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October 21, 2014

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A (gasp) cheerier Morrissey proves his show is still worthwhile

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Erik Kabik

With each pass through the somber, repeated line “Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head,” Morrissey modulated his phrasing and volume, wringing fresh raw emotions from a familiar song.

Friday night’s Chelsea Ballroom headliner took the stage rolling his Rs and growling playfully, a far cry from the last time Las Vegas saw Steven Patrick Morrissey. On that night two years ago at the Joint, he exited without encore or explanation, leaving us speculating as to what might have upset the notoriously moody man. This time, he seemed in good spirits from start to finish.

The Details

Morrissey
Three and a half stars
November 25, The Cosmopolitan

Better yet, his voice sounded fantastic, cranked up high above his five-piece backing band. The peak moment came when the 52-year-old Brit unleashed a song from his youth, “I Know It’s Over” off The Smiths’ 1986 classic The Queen Is Dead. With each pass through the somber, repeated line “Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head,” Morrissey modulated his phrasing and volume, wringing fresh raw emotions from a familiar song.

He played three other Smiths tunes but mostly stayed away from his hits (no “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get,” “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”). It hardly mattered. When Morrissey dug into his recent catalog, songs like “Black Cloud” and “When Last I Spoke to Carol” came off like old favorites, a testament to his iconic sound and style. Even a cover of “Satellite of Love” had unmistakable Moz to it, with the singer twisting Lou Reed’s original “I love to watch things on TV” lyric into a dour “I cannot stand the TV.” Of course, fans reacted loudest to the Smiths’ material, even if the gruesome animal-slaughter videos synced to “Meat Is Murder” made their post-Thanksgiving stomachs turn a bit.

Complaints? Just one, really. After performing 21 songs at each of two 2007 Pearl stopovers, Morrissey pared down to 17 for his two most recent Vegas visits. Which means, as his songbook grows, he’s giving us less of it; at this rate, in 2013 he’ll be off in under an hour. Then again, considering the way his voice suddenly deteriorated during an encore stab at “Still Ill” (or could that raspy sound possibly have been intentional?), maybe we should give thanks for what we got. And that this time, the night ended with a song rather than silence.

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