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Morrissey loves L.A., and it shows

Special to The Times

Morrissey did his best to play up the sense of occasion Monday at the opening of his 10-night engagement at the Hollywood Palladium, the venerable facility that will close for an extensive overhaul after the English alt-rock crooner’s final show next week.

Drummer Matt Walker’s setup included a gong, for instance, while Morrissey himself changed costumes three times. (Twice he ripped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd.)

Then again, a Morrissey show always has a sense of occasion: Imbuing life’s everyday torments with a wisp of the grandly romantic is what the 48-year-old singer has been doing since 1982, when he and guitarist Johnny Marr formed the Smiths, one of alternative rock’s most celebrated outfits.

Many of the fans lined up in front of the Palladium before Monday’s show held tickets for all 10 of Morrissey’s concerts there, and the singer seemed aware that his audience depends on him to do more than trot out the old hits and crack a few jokes.

He did that: The 90-minute set included renditions of “How Soon Is Now?,” the Smiths’ most popular tune; “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” currently on the radio again in a cover version by New York dance-rock darling Mark Ronson; and “You Have Killed Me,” the lead single from last year’s “Ringleader of the Tormentors.”

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And when, during an impromptu Q&A; session, a crowd member asked why Morrissey loves playing for Southern Californian audiences so much -- the Palladium performances come after a three-night stand at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in February and a June appearance at the Hollywood Bowl -- the singer responded, “Isn’t it obvious?”

But Morrissey also worked to establish a chummy vibe unique to this series of shows, as if he and his five-piece band were the in-house entertainment at an old-school nightclub.

He sang less-familiar material including “Sister I’m a Poet” and “I Like You,” from 2004’s “You Are the Quarry,” and he allowed his musicians to jam more than usual; they turned “Death of a Disco Dancer” into an extended psychedelic drone.

Morrissey also showcased new songs including “That’s How People Grow Up” and “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell,” the latter a brisk spaghetti-western gallop complete with ringing trumpet line. And he made over “Dear God Please Help Me,” in which he describes breaking his much-discussed vow of chastity, as a hushed piano-bar ballad.

After 20 songs, Morrissey and his band left the stage and returned for an encore wearing matching soccer uniforms. The message was clear: Join our team, won’t you?

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Morrissey

Where: Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood

When: Thurs., Oct. 4 through Sat., Oct. 6; Mon., Oct. 8 through Tues., Oct. 9; Thurs., Oct. 11 through Sat., Oct. 13, 8 p.m.

Price: $43.50

Contact: (323) 962-7600


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