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Music Review

For Morrissey, new material and a new attitude

Morrissey (shown in Spain last year) connected with fans Sunday at the House of Blues. Morrissey (shown in Spain last year) connected with fans Sunday at the House of Blues. (AFP/ Getty Images/ File)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / March 31, 2009
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Like the premise of one of his songs, Morrissey has always been a master at keeping his ravenous fans at bay. The more he ignores them, the closer they get.

It was surprising, then, and even heartwarming, to watch him interact with them so candidly at the House of Blues on Sunday. In fact, for a split second, it seemed as if Saint Morrissey had descended from the heavens for earthly contact. An eager fan, climbing over fellow concertgoers, got close enough to hoist a vinyl copy of Morrissey's new album, Sharpie included. Morrissey looked down, smiled (but just a little), and autographed it from the stage.

See? Who says the man is only concerned with himself?

"If I can bring one second of happiness to anyone. . .," he said drolly.

OK, maybe he is a little self-centered. But a Morrissey show revolves around him and his tastes. Before the lights went down, old video footage showed his idols (the New York Dolls, Jobriath), and when the curtain opened, Morrissey and company emerged against a backdrop of a gigantic photo of a beefcake sailor flexing his muscles and chomping on a cigar.

Morrissey is on the road supporting "Years of Refusal," his new and most enjoyable album in a decade, and his crack band - young and mostly Irish - adhered to its guitar-rock blueprint with taut precision. Oddly, Morrissey had zero chemistry with his fellow musicians; slinging his microphone chord as if he were taming lions, Morrissey was clearly the ringleader.

He's also completely suited for the role, an expressive singer and magnetic showman whose ego is part of the charm. Irascible as ever at 49, he complained at one point about the House of Blues not allowing him to use one of its kitchens backstage. An avowed vegetarian, with minions handing out literature in the lobby, Morrissey simply wanted to cook some brown rice and peppers for the pending long trip to the Midwest. "The House of Rules," as he derided it, said no.

Opening the show with "This Charming Man," Morrissey proved he has gotten more comfortable performing Smiths material. He later would work up the crowd with other staples from his previous band, including "Ask" and "How Soon Is Now?"

But his newer songs - particularly "Irish Blood, English Heart," "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," and "I'm OK by Myself" - also sent up fervent cheers from the crowd. It was a good indication that, 15 years into his career, Morrissey is still writing songs people take to heart, even if he doesn't give them access to his.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

MORRISSEY

At: the House of Blues, Sunday

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