Singer-performer Morrissey is called a lot of things: his music self-indulgent, his tone exasperating, his lyrics personally tormenting.
With song titles like “Satan Rejected My Soul,” you chuckle, but turn it upside down, and his approach — and song titles — are very similar to the self-suffering confessions of the original Delta bluesmen: essentially, they’ve all got the blues.
Thursday night at the Palace Theater, Morrissey and his powerful four-man band delivered a fantastic, colorful, intense show. It did not significantly rise or fall at any specific point, but Morrissey maintained a high level of energy and emotion throughout the night, keeping the mostly full house on its feet from start to finish.
Opening with “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and following with a brief “You Have Killed Me,” Morrissey moved and sang with complete comfort, far more understated than his songs. He seems to have no physical rhythm, even his clapping appeared awkward — this could be his style, or perhaps a calculated style.
“People Are the Same Everywhere” is a catchy tune that Morrissey sang with optimism and pep. But, of course, you can’t trust him. In fact, he calls it “a shame” through the song.
Before singing “You’re the One for Me, Fatty,” he said, “I just wonder, as I was passing by earlier today, did you know that President Obama eats lamb? ... Romney is worse of course. We expect so little, and we get so little.”
The statements continued with the tune “Meat is Murder,” a beautiful tune grated against deadly lyrics, video footage depicting institutional killings of chickens, turkeys and cows. This might have been the slowest tune of the night — the closest to a ballad — and you felt the collective heightened attention in the theater. Morrissey brought the ballad to a near standstill with the last line, “meat is murder,” before the band lifted to a haunting crescendo, shaking the floor with its volume, easily the most intense and awkward moment of the night.
The crowd seemed unsure of itself in the silent moments after the song, before regaining composure and boisterously cheering like its normal self. Morrissey followed with the more mellow and less-demanding “I Know It’s Over,” though that too he brought to an exciting — apolitical — climax. Oscar Wilde appeared on the screen intermittently behind Morrissey, with a cartoon bubble reading, “Who is Morrissey?”
While Morrissey knows how to get into his songs like a good actor, he also blew through a few, never really entering them, like during “Black Cloud” and “The Youngest is the Most Loved.”
While there were many loud fashion statements among the audience, there were less than you’d expect. Morrissey himself wore simple jeans with a tucked in shirt opened below his chest. It was not a crowd you’d expect to stay on its feet for an entire show, but it did.
Thursday night, Morrissey did not convey the vulnerability he once had. He can still express aching and torment, but you feel he’s in control of these things, like living with a bad back. When he threw off his shirt toward the end of the show, revealing his 52-year-old body, he still seemed comfortable and no longer willing to let us in.
No matter. Morrissey and his band put on a great show. While his music is no longer unique, it is strong, meaningful and, maybe most importantly, entertaining.