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Morrissey on solid ground at Paramount
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Morrissey on solid ground at Paramount

by Jessica Price - SGN Contributing Writer

Morrissey
November 29
Paramount Theatre


Morrissey has been a very busy man this year. He's released two new albums (Years of Refusal in February and impeccable b-sides comp Swords just last month), dropped a flurry of singles, tackled remasterings of two solo records, guest hosted on stations such as LA's KCRW, and, yes, been in the headlines once or twice after collapsing onstage with breathing difficulties in October. Morrissey, now 50, has had a very eventful year. Prior to the Seattle kickoff of a short West Coast tour, it was reasonable to wonder if Morrissey would be at his best - and if his core fans would still love him as they used to. Judging from the nearly sold-out Paramount Theatre, the decidedly harmless cult of Morrissey is still alive and kicking, as is the man himself.

Although he's got superb taste in pre-show film clips (this show's warm-up video featured a hilarious interview with a young Lou Reed aimed at his sexual proclivities), sometimes Morrissey's picks for tour support are a little on the weak side. After all, the real star of the show is Morrissey. But in opener Doll & The Kicks, Morrissey gave some prime exposure to a promising female-fronted band. Mix a little of Karen O's style with big vocals a la The Gossip or Siouxsie Sioux, and you might have an approximation of the sound. They were feisty, and feisty is good.

And then came Morrissey and his handsome band, neatly dressed in matching black T-shirts and dark jeans against an arresting backdrop of Italian actor Walter Chiari. Blasting off appropriately with "This Charming Man," I felt the doubters in the audience sigh with relief. No, he didn't postpone the date or cancel the US tour after his recent collapse, and yes, he sounded like he was in top form. The set choices were noticeably less symphonic and more on the raucous side than in recent years. Newer songs "Black Cloud" and "When Last I Spoke to Carol" tied in seamlessly with older tunes. The mood was energetic, a palpable reminder of the tours following Your Arsenal. "Is It Really So Strange?" was the moment I remembered how outstanding the man can be live.

Having said that, Morrissey's tours in the '00s have been notoriously uneven. "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" was the first dull spot of the evening, but was followed with upbeat Smiths classic "Ask." Gesturing dramatically, stopping to rap his fingers on an amp, flicking the microphone cord - the flip presentation was thankfully still intact. And so were the anti-meat sentiments. Morrissey received some cheers as well as light booing to querying whether anyone had "done the unthinkable" over Thanksgiving.

Live favorite "Irish Blood, English Heart" was a perfectly timed declaration of his right to be himself without apology. "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell" and "Because of My Poor Education" were well received, but a blistering version of "Death At One's Elbow" was a definite highlight. Next Moz settled back for a disinterested rehashing of "Cemetry Gates" and "The World is Full of Crashing Bores," then back to enthusiasm again with "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?" ("Don't rake up my mistakes, I know exactly what they are.&") and a fiery reworking of "How Soon Is Now?" and "The Loop."

Recognizing the importance of a really strong backing band has always been the ace up Morrissey's sleeve. Longtime band members Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Matt Walker, Solomon Walker, and new keyboardist Gustav Manzur were the backbone driving the show. Morrissey introduced all with clear admiration prior to closer "I'm OK By Myself." A one-song encore of "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" ended the evening on a high.

Removing his shirt just before the end, Morrissey quickly and gracefully bid Seattle farewell. Although his shows in the past have been a bit uneven, Morrissey's career is on some very solid ground at the moment. He has certainly earned the right to do whatever he pleases and in characteristic fashion, Morrissey most definitely always will.

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