British singer Morrissey waged a number of battles at his sold-out appearance at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday. Some were won, a few were lost.
The most impressive victory was the Sire artist’s voice, which was uncharacteristically strong throughout the short, 75-minute concert. Always a wild card at any of his shows, Morrissey’s vocals, as well as the overall band sound, greatly benefited from the soaring acoustic atmosphere that blesses the Bowl.
After going through numerous personnel changes, Morrissey has finally settled on a solid backing-band lineup, and it’s the strongest that he’s played with since the breakup of the Smiths in 1988. Reflecting the more straight-ahead rock approach of the new “Your Arsenal” album, the band brought a cohesiveness to the music that was missing previously.
Song highlights included older favorites like the misery-filled “Suedehead” and the self-doubting “November Spawned a Monster,” both songs enhanced by the band’s almost rockabilly style.
“Certain People I Know,””Glamorous Glue” and “You’re the One for Me, Fatty” (referring to Morrissey hero Oscar Wilde) were winners from the current album.
Low points included the brevity of the event (though 18 songs were squeezed into the 75 minutes) as well as a couple of glaring song omissions (“Interesting Drug,” current single “Tomorrow”).
Unusual for a Morrissey gig was the overzealous security that prevented the faithful from joining their hero on stage for what’s become a tradition of dancing and physical contact. A near-riot occurred at a Morrissey concert at UCLA last year after security lost control of the swarming audience. (One fan did manage to hug the singer during the finale of “National Front Disco,” a song that, appropriately, attacks intolerance.)
Previous to the release of “Your Arsenal,” Morrissey was starting to become incredibly predictable, both in his music and his tortured-soul schtick. The modest musical reinvention of the new album was certainly like a shot in the arm , though the ongoing challenge to remain vital and relevant to his followers will hopefully keep this unique artist on his toes.