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Music Review

Warm embrace for Morrissey, fans

Morrissey performing Friday at the Citi Wang Theatre, the first stop on his US tour.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Morrissey performing Friday at the Citi Wang Theatre, the first stop on his US tour.

It’s expected, sort of like protocol, but it’s still poig­nant to witness the moment when Morrissey tears down his wall long enough for fans to touch him. Suddenly, this man who insists in song that “I’m throwing my arms around Paris because only stone and steel accept my love” reveals himself to be flesh and blood.

At the Citi Wang Theatre on Friday, in front of a full house, that climax came during the encore. “How Soon Is Now?,” a signature song by the Smiths, his old band, is tailor-made for such outpouring: “I am human and I need to be loved,” Morrissey sang on the chorus.

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It was a siren call his disciples couldn’t resist. Darting past security that stood in the wings, a few of them briefly broke free and bum-rushed the stage one at a time. They wanted a simple embrace, which Morrissey allowed (and has been receiving since the Smiths’ 1980s heyday), and then back into the crowd they went.

His performance at the Citi Wang (which he jokingly referred to as the Winnie Wang) kicked off an extensive US tour that finds Morrissey at an interesting crossroads. He has no manager, no label, and hasn’t released a record since 2009’s “Years of Refusal.” An album and a memoir are allegedly in the works.

In the meantime, Morrissey arrived in Boston with little to prove, which gave the show both its free reign and its wandering aim. As usual, his solo catalog comingled with a handful of Smiths songs.

After an exuberant start that hit hard — including “You Have Killed Me,” “You’re the One for Me, Fatty,” “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday” — the show stalled in the last stretch.

“Meat Is Murder,” the title track from the Smiths’ 1985 album, bludgeoned the senses — not merely for the churning performance, but the visuals that flashed on the overhead screen. Morrissey, a staunch vegetarian and animal-rights activist, showed a video titled “Meet Your Meat.” Its brutality was right in line with his convictions, but the gruesome imagery cast a pall over the rest of the night. (It also posed a dichotomy: Do you applaud after you’ve just watched an animal being tortured?)

Morrissey’s five-piece band, clad in matching T-shirts that read “Ringling Beats Animals,” was keenly mindful of when to bulk up and when to hold back. On “I Know It’s Over,” another Smiths tune, Morrissey held court in a solitary spotlight, his bandmates gently filling in the lines and spaces.

As the ringleader, Morrissey was in fine form. He whipped his microphone cord as if he were taming lions. Between-song banter was provocative but elliptical. “My interest in your election is minus zero,” he said of the presidential race. “Nothing ever changes. Nothing ever changes.”

Songs that otherwise would go unnoticed came to life with renewed vigor. Sounding like a James Bond theme, “Speedway” had a graceful ascendancy that matched Morrissey’s romantic croon. A cover of Frankie Valli’s “To Give (The Reason I Live)” felt like it was written specifically for Morrissey.

“Let Me Kiss You,” a wistful ballad, was Morrissey at his most misanthropic: “Close your eyes/ And think of someone you physically admire,” he sang, only later to lower the guillotine: “But then you open your eyes/ And you see someone that you physically despise.”

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.
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