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There’s a first time for everything, and having been a fan of Mr. Melancholy since high school (I am obviously not alone), the iconic crooner known as Moz did not disappoint, especially when throwing out Wildean bits of banter like “A rat just fell from the rafters.” Morrissey, best known as frontman for 80′s mega-Britpop stars The Smiths, has been a solo artist for some 20 years.  I may not have ever seen The Smiths, but now I can at least say I’ve experienced Morrissey.  And what better year to see him but 2009, a year marked by his latest, brilliant release, Years of Refusal?

The vicious-witted Brit and his band stood out as one of the most startlingly talented groups of musicians I’ve seen in years, using everything from timpani drums to a giant gong and paper airplanes to turn this performance into the show of shows.  Upon laying into the first song of the evening, The Smiths’ “This Charming Man,” the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  Though the original version of the song may have been more lilting, the band upped the ante, giving the modern rendition beefier guitars, immediately gripping the audience with a dose of pure rock euphoria.

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Throughout the entire set, fervent fans were generous with their worship, flowers and tears, and Morrissey and his musicians worked off the energy of the room and gave us a show to remember.  Though many paid upwards of $150 to get through the doors tonight, it was charming to know that Morrissey was fully aware, leading him to such quips as, “I hope your tickets were no more than twenty dollars” and “Thank you, Westchester!”

The set list from the current tour seems quite locked, given that it was nearly the same one played at the Bowery Ballroom a few nights before, but when both old songs and new are this solid, there’s really no need to stray from the course.  Surprisingly, hits from the new album, like “Something is Squeezing My Skull”, “Black Cloud” and impeccable set-closer “I’m OK By Myself”, packed the strength of old catalog standouts like “Billy Budd” and “How Soon is Now”.  However, there’s no denying my old favorite, “Death of a Disco Dancer”, played in an exotic and sinewy way, was a dream pick of the night.

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Handsome, young male fans were out in full force and made up much of the packed floor of Webster Hall.  They swooned, sang and acted out every word along with their favorite rockabilly romantic, some wearing lilac-colored t-shirts, others in business button downs, clutching bouquets of wilting daffodils.

When it came time for the band’s hand-holding group bow, which led into encore “First Of The Gang To Die”, predictably, some of the lovely fan lads turned into wild beasts, attempting everything in their power to at least touch the stage.  Cheers to the lilac-shirted fellow, who did manage to climb past the surly bouncers and sneak a sweaty Morrissey hug.  Others didn’t fare so well.  Fans crowd-surfed and dived, and even with Moz himself trying to pull a couple of kids onto the stage, most didn’t make it past the barrier of the photo pit.  In the process, one stage hand’s t-shirt was ripped to shreds.  Meanwhile, guitarist Boz Boorer destroyed a fiery orange bouquet of flowers by dramatically pounding it on his strings.  It was a frenzied, chaotic finish to a cinematic show.–Madeline Virbasius-Walsh/phone photos by Sentimentalist staffer (photo pass didn’t work out)

Setlist: This Charming Man. Billy Budd. Black Cloud. How Soon Is Now. Irish Blood English Heart. Let Me Kiss You. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris. How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel. Seasick Yet Still Docked. The Loop. I Keep Mine Hidden. One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell. The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores. Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed. Ask. Best Friend On The Payroll. Death Of A Disco Dancer. Sorry Doesn’t Help. Something Is Squeezing My Skull. I’m OK By Myself.

Encore: First Of The Gang To Die.

Tour dates:

3/26 New York, NY Carnegie Hall
3/28 Mashantucket, CT Foxwoods
3/29 Boston, MA House of Blues
3/31 Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Theater
4/1 Columbus, OH Palace Theater
4/3 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom
4/4 Chicago, IL Aragon Ballroom
4/6 Minneapolis, MN State Theater
4/7 Kansas City, MO Midland Theater
4/8 St. Louis, MO Pageant Theater
4/10 Dallas, TX Palladium Ballroom
4/11 Houston, TX Jesse H. Jones Hall
4/12 Austin, TX Bass Concert Hall
4/14 El Paso, TX Chavez Theater
4/15 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theater