by J.C. Ciesielski
Pittsburgh is a land of extroverts when it comes to cheering on their sports teams. One in 10 'Burghers have at least one piece of sports memorabilia in their home.
That statistic is completely made up, but it certainly seems reasonable and most likely true. Screams and cries of adulation or defamation spew like a broken water main toward teams and televisions alike. When it comes to sports, Pittsburgh knows what it likes and goes to great lengths to show it. So where's the declaration of love when it comes to concerts?
On Monday I attended the performance of a man on my concert bucket list. Morrissey. Perhaps it's like the lover who gets spurned and rejected that makes them crave the object of their affection that much more. Morrissey has cancelled as many concerts as he had actually shown up for in the past few years.
This past performance was delayed because of complications with his mother's health. Understandable, even if Moz seems like he was never born, but conceived and birthed by the feelings of teenage angst and being desperately sanguine. Enough about The Pope of Mope for the moment, let's return to the excitement of the audience—or lack thereof.
It's become relentlessly apparent to this less-than-humble man of action that people don't respond as emphatically as they once did toward the performers they paid to see. Perhaps it's the venue. Morrissey played Heinz Hall, a venue more associated with musicals, ballets and symphonies than concerts, burlesque acts and similar ilk. The hall seems to demand a sense of respect that appeared to be addressed and adhered to that evening.
Any concert that has ushers directing patrons to assigned seating is always suspect to me. A chime indicating the performance will soon begin triggers a Pavlovian response to get to your seat, as opposed to a DJ from a local radio station introducing the band as others standing around you show off fresh ink and scan the crowd for potential hook-ups. Outdoor concerts and tightly packed rooms seem to be the exception rather than the rule and it makes me wonder why people—perhaps not just Pittsburgh patrons—act like tweens at their first school dance.
They are apprehensive to initiate any kind of action, waiting for someone else to make the first move, allowing them the excuse if that fails to get the other lemmings going that the other kid started. Much was the atmosphere that evening.
To open the festivities was ingenue Kristeen Young. An eclectic taste that blends electronic, a touch of Indian folk and other influences that complement her stage performance. Subtleties that may have been lost on others, but I have a musical ear that could compare to the finest pallet of the most renowned sommelier, and I caught them.
She didn't wear what could be called a costume, but her ensemble worked for her not only in fashion, but form. I felt distraught for her to put so much energy into what she was doing with a response akin to students in a gymnasium waiting for the vice principal's announcements to end before a pep rally.
Granted, the room was larger than what would have lent itself to a more intimate and raucous show that be better suited to a performance of her style and intrigue. Trying to get a group hand clap going is another example of people being wary that they would be looked upon as pariahs for their daring.
Then again, when world famous DJ Paul Oakenfold opened for Madonna on Election Night he was met with a very similar response and only got a major cheer from the audience when he took off his button down to reveal a Steelers T-shirt. Then again, soccer moms don't really tune into the best of Ibiza. In any case I wish there would have been a better reaction to Ms. Young's in-your-face, in-a-hipster-art-crawl exhibition of talent.
Next to the stage the Grand Duke of Depression, Morrissey himself. As expected, a more vocal acknowledgement rang through the hall. It may look posh and uptight, but the acoustics are fantastic—something that lent well to the vocals of the former Smiths front man.
If you aren't familiar with The Smiths I emphatically recommend avoiding any hipsters or emo folk as they might tell you to save the world the bother and just kill yourself then and there. The Smiths, in my opinion, are the granddaddies of emo. Slightly melancholic, The Smiths were a bit more ironic and you could dance to them, not just smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.
Morrissey continues that with a more adult perspective in his solo work.
Opening wisely with a classic Smiths' song, "Shoplifters of the World Unite" got the crowd going and drew a few cat calls from the folks in attendance. Once he moved into his more contemporary numbers the audience mostly regressed back to a stiff upper lip look.
Few and far between was the person who even bobbed their head, let alone got up and danced or swayed. As the show progressed, the members of club quiet started to loosen up and actually acted like they were at a show they paid $60 or more to attend. I can only attribute the comfort increase to the imbibing of many a libation.
If I'm shelling out that kind of money to hear some music I'm going to do as I damn well please. I wisely kept my shirt on because I didn't want to upstage Mozzer when he ripped his off. At only 53 he can still make a lady or man swoon with his boyish charm and style. Surprisingly, there were more people trying to get on stage than anticipated, gifts bestowed and requests for a touch of his hand than I ever imagined. Then again, he's also of the impression that if Jesus ever came back he would open for him. Jesus opening for Morrissey, that is. It seems the solution to all life's problems is alcohol. That theory is attributed to Homer, not of the Iliad, but of Evergreen Terrace.
Again, I can't say this is strictly a Pittsburgh dilemma and not a world-wide epidemic, but kids, let your freak flags fly high and proud in the face of conformity. Let your individuality wave for all to see. You don't want to tell your grandchildren about the time you saw one of the people that helped shaped your very being and how you just sat there afraid of what others might think. Take my advice. Do what I do and you'll be the better for it.
Editor's Note: The author is a Pittsburgh resident and Canon-McMillan Patch reader.