Palace Theatre, Columbus, April 1
by Dorian S. Ham

Morrissey generates a particular type of fervor amongst his fans. Every band has their group of diehards who’ll do crazy things to show their devotion, but there are very few who will have grown men risk a security guard beating just to get a hug or a handshake. Such is the Morrissey love.

For many of Morrissey’s Columbus fans, 2007’s concert seemed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After a touring career that had ignored the city, it seemed fairly unlikely that the singer would ever return. But on April Fool’s Day, the man returned in support of his latest album, Years Of Refusal.

Those who only imagine Morrissey as a fey figure, gingerly holding the mic while crooning songs about society’s misfits and forgotten, might be shocked to see how robust the singer is in person, a Vegas-era Sinatra as opposed to that conjured slight silhouette. The Moz is now a barrel-chested singer who is in complete control of his persona, but also doesn’t mind making fun of it. In a sharply tailored suit, Morrissey strode the boards with swagger to spare.

While playing for a manic fan base, Morrissey could have easily phoned it in. Instead, he dug deep into album tracks from across his solo recordings and, with the exception of “How Soon Is Now,” mostly bypassed the obvious Smiths hits. As a result, it made you realize that even the lesser songs are pretty damn good. Probably the best moment of the show was a chilling and completely unexpected version of his heralded former band’s “Death Of A Disco Dancer.” Even after probably hundreds of performances of that song and even more plays on bedroom stereos, it still had an emotional punch. His longtime band added a muscular feel to the songs, adding some rockabilly crunch here and a three-drummer attack on “Mama Lay Softly On the Riverbed,” but they knew when to take the backseat and let the microphone cord whipping leader do his thing.

While the show was shorter than his 2007 appearance, it was just as good. It’s pretty safe to say that the next time Morrissey hits the stage, he’ll have people lining up to get knocked out (and down) again.