Although he comes across as a moody sad sack on his albums, Morrissey was considerably more fun and playful during his sold-out concert Sunday night at the House of Blues. While singing his trademark brooding songs about a variety of morbid and dismal topics, he frequently did so with a smirk and a smile.
The former lead singer of The Smiths is on tour to promote his tenth CD, "Years of Refusal." Despite spending a mere five years in the Smiths and twenty years as a solo artist, it was the rare Smiths' songs that got the biggest reaction from the crowd, including "This Charming Man," which kicked off the show.
Other Smiths' songs included a terrific version of "How Soon is Now?" which featured urgently flashing red lights,making it look and sound like an alarm going off at a nuclear plant. "Ask" was one of the highlights of the night, and had the audience singing along from start to finish. "Death of a Disco Dancer," was a mournful ballad that roared to a cacophonous close.
The fit 49 year-old performed in front of a giant homo-erotic back-drop of of a shirtless World War II sailor flexing his muscles with a giant stogie in his mouth, and the word "REFUSAL" emblazoned across his chest.
Morrissey's 90-minute set included about 20 songs, with eight or so from the new disc. The best of which was the catchy "Something is Squeezing My Skull." "Black Cloud" was reminiscent of "Bigmouth Strikes Again," whereas "When Last I Spoke to Carol" had an almost flamenco sound, with its acoustic Spanish guitars taking the limelight. "That's How People Grow Up," was a new mid-tempo rocker about the singer's unsuccessful search for love. I'm sorry, but Morrissey is a good looking, famous, multi-millionaire rock star. Getting laid can't be THAT tough!
The singer's voice was strong and featured his trademark "woe is me" wails, howls and hollers. His band featured five cute and talented musicans -- Matt Walker on drums, Boz Boorer and Jess Tobias on guitar, Solomon Walker on bass and Kristopher Pooley on keyboards -- all of whom were dressed in reddish t-shirts and jeans, looking like your typical gay bar clones. Morrissey played no instruments himself, other than the tambourine once or twice.
"Seasick, Yet Still Docked" was a slow ballad with the drama and histrionics turned way down. The subtlety worked well for the song, which was a nice change of pace from the rest of the rock-oriented songs. Ideally, it could have been performed with just the piano and double bass. Another stripped-down song or two sprinkled through the show would have been a good idea.
At one point the vegan singer complained about wanting to use one of the House of Blues' new backstage kitchens to prepare some brown rice and peppers to eat after the show on their way to Ann Arbor, but was told he wasn't allowed. He then sniggered about this being the "House of Rules," and said, "People are horrible, aren't they?" The crowd roared their approval.
Opening for Morrissey were young British rock quintet, The Courteeners, an agreeable rock band reminiscent of The Strokes. Their playing was good and their songs had decent melodies and hooks, especially on "Not Nineteen Forever."