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Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeWith a certain disconnect for almost a generation of fans between the 1994 release Vauxhall and I and 2004's You Are the Quarry, Morrissey's latest offering, Years of Refusal, bridges the generational divide as a devout fan base was joined by a decidedly new crowd at the group's stop in Milwaukee.
A giant image of a young sailor shirtless and flexing his muscles with cigar clenched in a defiant grin hung at the back of the stage, and as Steven Morrissey, now 49, took the stage almost as defiantly in contrast with jeans, collared shirt and blazer refined by graying hair. But as the enigmatic singer opened softly from the Smiths' catalog with "This Charming Man," Morrissey jumped to his solo career with comparatively brasher versions of "Billy Budd," "That's How People Grow Up," and "Black Cloud," all the while darting about the stage and either twirling the mic chord in a long coil or aggressively snapping it into a whip. Still fit enough to go shirtless during the show, though just briefly, to much applause and wooing, it is Morrissey's voice that has aged the least and on standouts from the new album, "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "I'm OK By Myself," it stood shamelessly on full frontal display.
Not entirely fixed on himself all night, Morrissey shifted from a bit of odd banter with the crowd early on to gradually letting the band have the last word musically. Drummer Matt Walker, formerly of Filter, was particularly prominent in a venue-shaking ending to "How Soon Is Now?" and guitarist Jesse Tobias, formerly of Alanis Morissette and Red Hot Chili Peppers (briefly), was particularly shredding in "Irish Blood, English Heart." But it was all Morrissey, and rightfully so, in an encore performance of "First Of The Gang To Die."
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