WHEN | WHERE Through May 11, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.
INFO From $79; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
BOTTOM LINE The former Smiths frontman brings his classics and outsider sensibility to Broadway
Morrissey began his Broadway debut with an a capella bit to pithily capture the moment, singing “There is a light that never goes out on Broadway” to the tune of the George Benson classic “On Broadway.”
Yes, the outspoken, anti-establishment leader of The Smiths, the king of the new wave outsiders, had now been welcomed on Broadway, with a seven-show run through May 11 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and it was on his terms. There were homages to Morrissey’s past in the crowd — guys wearing the giant, unfashionable hearing aids he used to sport, many T-shirts declaring “Meat Is Murder” and more than a few pompadours.
“I’m very pleased to be here for many, many obvious reasons,” he said later, before rolling into an upbeat version of “Hairdresser on Fire.”
And for his 90-minute show, Morrissey seemed intent on bringing as much of his distinctive, nonconformist style to Broadway, with photos of author James Baldwin and actor James Dean — or, during “The Bullfighter Dies,” bloodied bulls and gored bullfighters — projected behind him and his five-piece band as they delivered mostly faithful versions of his classics with The Smiths and as a solo artist.
In fact, the night’s best moments came when they strayed from the beloved text. The new thunderous ending of “How Soon Is Now?” fit nicely with Morrissey’s angrier-than-usual delivery of the club anthem. It was now a warning about wasting time punctuated by pounding drums, rather than an ethereal, echoing-guitar moment that vanished into the night. And when he slipped bits of the Italian classic “Quando, Quando, Quando” into the already-beautiful “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” it was a lovely moment. He also offered his take on The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang,” introducing the Chrissie Hynde classic as a song “written by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century.”
Though Morrissey has lined up his most commercial album in years — the covers collection “California Son” due out May 24, complete with high-profile collaborators like Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong on the cover of The 5th Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues” — he only played one song from it, his version of Jobriath’s “Morning Starship.” Perhaps he’s saving those songs for his upcoming tour with Interpol?
Morrissey didn’t use his Broadway debut for a radical re-imagining of his catalog the way other artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Duran Duran, have done. However, maybe for him, simply being there was radical enough.
"That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore"
"Hairdresser on Fire"
"Is It Really So Strange?"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"How Soon Is Now?"
"I Wish You Lonely"
"World Peace Is None of Your Business"
"If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look at Me"
"Munich Air Disaster 1958"
"Back on the Chain Gang"
"The Bullfighter Dies"
"Trouble Loves Me"
"Jack the Ripper"
"Seasick, Yet Still Docked"
"Everyday Is Like Sunday"
"What She Said"
"Let Me Kiss You"