The Moz brings grown men to tears. The mostly mid-thirties crowd at the sold-out March 13 show at The National contained a few of them. These days, their pompadours are slightly shorter, some graying, and the cuffed jeans have unfurled like a surrender flag to the fight against growing up. But, as the Manchester legend graciously took the stage, bowing and shaking a few hands, the fiery spirit of Smiths-loving youth ignited the room. A barrage of We love yous (and one “I want your baby!”) rose up from the choked floor. We were all 19 again, with fists pumping and singing in unison as the well-aged rocker tore into the jangle-riffed “This Charming Man” with the same ferocity he boasted circa 1983. “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” and “Black Cloud,” two cuts from his latest disc, “Years of Refusal,” amped things up with crashing percussion and gouging guitars and proved that this guy is more than just a nostalgic, greatest-hits act.
Sure, the bloke is pushing 50 and proves that not all vegetarians are stick-thin, but he's at the top of his game on the stage. As “How Soon Is Now” began, one of the most notable, alt-rock guitar chords of all time oscillated in time with dizzying strobes as the dapper Moz bobbed and dipped, occasionally crouching, before whipping his mic cord about like a weapon. He clearly had it, and even more so when after a second wardrobe change he ripped off his black button-up and dramatically threw it into the audience, baring his cross-laden chest to both adoration and semi-shock. His third and final shirt took him through the rest of the hour and fifteen minute set that curiously avoided heavy-hitters like “Suedehead” and his recent single “Throwing My Arms Around Paris.” Equal parts cocky bastard and gentleman, the singer paused to remind us that his current album is “selling very well, thank you,” possibly in defense of excluding some old favorites. He bantered with the crowd often, and on two occasions tossed the mic to the front row and asked for “something original” to be said. “I love you Morrissey” did not meet his standard and he jokingly admonished the young women: “I said something original.”
“Irish Blood, English Heart” emerged with disdain and passion as the single-song encore; Morrissey's iconic vocals, alternately pleading and accusing, spat all over Cromwell's late empire. His backing five-piece took the opportunity to unleash on their strings, skins and awesome-massive gong. While they were unlikely alive during The Smiths' heyday, they did a fine job of matching their leader's grandeur. And grand he was, albeit a tad over the top at times. But, it's Morrissey, and to be expected ... and adored.