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May 21, 2014

Morrissey gives Lawrence crowd a rousing evening of doom and gloom

After canceling shows at Liberty Hall two years in a row, former Smiths frontman Morrissey delivers 90 minutes of melancholy and despair plus a sharp dose of harsh reality.

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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Morrissey is usually in some demonstrative mood, and when he took the stage at Liberty Hall in Lawrence on Tuesday, he had resentment on his mind.

Before he sang a word of his opening song, he bid good riddance to Lincoln, Neb., where he’d performed Monday night (and cut the set list short). Then he and his five-man band opened with “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell.”

From there, he let go of his grudge and gave a nearly sold-out house 90 minutes of melancholy, misery and a spell of mild nausea, all of it delivered with feverish melodrama.

The set list bounced all over his resume, drawing from his substantial solo catalog and his days with the Smiths. “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” from his stellar “Viva Hate” album, aroused the loudest ovation and zestiest sing-along, but “Hand in Glove,” the Smiths’ first single, came in a close second.

He preached, too, expressing his disapproval for the Sea Life aquarium at Crown Center before singing “The Bullfighter Dies,” in which the innocent and exploited exact revenge. Later in the set, he would discharge another Smiths song, “Meat Is Murder,” a dark and dreary dirge accompanied by a ghastly video broadcast on screens behind the band that showed chickens, chicks, pigs and other creatures being slaughtered and tortured on their ways to becoming someone’s meal. Point taken, Moz.

All was not doom, but there was plenty of gloom, and the crowd basked in it, as if it were salvation and grace. Even lesser-known songs like “Ganglord” and “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” played consecutively, got fairly loud responses.

His band cast his songs in an array of sounds: clarinet, trumpet, accordion, keyboards, guitars, bass, drums. They showed off their muscle a few times, especially during the gale of fanfare at the end of “The National Front Disco,” which closed the first set.

They returned for two more: “Asleep,” another gray-day Smiths ballad, and “First of the Gang to Die,” from Morrissey’s “You Are the Quarry” album, now 10 years old.

It’s a jaunty, jangly guitar lament about a gang member who gets killed. And though it has lines like “You have never been in love / Until you’ve seen the sunlight thrown / Over smashed human bone,” the crowd sang and bounced along as if it were the theme song to a favorite TV show.

And after canceling a show at Liberty Hall due to illness, Morrissey seemed pleased to be back and willing to return.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to


One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell; Speedway; Ganglord; I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris; Earth Is the Loneliest Planet; Every Day Is Like Sunday; The Bullfighter Dies; Hand in Glove; The Youngest Was the Most Loved; Life Is a Pigsty; Trouble Loves Me; Word Peace Is None of Your Business; Yes, I Am Blind; Meat is Murder; The National Front Disco. Encore: Asleep; First of the Gang to Die.

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