Tucson Convention Center Music Hall, Thursday, May 31

The last time Morrissey visited Tucson, in August 2002, he was at a rather precarious point in his career. It had been five years since he had released an album, and for the first time, he was without a label. It would be another two years before his next release, the celebrated You Are the Quarry.

But his fans had never forgotten him. At that 2002 show, at the Rialto, he stuck almost exclusively to material from his solo career--songs that were familiar to the faithful and ones that had yet to be recorded. There was a sense that he was rousing the troops for his return, and yet, he stubbornly only sang one song from his years with The Smiths, the hugely influential band he had fronted in the '80s. Even so, it was a masterful performance.

Last Thursday, he turned in an even finer performance, with a far more fan-pleasing set list that covered the best of his entire career. Following an eerie, pre-recorded monologue by a disembodied female voice, Morrissey--dapper in a navy blue suit with a red tie--and his five-piece band, clad in matching khakis and blue button-downs, strode out to a roar of approval and the thunderous opening drums of The Smiths' epochal "The Queen Is Dead." The pitch barely let up during the next hour and 45 minutes.

After issuing a somewhat cryptic plea 10 minutes in--"Whatever you do, don't let the security ruin your night"--he began the routine of dodging lunging fans throughout the night, most of which were caught by house security. (For the uninformed, it is, for some reason, de rigeur for Morrissey fans to attempt to hug him while he performs.) The audience was rooting for their fellow fans to actually hug Morrissey, and Morrissey was so used to it that it didn't prevent him from kicking much ass. (Sorry ... I've just always wanted to see the words "Morrissey" and "kicking much ass" published in the same sentence. Thanks for indulging.)

But, all things considered, it's true.

It was freakin' Morrissey, fronting a crack band, playing legendary songs. Of course, it was great. He came off both personable and godlike, and is clearly no germophobe: Many hands were shaken; many quips exchanged with audience members; marriage proposals were made; gifts were given--it was just another night for Morrissey. But for the rest of us, it was something else entirely.

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