by Rich Ivey
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham
Wednesday, March 11
Morrissey cancelled the first four U.S. dates of his Tour of Refusal “due to illness.” Presumably better, he then played an allegedly spotty hour at Myrtle Beach’s House of Blues. Two more gigs, including an Asheville stop, were soon dropped, but the 49-year-old Mozzer decided to take his chances in the not-so-dirty downtown of Durham. Good thing, too.
Beneath a backdrop of flexing 30-foot-high sailor with no shirt and a stogie in his kisser, Morrissey & Co. presented a well-stocked Durham Performing Arts Center with an above-par hour-and-a-half of new tunes, old favorites and deep cuts. Opening number “This Charming Man” is not of the latter court. The 1983 Smiths single is a staple of Morrissey’s solo shows, and for good reason: It offered a firecracker start among the giant room’s accordingly giant generational span.
Subsequently, “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” and “Black Cloud”—taken from this tour’s namesake, Years of Refusal—were precisely pounded and wonderfully s(w)ung. The asexual sex symbol’s chest and chain snuck from his pink shirt—at least when he actually wore it.
Longtime bandleader Boz Boorer and his talent pool of younger studio punks offered more than ample support, with a dozen guitar tech handoffs, a huge gong and a bass tone that sometimes rivaled that of our own Double Negative. Sure, Johnny Marr’s chops were noticeably void on unfuckwithable Smiths tunes like “Ask,” but guitarist Boorer, who has been with Moz since 1991, co-wrote a handful of the evening’s highlights: “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores,” “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” and the aforementioned “Something Is Squeezing My Skull.”
Other points of interest included a shirtless “Seasick, Yet Still Docked,” fan favorite “Billy Budd” and a scorching encore of “Irish Blood, English Heart.” A varied selection from Morrissey’s 27-year The Smiths and solo catalog filled the performance’s midsection and treated longtime followers to a couple of tracks atypical of a Moz setlist, most surprisingly the late Smiths B-side “I Keep Mine Hidden.”
DPAC’s air was more akin to the “Hall” audio setting on your sedan's five-disc CD changer than that of a Cat’s Cradle gig, but it’s to be expected in a $46.8-million theater constructed for routinely less distorted output. Still, the mixed-gender stage invaders kept our hunky middle-aged troubadour on his toes, and his distinctive, finally healthy voice and mixed song bag kept the crowd out of its cushy seats. Shouts of “Morrissey!” and “We love you!” echoed throughout the room, and some nine or 10 people intermittently rushed the stage to hug their most beloved Euro. Security was quick to escort each away, but it always seemed lighthearted and the audience chuckled every time.
For a slightly more fan-obsessed view of the show, check out the hilarious play-by-play over in the Morrissey forums.