When Morrissey shows up, he shows up. The king of post-punk made a long-awaited appearance on Thursday night at Denver’s captivating new Mission Ballroom. Amid the multi-generational crowd were long-time fans of the Smiths, those who stuck around for his solo project and younger fans of the famed British star. They all mingled in several lines outside the venue— some running back to their cars after being told upon arrival that there would be no bags allowed inside— a specific request due to the artist’s stringent practice of veganism. The crowd collectively laughed off the request and trudged into the venue (many donning leather boots… but we won’t tell Morrissey that).
Despite minor inconveniences upon entry, the dancefloor and stands still filled to a comfortable capacity. Interpol opened the night with a dynamic set. They dazzled the audience with a large disco ball that illuminated each eager face in the crowd. Fragmented LED projections fluttered over the front rows as the band offered humble thanks and glances to the crowd through the shield of large square sunglasses. Their hour-long set harkened back to an early 2000’s new wave revival that left us with more mercurial guitar riffs and synth breaks than we ever knew what to do with.
If Morrissey hadn’t made his presence known upon one’s entry to the venue, he made sure to do so between sets. As the audience waited, projected videos of David Bowie and other adjacent artists of Morrisey’s time kept them entertained. A video of Moz himself even flashed across the big screen for a moment before a quick change to another video of a Ramones performance. While the crowd waited, venue employees silently took out the entire venue’s trash, another artist request before he would be able to perform.
But the crowd did not wait for long. Morrissey finally graced the stage as house lights dimmed and stage lights rose, revealing a line of miniature satellites that caught and refracted spotlights as the music ascended. “Mirror, set… Hello,” he began. He opened with “Alma Matters”, whipping his microphone chord back and forth as he crooned in front of the six satellites, creating a set that felt at once both cosmic and subterranean. He continued through a review of fan favorites, highlighting his prolific repertoire.
Vaguely political imagery was projected behind him as he danced through his set, singing nuanced political anthems like “I Wish You Lonely” and “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”— the latter of which was accompanied by blue, white and red stage lights and a photo of a person wearing a gas mask in front of the Champs-Élyseés.
Later, as he sang “The Bullfighter Dies,” to promote awareness of animal cruelty, his background included a series of videos of bulls being dragged in the dirt after a bull run and subsequently several violent images of matadors being trampled in the dust.
No other artist can be simultaneously self-loathing and self-loving in the span of one song as Morrissey was this Thursday, and his fans loved it. Reappearing on stage for his encore wearing a shirt with his own face on it, he ended his set with one of his only Smiths song of the night, “How Soon Is Now?”. He left fans with a humble reminder “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”
Editors Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Morrissey only played one The Smiths song. He performed “How Soon Is Now” as well as “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.”