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Morrissey returns to Las Vegas with an inspired performance

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Morrissey performs at the Joint on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in the Hard Rock Hotel.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

Four stars

Morrissey January 2, the Joint.

During Saturday’s performance of his beloved 1988 song “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” Morrissey modified the second line of the chorus and asked, “¿Dime, cuando, cuando, cuando?” A clear hat-tip to his loyal Latino base, well-represented among the sold-out crowd inside the Joint, the line translates to, “Tell me, when, when, when?”—a question open to interpretation, one I heard as a rhetorical answer to a similar query painted on the flustered faces and tweets of some fans up until that point: When will he play something I recognize?

On that January 2 night, Morrissey might as well have used his show—his first local appearance in over four years, after numerous cancellations in 2012 and 2013—to declare his New Year’s resolution: to give zero f*cks. Which meant a deep-dive setlist that largely eschewed both his most popular solo songs and those by the pioneering band he once fronted, The Smiths; stage banter marked less by his usual witticisms and more by pointed commentary; and nausea-inducing video montages of police brutality (during “Ganglord”) and gruesome animal slaughter (“Meat Is Murder”).

Morrissey at the Joint

Some would dismiss all that as stubbornness and stunts, but it highlighted a performer of welcome and dogged independence, willing to shake up the conventions of modern rock shows—including his own. And more importantly, beyond the politicking and such was Morrissey in fantastic voice and fully engaged, supported and invigorated by a well-honed quintet that ranged from nuanced, acoustic numbers (a cover of Elvis’ “You'll Be Gone”) and noisy sturm-und-drang (“I Will See You in Far Off Places”) to irresistible alt-pop, often flecked with ethnic flourishes (“Kiss Me a Lot,” “Staircase at the University”) and raucous takes on Smiths songs (“What She Said,” “The Queen Is Dead”). His tenor soared during dusted-off chestnut and highlight “Jack the Ripper,” and encore number “Suedehead” sounded like it could have been the opener, the nearly two-hour, 23-song marathon all but erasing the memory of past Vegas gigs where he croaked his way past the hour mark. “Happy new YOU!” was how Morrissey introduced himself Saturday night, but it was he who seemed newly inspired.

Setlist:

“Speedway”

“Alma Matters”

“Staircase at the University”

“Action Is My Middle Name”

“Kiss Me a Lot”

“World Peace Is None of Your Business”

“Mama Lay Softly On the Riverbed”

“Ganglord”

“You'll Be Gone” (Elvis Presley)

“Reader Meet Author”

“Everyday Is Like Sunday”

“Oboe Concerto”

“Jack the Ripper”

“The Bullfighter Dies”

“The World Is Full of Crashing Bores”

“All the Lazy Dykes”

“I Will See You in Far-Off Places”

“What She Said"

“Meat Is Murder”

“You Have Killed Me”

“Let Me Kiss You”

“The Queen Is Dead”

“Suedehead”

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Mike Prevatt turned his passion for rock 'n' roll and dance beats into an actual job during his stint as ...

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