Photo by Matt OttoThe Von Bondies, Blood Arm, Sweet and Tender Hooligans
Galaxy Concert Theatre, Santa Ana
Saturday, Aug. 28
Opening act the Von Bondies were great as usual; the groove-punk Blood Arm proved a pleasant revelation. But everyone at the packed Galaxy came this night for one reason: to worship at the altar of Morrissey via his approved high priests, the Sweet and Tender Hooligans. This Angeleno-based group has done the Smiths/Morrissey cover thing for more than a decade, yet people still screamed as if they were in Thatcherite Manchester when Hooligans head crooner and Moz mimicker extraordinaire José Maldonado—approved by Morrissey himself!—sauntered onstage. Maldonado promptly sashayed his mates through the entire Bona Drag album, Moz's second solo release, in succession and with no interludes or even asides. There were the classics: the swaying "Suedehead"; a strutting "The Last of the Famous International Playboys"; a rendition of the mock-Gothic tale "November Spawned a Monster," complete with Maldonado writhing on the floor for a good two minutes and rubbing a chocolate bar across his body à la his God. And there were ignored gems such as the queer-themed "Piccadilly Palare," even the clunkers that dominate Bona Drag's second half. The Hooligans' Moz re-creation, as always, was pitch- and note-perfect—Maldonado, in particular, emulated Morrissey down to the hair, the falsetto shrieks, the exaggerated gestures, and the slow strip of shirt that eventually revealed a slight paunch. And after Bona Drag's last track, the Hooligans promptly segued into a good 45 minutes of Smiths tunes (may God bless them for playing my requests, the melancholically joyous "Headmaster Ritual" and jangle-poppy "This Charming Man"). But the show was ultimately unsatisfying, and it was the crowd's fault. While some fans engaged in the stage-rushing and gladiola-launching tactics that typically transform Hooligans shows from mere songfest into new wave theater, many just stood around and preened. Men sported pompadours that could poke out eyeballs; their shapely, tattooed ladies looked like extras from an all-Latino version of American Graffiti. Few danced, few sweated, not even for the torch-ender "There is a Light That Never Goes Out." Such apathy, then, begs the question: Why even show up? Moz graced this planet to make us cry and croon and look pretty, sure, but he also wants us to dance. And when one of the few people flaying around is this charming reporter, something is terribly amiss in the world—not with the Hooligans, but with the world.