Morrissey fans are a special breed. Some you can tell by their greased-up pompadour and denim jacket; others are less obvious. At Wednesday's concert at the Balboa Theater, I was surrounded by people of various ages, ethnicities and styles, and they were all screaming and raising their arms like the British singer was the second coming of Jesus. One older Latino woman who looked like a pre-school teacher wouldn't stop screaming "Papacito!" every time Moz came near.
The venue served as a beautiful backdrop, but it was clear those in charge weren't quite ready for the fandom the former lead singer of The Smiths would produce. After all, Justin Bieber he is not. Standing two feet from the stage in a makeshift pit area guarded by security, I swayed and sang along to classics like "Everyday is Like Sunday" and "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." He sounded crisp and gave the crowd the usual Morrissey antics: a sassy whip of the microphone chord, dramatic turns and also addressed the controversy over his refusal to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Moz canceled on Kimmel last minute when he realized he'd be on the show with cast members of the reality show Duck Dynasty, which follows a Louisiana family who made their money selling duck-hunting paraphernalia. The anti-animal-cruelty advocate wanted nothing to do with these folks, or Kimmel, who later poked fun at Morrissey.
"We didn't play because we didn't," Morrissey told the crowd at Balboa Theater. "You would have seen the host making little jokes about things that aren't funny. To that I say [loud fart noise]."
Later, he went into The Smiths' song "Still Ill." That's when things got rowdy. In a moment of perfectly timed drama, Moz ripped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd, just two-feet from where I was standing. Fierce fans pounced on the shirt, ripping at it, and each other, to get a piece of Moz to call their own. I backed away when the threat of being trampled got too real. Security guards tried to break up the tussle, to no avail. The fans had their arms twisted around the arm of the shirt and refused to budge. Finally someone from Morrissey's crew ran out with a knife and offered to cut the shirt in order to placate the rabid fans.
From there things got more intense. Audience members started pushing closer to the stage. Then during the finale, "The Boy with the Thorn in his Side," and all hell broke loose.
One by one fans started rushing onto the stage, hugging and kissing the singer. He didn't seem to mind and, for the most part, his security gently removed them. No one wanted to cause harm; they just wanted to touch their demi-god. One young guy who made it to the stage came back down with tears in his eyes. It was clearly one of the greatest moments of his life. I considered rushing up, then realized I'm way past the point in my life where I want to do something like that. Had it been 10 years ago, perhaps I'd have my own "I kissed Morrissey" story to tell.
Watching security try to keep fans away from Moz was like watching rodeo clowns try to stop a bucking bull. They were on a mission. Once they got their hug in, each fan would throw his or her arms up as if to say, "I'm not going to fight you" and left without a struggle. Morrissey is the kind of icon who produces that level of decorum. It made for a great night.