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Morrissey 

Akron Civic Theatre

Morrissey
Akron Civic Theatre
February 14

It was appropriately ironic that, after making a career out of being unlucky in love, Morrissey picked Valentine's Day to play at the Akron Civic Theatre. If there is a constant theme throughout Morrissey's career, it's the honest, often absurd lyrics that he delivers as if he were singing a '50s ballad. Considered a forefather to the alternative rock of the '90s, Morrissey's strength has always been assembling musically succinct pop songs within varied tempos and styles. Despite the fact that he was touring without the support of a record label, the tortured soul was in fine form, pouring out his empty heart with a greatest-hits-of-sorts show that left every fan in the house smiling -- a fact that didn't slip by the morose crooner, who chastised his audience for enjoying itself too much.

With a competent four-piece band, Morrissey played material from several of his solo albums and delved into the catalog of the Smiths (it's been over 10 years since their breakup), often opting to play less familiar tracks such as "I Can Have Both," an obscure B-side. He started his set with "A Swallow on My Neck" and paraded around onstage, showcasing his pirouettes, periodic bowing, and exaggerated hand movements. Had director John Waters created his version of Elvis, it would be Morrissey.

The mood of the concert shifted throughout -- "Now My Heart Is Full" was a gentle lament, and "Billy Budd," with its tapestry of guitars, was more raucous. Yet the concert reached a peak midway through, when Morrissey played the pro-vegetarian Smiths track "Meat Is Murder." With thick red light streaming over the stage, the band delivered crashing chords and unique sound effects, creating a violent atmosphere. A writhing Morrissey lay onstage, acting out his own death in protest. The chaos ended slowly with a drum beat mimicking a dying heart. "Tomorrow" followed the pseudo-slaughter with a catchy melody and bass-heavy style. Midway through the track, a dismayed Morrissey questioned, "Why is everyone smiling?" His apparent gloom provided an interesting contrast to the enjoyment experienced by the thirtysomething crowd, which showered the singer with gifts (flowers and chocolates) throughout the performance. Morrissey may be a name of the past, but his talent, with good reason, hasn't been forgotten -- at least not by his ardent fans. -- John Benson

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