we got ONE Smiths song in the first 15 selections. And in between those selections were a bunch of new songs, a Waylon Jennings cover (which was actually pretty good), a b-side, and a couple Morrissey classics, but not exactly the cream of the crop. I love “Speedway,” but if the drums aren’t played like Spencer Cobrin played them on Introducing Morrissey, then it’s not the real “Speedway!” Anyways, I’m very happy we were able to see the Man in my hometown, just 10 minutes away from my house. About “Suedehead,” the group performed a very faithful rendition with strong singing from Morrissey. Don’t you just hate it when a classic is played half-assed? Not “Suedehead.” It Jangled and thumped along, with a cool and aggressive guitar tone from Jesse Tobias. Gustavo played the keyboard parts true to the studio original, and Boz and the rhythm section fleshed out the rest of the instrumentation while Morrissey smoothly delivered his lines.
Even though it was hot as Hell, it was still cool to see people on their feet, some arm in arm, singing along to “it was a gooood lay, gooood lay, ah-ahhhhh.” Indeed. Morrissey was talkative and regularly addressed the audience, pronouncing VISALIA with a short ‘i’ and an ‘ah’, as in Vih-sahlia, but I don’t think anyone cared. At the end of ‘Hank Done It This Way,’ Moz informed the crowd that the previous song was written by a great American, a lady in the back of the orchestra section yelled out “Waylon Jennings!” to Morrissey’s delight. Thanks to Sound N Vision Foundation, Rainmaker Productions and Choices for making this gig happen. It’s a soothing thought to think that culture is on the rise in the Central Valley, Visalia in particular. There’s a dredg song called “18 People Living In Harmony,” which is kind of a sad story about the death of art, music and culture – the chorus going ‘…Rents are rising, our lease is up, culture is down.’ It’s comforting that maybe our neck of the woods won’t suffer that kind of fate so long as promoters are willing (and can afford) to bring high caliber talent to our area. So glad to see the Pope of Mope an additional occasion before he retires.