Monday, May 25, 2015

24-May-2015
Town Hall 

Late Show
 Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

Brendan's review of the 2nd Warrenpoint gig
After opening yet again with Celtic Swing Van Morrison shifted very much into jazz mode with Centrepiece/Corinne Corrina ( featuring a really good instrumental intro and brilliant trumpet playing by Paul Moran) followed by Sack Of Woe, St.James Infirmary and Mondance.Little Village then got a rare airing and provided a welcome change of emphasis.As in the early show Van then performed his BB King tribute with Early In The Morning/Rock Me Baby to great acclaim. Think Twice Before You Go kept things lively and was followed by Jambalaya which Van introduced by saying they were going to play some rock and roll and emphasising that it wasn’t rock as rock doesn’t roll!. Things I Used To Do immediately followed and the concert was beginning to feel like an informal blues/ rock and roll session but normal business was somewhat restored with In The Midnight. Whenever God Shines His Light not only allowed Dana Masters to shine on shared vocals but also featured great guitar and bass solos from Dave Keary and Paul Moore respectively to such a degree that Van got a bit excited and started to clatter along on tambourine towards the end.Somewhat surprisingly Van once again performed an extended In The Afternoon and this time he conducted a Q and A session with what he considered a blues audience asking in turn who had heard of Big Joe Turner, TV Mama, Flip Flop and Fly etc.etc. This song was followed by Van’s stage departure only to return for Gloria.

This show was very much geared towards a blues/jazz audience and was pretty lacking in classic songs from Van’s extensive repertoire with around half of the songs performed being cover versions of other people’s work.The concert was again disappointingly very short at 1 hour 19 minutes.

-Brendan Hynes

Set List
Celtic Swing
Centrepiece/Corrine Corrina
Sack Of Woe
St.James Infirmary
Moondance
Little Village
Early In The Morning/Rock Me Baby
Think Twice Before You Go
Jambalaya
Things I Used To Do
In The Midnight
Whenever God Shines His Light
In The Afternoon
Gloria

24-May-2015
Town Hall 

Early Show
 Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

Brendan Sends in his thoughts on First of two gigs
After the unsurprising opening Celtic Swing, Van Morrison moved firmly into jazz territory to deliver Close Enough For Jazz and If You Only Knew before performing a rare rendition of Meaning Of Loneliness which featured nice organ from Paul Moran and guitar from Dave Keary. As a tribute to the late BB King Van then performed stirring versions of Early in The Morning (which Van recorded with BB some years back) and Rock Me Baby. Van was in great form during these numbers aided in no small measure by his excellent band who fairly motored along.An extended In The Afternoon followed and provided the high point of the performance for me with Van taking things right down before bringing the song towards it’s conclusion as he repeated the phrase Burn Baby Burn over and over to the hushed audience. I Believe To My Soul was brilliant as always and saw Paul Moran excel on trumpet. Talk Is Cheap and Sometimes We Cry were followed by a rendition of a Chuck Willis number in What Am I Living For? which was pretty ordinary. Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now were lapped up by the blues appreciators who made up the majority of the audience before Van brought things way down for a really good In The Midnight which saw Dave Keary’s high pitched vocal range put to the test again much to Van’s apparent amusement. Rapid fire renditions of Things I Used To Do and Help Me incredibly triggered Van’s departure before a quick return for Gloria.

This show was solid and enjoyable without reaching too many lofty heights. As always with these double shows in one evening (but hopefully not at the forthcoming Cyprus Avenue concerts) the show was shortened considerably clocking in at a pretty miserly I hour 18 minutes leaving the audience somewhat short changed to say the least.

-Brendan Hynes

Set List
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
If You Only Knew
Meaning Of Loneliness
Early In The Morning/Rock Me Baby
In The Afternoon
I Believe To My Soul
Talk Is Cheap
Sometimes We Cry
What Am I Living For?
Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now
In The Midnight
Things I Used To Do
Help Me
Gloria

Thursday, April 30, 2015

29-April-2015
Cheltenham Jazz Festival

 Cheltenham, England


My clear recollection from the previous time Van Morrison played this festival two years ago was that the sound was superb and Van’s voice was terrific on the night. Well tonight was no different except that the concert happily was far superior on this occasion. After a fairly predictable opening two numbers of Celtic Swing and Close Enough For Jazz the next song was far from predictable with Clare Teal joining Van for a wonderful duet on Carrying A Torch which fairly brought the house down.Clare remained on stage for a further high quality duet on The Way Young Lovers Do and the tone had been set for the night. Being a jazz festival it was little surprise that Symphony Syd followed and this gave Dana Masters the opportunity to shine on vocals which she certainly did. I Believe To My Soul saw Van deliver an extraordinary vocal performance in what was one of many show stoppers on the night. The next song announced by Van seemed to catch the band by surprise and he barked Fair Play a second and more audible time before delivering this all too rarely played masterpiece which featured great organ from Paul Moran and guitar from Dave Keary.Van was really in the zone by now and Moondance followed featuring a wonderful bass solo from Paul Moore. I was very pleased to then hear the unmistakeable intro to In The Afternoon which was an extended and quite wonderful version featuring all the required ingredients including ancient highways, overpasses, Big Joe Turner, TV Mama et al before Van repeatedly uttered the words Burn Baby Burn to the spellbound audience before concluding the song.

Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now upped the tempo considerably before another treat followed in Did Ye Get Healed? Rough God Goes Riding featured not only Dana on shared vocals but also Van in impression mode as Clint Eastwood,Robert De Niro,Al Pacino (Van didn’t think this one was much good and he was right) and finally Joe Pesci which Van rightly reckoned he could do much better as he aimed some ferocious kicks at an imaginary victim on the ground. Most of the audience had probably not witnessed this part of Van’s portfolio before and they lapped it up.

Van strapped on his guitar to ‘hide behind’ and delivered Guitar Slim’s Things I Used To Do which is a fast blues number that gave the band the opportunity to go into overdrive. When Van left on the guitar I hoped for something even more substantial and was more than pleased to hear the opening notes to And The Healing Has Begun which as you would expect was quite majestic with Van mixing his brilliant vocal delivery with some really impressive guitar work. Wonderful!

Whenever God Shines His Light was powerfully delivered with Dana shining again on vocals. The opening notes of Ballerina were met with a great cheer from the audience and they were not to be disappointed as Van delivered another impressive version. When Van departed we thought it might be all over but he returned one more time to beat the audience into submission with a great In The Garden.

The concert lasted 1h 38m, was simply superb and bettered (possibly) in my view this year only by the second night at Nell’s in London on March 1st.Van was really performing as opposed to merely singing the songs and there is a big difference.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
Carrying A Torch (w/Clare Teal)
The Way Young Lovers Do (w/Clare Teal)
Symphony Syd
I Believe To My Soul
Fair Play
Moondance
In The Afternoon
Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now
Did Ye Get Healed
Rough God Goes Riding
Things I Used To Do
And The Healing Has Begun
Whenever God Shines His Light
Ballerina
In The Garden

Gloucestershire Echo (Source)
As the band struck up and blues legend Van Morrison strolled on to the stage of the Big Top to open Cheltenham Jazz Festival, I was a little worried.

Behind him there were guitars, drums, organs and double basses aplenty but the brass section was conspicuous by its absence.

How was the old dog going to do his big blues and jazz numbers without the trumpets and saxophones belting out behind him?

Just as I was beginning to despair, VM reached behind him, pulled out a tenor sax and blew us all away with several uninterrupted minutes of liquid gold schmoozing to open up what proceeded to be a night of blues magic.

He and his band – multi-instrumentalists to a man, with more talent than you can shake a stick at – were buoyed up by a first night audience, welcoming the first big name of the festival with light hearts and a thirst for great music. And that's exactly what they got.

I've seen VM play a good many times and he is as unpredictable as he is talented. Often he is very good, occasionally he's decidedly mediocre.

Tonight however, he was fabulous, and, while the weather outside turned chilly, this Northern Irish musician with so much soul in his heart, turned up the heat again with 90 minutes of uplifting blues and jazz.

With a voice like no other, age has not withered this incredibly talented singer songwriter as he proved to Cheltenham, powering his way through such hits as Moondance, Whenever God Shines His Light, Rough God Goes Riding and Did Ye Get Healed.

He paid his due to some of the great old blues singers when he played Baby Please Don't Go by Lightnin' Hopkins, followed by a 12 bar blues song called The Things I Used To Do by 1950's New Orleans' bluesman Guitar Slim.

Jazz singer Clare Teal made a surprise appearance at the beginning of the night, singing two duets with Van, before heading off into the darkness.

And much to everyone's surprise, the normally morose Van was in a jovial mood, joking with his band and even, bizarrely, doing impressions of Godfather actors, Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

But the night was really about the music and the pressure rose with a sublime version of Ancient Highway, building to a wild sea of sound that swept out and flowed over us, followed by a brilliant version of Did Ye Get Healed that made your heart leap with joy. I could have listened to it all night.

Yet more was to follow. With Whenever God Shines His Light and Rough God Goes Riding came more of that deep soulful blues sound, building up from the depths of his chest and out through his throat like crackling fire.

And in the end? We were treated to just one encore – but what an encore. Said by many to be his seminal work, In The Garden sums up everything that is great about the man John Lee Hooker once described as 'my favourite white blues singer'.

No guru, no method, no teacher. No contest – Van is still the Man.
-Helen Blow

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

27-April-2015
St. David's Hall

 Cardiff, Wales

As it was just over a year since Van Morrison last played this venue it was perhaps not too surprising to see that it was not by any means filled to capacity. Opening in familiar vein with Celtic Swing Van then moved smoothly through Higher Than the World and Close Enough For Jazz before delivering a rare version of Cry For Home featuring very nice organ from Paul Moore. Full Force Gale got a rare and most welcome airing too and moved at a brisk pace. Carrying A Torch was beautiful with Dana Masters very ably stepping in to Clare Teal’s role from the Duets album. Van then introduced his special guest who turned out once again to be PJ Proby prompting some to wonder if he is ‘the new Chris Farlowe’. Obviously they performed Whatever Happened To PJ Proby which was followed by PJ Proby Calling Van Morrison which hasn’t grown on me since I last heard it.Bring It On Home To Me ended that particular segment of the show quite solidly before Van did the usual Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now medley which really brought the audience to life. I Believe To My Soul was really strong and saw Dana feature prominently again.

Moondance and Who Can I turn To? moved us firmly into jazz territory before a terrific version of Magic Time which saw Van display a rarely heard ferocity when playing saxophone at it’s ending. Back On Top was the jazzy version and was followed by a really good In The Midnight which went down a treat and left Van very pleased. Whenever God Shines His Light was really nice and featured lovely guitar and bass solos from Dave Keary and Paul Moore respectively. Sometimes We Cry featured Dana again on shared vocals before PJ Proby returned once more for Bobby Bland’s Turn On Your Lovelight which featured much good humoured banter between Van and PJ about turning on and off etc.A further duet ensued with the lively Let It Roll before PJ finally departed the stage.

Days Like This was an above average version featuring really nice acoustic guitar from Dave Keary and was immediately followed by Ballerina which again featured Dave prominently, on Spanish guitar this time, much to Van’s delight with a few ‘Yeah’s thrown in.Van departed the stage during this song only to return for Celtic Excavation/Into The Mystic which was brilliant as usual and saw Van departing into the wings only to continue singing “Don’t Worry Baby We’re Gonna Get There One Day” over and over as the audience sat spellbound. When Van finally departed the band played on magnificently for several more minutes with particularly brilliant guitar and bass solos delivered.

The show lasted 1h 50m and was a good solid one with perhaps the most surprising thing being the renewed energy with which Van approached some of the songs more regularly featured in his concerts.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Higher Than The World
Close Enough For Jazz
Cry For Home
Full Force Gale
Carrying A Torch
Whatever Happened To PJ Proby? (w/PJ Proby)
PJ Proby Calling Van Morrison (w/PJ Proby)
Bring It On Home To Me (w/PJ Proby)
Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now
I Believe To My Soul
Moondance
Who Can I Turn To?
Magic Time
Back On Top
In The Midnight
Whenever God Shines His Light
Sometimes We Cry
Turn On Your Lovelight (w/PJ Proby)
Let It Roll (w/PJ Proby)
Days Like This
Ballerina
Celtic Excavation/IntoThe Mystic

South Wales Argus (Source)
You can never be sure quite what to expect from a Van Morrison performance. His quest for perfection occasionally results in a reluctance to acknowledge the audience . This was not the case in Cardiff.

Opening with a freeform version of Moondance, the ‘70s classic set the standard for all that was to come.

Morrison’s band orchestrates his work with complete understanding and a nod or flick of the hand from the master can change direction of any song.

An hour into his set he introduced an old friend to the stage - 60s legend, PJ Proby. In a great twist they rendered their own version of Whatever Happened to PJ Proby/ With a back catalogue spanning 50 years, the concert was clear confirmation of his genius. He doesn’t perform, he owns every song, and with overtones of soul, jazz, gospel and rock, he is impossible to categorise.

Morrison shares an affinity with his band, they complement each other by instinct, and any evening in their company ends with a setlist crumpled on the floor, overtaken by their passion. Last night was no exception, and as he finally left, after a full two hours, with the haunting, Into the Mystic, we still felt bereft and wanting more.

One to remember.
-Steven Healy

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Van's Concert Schedule



27-Apr-15
Cardiff, Wales

29-Apr-15
Cheltenham, England

06-Jun-15
Brescia, Italy
Piazza Del Loggia

08-Jun-15
Vienna, Austria
Wiener Stadthalle

15-Jun-15
London, England
Royal Albert Hall

25-Jun-15
Woodstock, England
Blenheim Palace

03-Jul-15
Kongsberg, Norway

05-Jul-15
Sussex, England
Love Supreme Jazz Festival

09-Jul-15
Cork, Ireland

19-Jul-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel


20-Jul-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel


23-Aug-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel

24-Aug-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Slieve Donard Hotel 

31-Aug-15
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cypruss Avenue
3:00PM & 6:00PM Shows

20-Nov-15
Dublin, Ireland
3Arena

Thursday, March 26, 2015

25-March-2015
Royal Albert Hall

 London, England


Brendan sent in this review
Given that this concert for the Teenage Cancer Trust coincided with the worldwide release of Van Morrison's new Duets album and that there were rumours of many special guests there was a great sense of anticipation in the air before the concert. As it transpired, the rumours proved well founded with no less than five special guests partaking at various stages during the night.

The opening Celtic Swing featured a much longer intro than usual from the band which was really nice and then Van appeared playing saxophone to bring the song to it's conclusion. Higher Than The World followed and while it did not feature any duet it was very impressive. Van then introduced Clare Teal who performed a beautiful duet with Van on Carrying A Torch. A surprise followed with a further duet between them on The Way Young Lovers Do. What really struck me during this number however was how much the absent brass section is missed at times, particularly on a song like this. The brass element has been synonymous with the'Van Morrison sound' throughout almost all of Van's career and it's absence results in Paul Moran having to double up on trumpet solos during particular songs leaving the piano/organ unplayed while he is doing so. Very strange!



Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now were powerful as always and went down a storm. Roger Daltrey then joined in on Talk Is Cheap to Van's obvious delight and while his voice was no match for Van's he contributed some fine harmonica playing.Following this, Van asked if anyone had heard of P.J.Proby(who must have been delighted with this introduction) before PJ and Van dueted nicely on Whatever Happened To PJ Proby. Pretty surreal really!.PJ then contributed a song he wrote in tribute to Van in his hotel room after seeing him in concert a few years ago. The kindest thing I can say about this song is that I don't quite see it re-launching PJ's career in any major way. Their final duet delivered a nice version of Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me.

Precious Time provided a filler before Georgie Fame appeared for a good duet on Get On With The Show which has more than a passing resemblance to Stand By Me. Van then announced that as Georgie Fame was on stage they would play some jazz and my heart immediately sank. No Vanlose Stairway and instead we got fairly mundane versions of Symphony Sid and Centrepiece/Corinne Corinna. Georgie Fame's exit was followed by an uninspired Days Like This and I feared the worst but when Van announced Mick Hucknall I knew what was coming and they certainly delivered on a wonderful performance of Streets Of Arklow which saw both singers scale the vocal heights and Paul Moran contribute magnificently with an organ sound throughout that swirled all around the famous concert hall. This was musical magnificence and Van summed it up perfectly at the conclusion when he said "wasn't that really something?".



Moondance, Magic Time (featuring another great organ solo from Paul Moran) and Brown Eyed Girl brought a bit of a lull to proceedings but thankfully Van delivered yet again with a superb Celtic Excavation/Into The Mystic during which I heard gasps of astonishment at various stages from several members of the audience at the wonder of it all. When Van departed the stage he continued to sing on in the wings for what seemed like an age only stopping when drummer Bobby Ruggiero's booming voice cut in to shout VAN MORRISON. The band continued to play on until it became clear Van would return which he did for a beautiful In The Garden which featured really fine guitar from Dave Keary and piano from Paul Moran before Van left the stage and the band played on for several minutes to a standing ovation. That's just the way to provide a fitting end to a Van Morrison concert.

This concert was rather unusual in that it included several moments of absolute musical magnificence which were matched in almost equal measure by moments of comparative mediocrity. However it is the former, including those possibly never to be repeated duets with Mick Hucknall and Clare Teal, which will provide the lasting memories and were worth the admission price alone. Van's voice was really powerful throughout and the vast expanses of the Royal Albert Hall failed to inhibit it's impact.
-Brendan Hynes


Uncut 
What to expect from a Van Morrison concert, then? Morrison, of course, has a reputation as an unpredictable live performer. Anecdotal evidence gathered from around the Uncut office suggests he is just as capable of transcendent moments of sublime mystery as he is of turning in perfunctory, no frills sets. Will he favour the roaming spirit of his peerless Seventies albums, or the blues and R&B numbers from his youth that have become increasingly foregrounded in his live sets? Tonight, there are two additional elements that might inform the tone of tonight’s show. First, this is part of this year’s run of Teenage Cancer Trust shows; a cause that obliges the artist to ensure they’re at their best. Secondly, this show convenient falls close to the release date of his new album, Duets: Reworking The Catalogue, and there is in all likelihood an imperative to support that.



As it transpires, all these things become to some degree relevant. Critically, we get an avuncular Morrison. He is hardly an unstoppable raconteur – he says very little, in fact – but his demeanour suggests he is at the very least enjoying himself. Sauntering on stage a few minutes after his band have started playing the light, jazzy grooves of “Celtic Swing”, he joins in with an expansive saxophone solo. His five piece backing band are dressed soberly in blacks and greys; Morrison himself wears a black suit, hat and sunglasses. I’m reminded to some extent of Dylan’s current touring band: another group of well-drilled musicians who are sensitive and discretely responsive to both the material and the demands of a notoriously capricious frontman. Under Morrison’s current musical director Paul Moran, they hold the line admirably. Admittedly, it’s not that difficult in the early part of the show. No sooner have the band warmed up, than Morrison introduces his new album to the audience and brings on the first of tonight’s duet partners, Clare Teal, for “Carrying A Torch” and “The Way Young Lovers Do”. The vibes are a little Pizza Express Jazz Club; fortunately, Morrison moves on to a persuasive version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” before he is joined by Teenage Cancer Trust founder Roger Daltrey for “Talk Is Cheap”, which never quite lifts off. Perhaps they’re under-rehearsed, but instead of the fiery R&B thrill they’re presumably aiming for, the song feels sluggish where it should swing.



Personally, I find this section of the show a little difficult to get my head round. As he brings out PJ Proby for three songs, including one of Proby’s own and a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me”, it begins to feel suspiciously like two old mates have a laugh. Morrison dwells too long here and what could passably be considered a generous act of sharing the stage with a favourite contemporary begins to feel like an indulgence. Things pick up, though, when Georgie Fame sits in for a handful of songs. This seems to change the shape of the music; the songs become looser, jazzier, fuller. The night’s brief collaboration with Fame culminates in a warm, gently swaying version of “Centrepiece”, which seems to segue into Dylan’s “Corrina Corrina”, lubricated by Morrison’s extraordinary baritone and Fame’s evocative Hammond playing. Fame is followed by Mick Hucknall, who gives a pleasingly restrained and sympathetic reading of “Streets Of Arklow”.



By this point, it’s increasingly hard to guess where Morrison is going with his set. Is this a promo job for the Duets album, an opportunity to dust down some old R&B and soul covers or a leisurely trip through his capacious back catalogue? Or is it all three? And if so, is the balance of material right? But then he pulls out a final clutch of songs that showcase not only his most famous work but also mark a foray into the wild beauty of those Celtic landscapes. “Moondance” appears as its lightest and most delicate, lifted by some nimble sax work from Morrison. “Magic Time” continues to illustrate Morrison at his freewheeling best before we get a galloping “Brown Eyed Girl”. For a finale, he plays magical, meandering versions of “Into The Mystic” and “In The Garden”, rich in wonderment, that transport and elevate.



It’s arguable to a point that Morrison is at a place now where he is entitled to play what he wants, when he wants. Indeed, some might find the digressions into old soul and R&B pleasing in their own right. But there’s enough in Morrison’s own formidable back catalogue that he doesn’t need to dwell too long in other people’s music. We are here for the mystic; and when it finally arrives, it is a most astonishing thing.
-Michael Bonner


Setlist
Celtic Swing
Higher Than The World
Carrying a Torch w/Clare Teal
Young Lovers Do w/Clare Teal
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now 
Talk is Cheap w/Roger Daltrey
Whatever Happened to PJ Proby w/PJ Proby
P.J. Proby Calling Van Morrison w/PJ Proby
Bring It On Home To Me w/PJ Proby
Precious Time
Get On With The Show w/Georgie Fame
New Symphony Sid w/Georgie Fame
Centerpiece w/Georgie Fame
Days Like This
Streets of Arklow w/Mick Hucknall
Moondance
Magic Time
Brown Eyed Girl
Into the Mystic
In The Garden

Big Hand for The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)

Monday, March 16, 2015

16-March-2015
Europa Hotel

 Belfast, Northern Ireland

Here's Brendan's thoughts on night two in Belfast
The opening instrumental piece was quickly followed by a straight forward Close Enough For Jazz before the first real highlight was delivered in Higher Than The World. In The Midnight saw guitarist Dave Keary once again put through his paces on impossibly high vocals before Precious Time provided an early reality check. Playhouse moved along at breakneck speed before a really nice Centrepiece featuring a lovely extended instrumental opening was performed and the song later merged with Corrina Corrina. Back On Top was the rather jazzy version and was quickly followed by Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now which were more or less as played the previous night and again went down a treat. More and More may have been appreciated by country fans in the audience (if there were any) but I am not among them (precious time is ticking away being an apt description of what I was feeling at this point).I Can’t Stop Loving You was then strongly delivered by Van to get things back on course.

I’m Carrying A Torch got another welcome airing and was a real tour de force before Van strapped on the guitar and started to play the opening notes of And The Healing Has Begun. No sooner had he done so than the guitar came off again with Van clearly unhappy with what he was hearing. A stage crew member took it away and returned after a while with what appeared to be a different guitar before retreating slowly and nervously backwards off the stage all the time looking straight at Van for a reaction. Luckily all was well and Van continued on to perform an extended and quite wonderful version bringing us all down the back streets and doing that singing over his guitar playing that so many of us love so much and which is somewhat of a trademark for Van. The song was also notable for some lovely bass playing by Paul Moore.

Things I Used To Do featured Paul Moran prominently on organ and was followed by a rare but well received thumping version of Wild Night. Wild Honey got another rare airing and featured a wonderful organ solo from Paul Moran. However Dana Masters’ backing vocals were for some reason almost totally inaudible and this was a recurring problem on the night which detracted somewhat from the overall performance. After strong renditions of Whenever God Shines His Light and Early In The Morning Van brought the concert to it’s conclusion exactly as on the previous night with Help Me, Think Twice Before You Go and finally Gloria which was quite a funked up version once Van had departed and saw Dave Keary give us a few bars of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll before finally Paul Moran indulged himself on his new favourite toy in the form of a synthesizer.

I felt this was the stronger of the two shows without ever reaching the heights(with a few notable exceptions) that one always hopes for when attending a Van Morrison concert.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks to John Z.)
Yo
Close Enough for Jazz
Higher Than the World
In the Midnight
Precious Time
Playhouse
Centerpiece/Corinna Corrina/Centerpiece
Back on Top
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm/Cry Cry Baby
More and More
I Can't Stop Loving You
Carrying a Torch
And the Healing Has Begun
Things I Used To Do
Wild Night
Wild Honey
Whenever God Shines His Light
Early in the Morning
Help Me
Think Twice Before You Go
Gloria

15-March-2015
Europa Hotel

 Belfast, Northern Ireland

Brendan sent in this review
The first night of Van Morrison’s two night stint got off to a fairly mundane start with the instrumental Caledonia Swing being followed by a rare performance of Hey Mr. DJ and then Moondance. Things picked up considerably with another fine rendition of I Believe To My Soul and then Magic Time which included a nice organ solo from Paul Moran. Sometimes We Cry featured another great organ solo and was a really strong rendition which got a great audience response. You Don’t Know Me featured great vocals from both Van and Dana Masters and a great trumpet solo from the versatile and somewhat overworked Paul Moran. Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now were powerfully delivered as usual to great acclaim. The welcome intro to In The Afternoon was met with several shouts of ‘Ancient Highway’ from some of the more excitable attendees and Van delivered a wonderful version while Paul Moore delivered some lovely bass towards the song’s conclusion. This song was probably the highlight of the night but we were soon brought down to earth with Precious Time which at least pleased those hoping for ‘the hits’.I’m Carrying A Torch featured a great exchange of vocals by Van and Dana and was a welcome addition to the set. Things I Used To Do fairly chugged along before Days Like This was produced apparently as a Mother’s Day tribute. Real Real Gone has got a new lease of life since one of Van’s musical heroes, Michael Buble dueted with him on it for the new album and it really went down well as did Whenever God Shines His Light which followed. A nice Enlightenment was followed by Van saying we would now have some rock and roll and he proceeded to play Jambalaya which was nothing special. In The Garden was a much shortened 3-4 minute version which proved pretty disappointing as a result. Brown Eyed Girl was just what one would expect and led towards the fast paced conclusion consisting of Help Me, Think Twice Before You Go and finally Gloria with no encore to follow.

This was a pretty average show in my view but one which nevertheless had some moments of real high quality. For anyone hoping for plenty of blues numbers and a high volume of the so called hit songs this was just the show to go to.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks John Z.)
Caledonia Swing
Hey Mr. DJ
Moondance/My Funny Valentine
I Believe To My Soul
Magic Time
Sometimes We Cry
You Don't Know Me
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm/Cry Cry Baby
In The Afternoon/Ancient Highway
Precious Time
Carrying a Torch
Things I Used To Do
Days like This
Real Real Gone
Whenever God Shines His Light
Enlightenment
Jambalaya
In the Garden
Brown Eyed Girl
Help Me
Think Twice Before You Go
Gloria

Sunday, March 01, 2015

01-March-2015
Nell's Jazz and Blues Bar

 London, England

Brendan's take on night two at Nell's
After the predicable Celtic Swing opener to the second night of shows at this very intimate venue Van then delivered Close Enough For Jazz and a jazzy Back on Top in quick succession before performing a really strong version of You Don’t Know Me helped in no small part by brilliant vocals from Dana Masters which saw her get a well deserved ovation from the tightly packed audience. Paul Moran did a superb trumpet solo which enhanced this number even further. Think Twice Before You Go saw Van unleash the band at full throttle with a terrific version before we had the first of many surprises with the playing of Wild Honey with Van and Dana exchanging vocals beautifully throughout. Paul Moore delivered a really intricate bass solo towards the end much to Van’s obvious approval as he shouted “yeah” I can’t remember when, if ever, I heard Van sing this live but it was worth the wait. Without giving us any chance to recover Van launched straight into a powerful Foreign Window with some band members looking quite ecstatic with the magic of it all. Whenever God Shines His Light not only gave Dana a further chance to excel on shared vocals but also included nifty guitar from Dave Keary and bass from Paul Moore.

At this stage Van started inviting requests and a very popular gentleman in the front row suggested And The Healing Has Begun to which Van instantly said “ok” What followed was around 10 minutes of musical magnificence with Van totally in the zone. He played guitar throughout and was aided in no small measure by brilliant guitar playing by Dave Keary and a further fine bass solo from Paul Moore. That’s Life was powerfully delivered with Van asking the audience at the end if it was really possible for him to roll himself up in a big ball. Oh how we laughed! Symphony Sid returned us briefly to jazz territory with more great vocals from Dana while Keep it Simple was introduced by Van as a selection of George Formby’s hits.

When Van announced Philosopher’s Stone as a request a woman near the front could contain her excitement no longer and shouted up “you’re a good man Van” to which he replied “I know I am -I have a lot of bills to pay!” To my horror Van then asked “which version?” so fearing a repeat of the infamous fast rhythm and blues version from a year or so ago which desecrated this classic I found myself shouting “SLOW” and without further ado that is what was delivered in superb fashion to an audience which was now quite ecstatic. Centrepiece brought things down slightly before requests were again invited resulting in a welcome airing of Did Ye Get Healed which got a great response.

Van then shifted into blues territory with a tremendous How Can A Poor Boy merging with Pagan Heart and finally I Put A Spell On You. The lucky audience members were reeling at this stage as he performed a beautiful Celtic Excavation/Into the Mystic before exiting the stage to great acclaim. He quickly returned to deliver a stomping version of Help Me before finally departing and leaving the band to express themselves even further. Set time was 1h 40m.

This was a truly unique night with Van clearly in great form as he plucked classics on request from the audience and delivered them as only he can. Apart From the opening Celtic Swing instrumental no other song from the previous night was repeated as Van (in the spirit of the new album title) re-worked the catalogue. And what a catalogue it is! This concert was a masterclass from a musical genius and one that will live long in the memory of the lucky 300 or so in attendance!
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
Back On Top
You Don't Know Me
Think Twice Before You Go
Wild Honey
Foreign Window
Whenever God Shines His Light 
Healing Has Begun
That's Life
Symphony Sid
Keep It Simple
Philosophers Stone
Centerpiece
Did Ye Get Healed
How Can a Poor Boy/Pagan Heart
Celtic Excavation/Into the Mystic
Help Me

Big Hand for The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

28-February-2015
Nell's Jazz and Blues Bar

 London, England

Brendan sent in his thoughts on the first of two Nell's gigs
This was the first night of Van Morrison’s latest weekend residency at Nell's and his performance started as usual with the Celtic Swing instrumental before taking us briskly through nicely delivered versions of Higher Than The World and Magic Time. A really strong I Believe To My Soul saw Dana Masters make a fine vocal contribution much to the delight of the audience while Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm saw Van and the band up the tempo considerably and Van good humouredly chastise drummer Bobby Ruggiero for coming in too early during the latter with a drumbeat replicating one of many gunshots before Van had signalled the particular gunshot. Days Like This certainly slowed things down before a thunderous Real Real Gone was delivered. This had a much more prominent organ sound than previous versions which is probably largely down to the continued absence of the brass section from the band. Sometimes We Cry was somewhat of a duet between Van and Dana and a good one at that while In The Midnight provided one of the real highlights of the night. Moondance contained no surprises and was followed by the welcome return of All in the Game which was a much shortened version and pretty disappointing as a result. Who Can I Turn To was notable for Van’s vocal performance while Precious Time was just as you would expect.I Just Want To Make Love To You was a shorter version than usual but it was great while it lasted. Talk is Cheap really moved at pace and was particularly good with Van quite amused when delivering certain lines while Early In The Morning was another powerhouse version from Van and the band.

Following the delivery of Enlightenment and I Can’t Stop Loving You I had pretty much consigned this show to being one that while being very enjoyable did not contain too many real highlights when suddenly Van changed direction and brought us out on the ancient highway with In The Afternoon making sure to bring us on down the underpass along the way. Big Joe Turner,TV Mama and Flip,Flop and Fly were all thrown into the mix as Van delivered what for me was the show stopper of the night. Van had actually introduced the song as being off The Healing Game album asking the audience if they had heard of it but it won’t be found there as it is actually on the Days Like This album. No sooner had the song ended than the welcome intro to In The Garden confirmed that we were now firmly in mystical territory. Van gave this the full treatment before leaving the stage to wild applause. No sooner had he departed than he returned with a terrific Ballerina before finally heading off into the night leaving the band to finish the job. Those last three numbers had brought proceedings to a much higher level and provided a fitting climax to the show which lasted I h 47m.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Celtic Swing
Higher Than The World
Magic Time
I Believe to My Soul
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm/Cry Cry Baby
Days Like This
Real Real Gone
Sometimes We Cry
In the Midnight
Moondance/Funny Valentine/42nd Street
All in the Game
Who Can I Turn To
Precious Time
I Just Wanna Make Love to You
Talk is Cheap
Early in the Morning
Enlightenment
I Can't Stop Loving You
In the Afternoon
In the Garden
Ballerina

Big Hand for The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)