The Smiths Go to Washington: A singular British pop quartet led by melodramatic singer Morrissey and one-man guitar army Johnny Marr, The Smiths' confessional songs speak to outsiders and misfits. They may not be the Next Big Thing, but the emotional reception by Tuesday's devout, sold-out Warner Theatre crowd was proof positive of the power of pop.
On Smiths records, there's often a great divide between The Voice and The Guitar. There was no such dichotomy live -- the sounds, tougher and more muscular than on the sometimes precious, too-clean discs, fit hand in glove.
Drawing on his vocabulary of '60s-influenced guitar voicings, Marr's proficiency made one search for another guitarist hidden in the wings. The songs oscillated wildly between the caustic guitar raveup of "What She Said," the pulsing Bo Didley throb of "How Soon Is Now?" and the folkish austerity of "This Charming Man."
Bespectacled and antichic in a red cardigan sweater, enigmatic frontman Morrissey is England's answer to the Talking Heads' David Byrne. His athletic angularity coupled with an eccentric stage manner made him seem a hybrid of James Dean and Jerry Lewis. A self-proclaimed celibate, Morrissey's performance wavered between ascetic and erotic, melancholy and hilarious. And his lunatic convulsions and cheerleading -- flailing his arms, beating his breast, embracing audience members, striking anguished St. Sebastian poses -- made an amusing counterpoint to the band's utter sobriety.