Thursday, February 04, 2016

Congratulations, Sir Van

Van & Shana Morrison at Buckingham Palace, England 04-February-2016


Belfast Telegraph
Sir Van Morrison described himself as just a "blue-eyed soul singer" from Belfast as he was knighted for a musical career that has enthralled audiences and delighted critics.

Over more than 50 years the singer has gone from teenage stardom to innovator and is now a respected veteran, whose classic album Astral Weeks regularly makes the list of top 100 albums of all time.

The artist, whose full name is George Ivan Morrison, was introduced as Sir Ivan Morrison as he stepped forward to be dubbed a knight by the Prince of Wales in Buckingham Palace's ballroom.

Afterwards he said about becoming a Sir: "It's amazing, it's very exhilarating, the whole thing.

"For 53 years I've been in the business - that's not bad for a blue-eyed soul singer from east Belfast."

The 70-year-old performer has blended his influences - R&B, blues, jazz, and country - into a unique mix that reflects his upbringing in Northern Ireland.


Sir Van's best known songs range from the 1960s tracks Baby, Please Don't Go and Gloria, with the band Them, to solo efforts like Moondance, Sweet Thing and Have I Told You Lately.

He has been a prolific recording artist throughout his career and released his latest studio album Duets last year, singing with a range of stars from Joss Stone to the late Bobby Womack.

Morrison's knighthood is for services to the music industry and tourism in his native Northern Ireland.

Sir Van said he still remained committed to performing for an audience: "I enjoy that the most - playing a small club - that's really what I do.

"The bigger places you have to do for financial survival reasons, let me put it that way, but the bigger places enable me to play small clubs occasionally."

He added: "Sales of CDs and stuff like that are very unreliable, it has really gone down a lot, I'm lucky I can still do live gigs and still pull crowds and be able to do that.

"All these years of work have paid off and I'm still able to do that now.

The musician had a brief chat with Charles, who quizzed him about his plans for the future.

Sir Van said: "He was just saying, was I still writing? And he said: 'You're not going to retire any time soon?' And I said: 'No, I'm not, I'm going to keep it going while I can'."

Asked if fans could still call him Van The Man now that he has a knighthood, the singer laughed and said "Well, take your pick".

Morrison grew up in Belfast, where his father, a shipyard worker, was said to have had one of the best record collections in the city.

He absorbed his father's love of music with the influence of acts such as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Muddy Waters and Mahalia Jackson still apparent in his songs today.

Just into his teens, a 13-year-old Morrison was singing and playing the saxophone and guitar in bands before serving his musical apprenticeship playing places like Germany.

He said: "Germany was real hard gigging because we did seven sets a night and nine on weekends - and no days off - but that was really the training ground."

The musician enjoyed his first taste of success in 1964 as the frontman for r'n'b band Them.

They charted with a string of bluesy hits including Here Comes The Night and Baby Please Don't Go, but are best remembered for their garage band staple Gloria which has been covered countless times by acts including The Doors, AC/DC and Patti Smith.

Relentless line-up changes took the wind out of their sails and Morrison quit the band, ending up in New York, where he recorded a handful of throwaway tracks and the song that would become one of his biggest hits - Brown Eyed Girl.

But he was not interested in chart success and instead teamed up with a bunch of veteran jazz musicians to make what many people regard as his finest record.


Astral Weeks, which regularly features in critics' lists of all-time great albums, was recorded in three days and set the template for the rest of his career with its mix of poetic lyrics, often inspired by his native country, jazz improvisation, Celtic folk and soulful vocals.

Critical and commercial acclaim followed with records including Moondance, Tupelo Honey and St Dominic's Preview, while his live act made him an in-demand performer around the world.

He was also in demand from other acts that wanted to have his name - and voice - connected to them, making records with Irish folk veterans The Chieftains and Georgie Fame.

There was also an unlikely hit duet with Cliff Richard - Whenever God Shines His Light - which reflected his own Christian faith.

Asked to pick his favourite album out of the many he has recorded, the musician did not highlight Moondance or Astral Weeks but the 1980 record Common One.

He said: "It's a mixture of different components - a bit of funk, blues, gospel - it's quite a fusion, and plus I seemed to tap into something, and that particular band seemed to have a rapport."

Sir Van also spoke about the cultural change in his hometown of Belfast since the Troubles ended: "I think it's going through a renaissance period but you have to kind of 'take up your bed and walk' sort of thing too.

"So people are realising they need to be more proactive and get things going."

Sir Van described his experience at the Palace as "old-world charm".

He was joined for the ceremony by his daughter, Shana Morrison, also a musician, who has performed with her father, and the pair posed for pictures before leaving.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

20-January-2016
Fox Theater

 Oakland, USA

via Rosati Photos
Setlist
Celtic Swing
Higher Than The World
Magic Time
By His Grace
Here Comes The Night
Wild Night
Sometimes We Cry
That Old Black Magic
Real Real Gone
Carrying A Torch
Did Ye Get Healed
The Way Young Lovers Do
Whenever God Shines His Light
Someone Like You
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
Cleaning Windows
Keep It Simple
Precious Time
In The Garden
Gloria

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

19-January-2016
Fox Theater

 Oakland, USA

via instagram.com/emilykramer

SF Weekly


Few can disagree that it's been a tumultuous couple of weeks for fans of popular music. From David Bowie to Lemmy Kilmister, Glenn Frey to the lesser-known, but equally impressive, Mic Gillette (Tower Of Power, anyone?), we have lost a slew of musical greats.

Thankfully, at the ripe young age of 70, Irish singer / musician and Music Hall Of Fame inductee Van Morrison shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, playing three shows in Oakland directly following a successful run of dates in Southern California.

For the uninitiated, Morrison fronted Northern Irish band Them for a very brief period before launching his highly successful solo career. Morrison has won six Grammy Awards and spawned a number of hits, including “Gloria,” "Baby, Please Don't Go," "Here Comes the Night" and "Mystic Eyes.”

As evidenced by his spellbinding performance last night at Oakland's Fox Theater – the second of a sold-out three-day residency at the venue – Morrison proved his staying power, yet again, to several different generations of new and older fans alike.

From the minute the opening notes of “Celtic Swing” – an odd, yet somehow fitting instrumental culled from his grossly overlooked 1983 album, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart – filled the Fox Theater, those in attendance immediately fixated on Morrison who drove the melody home with his alto saxophone. Aided by his able group – bassist Paul Moore, drummer Robbie Ruggiero, trumpet/keyboard player/ bandleader Paul Moran, singer Dana Masters, and guitarist Dave Keary – Morrison and company launched headlong into their set. Instead of spreading out across the vast Fox Theater stage, the group opted to play close together, with all musicians huddled closely around Morrison who barricaded himself among a handful of stage monitors.

Next, he played a wonderfully careless rendition of “Higher Than The World,” which kicked off the night in grandiose fashion with a hearty swing and swagger. Opting to avoid between-song banter, Morrison led his musicians through a 100-plus minute set that found the music, inevitably, doing much of the talking.

And, unlike the set lists at his Southern California shows just days before (and even the night before at the same venue), Morrison surprised the audience with some unexpected additional songs, like “Did Ye Get Healed” from Poetic Champions Compose (1987) and “Cleaning Windows” from Beautiful Vision (1982).

Other highlights included a wonderful medley that included a revved-up version of Them's “Baby, Please Don't Go,” along with a heady take on a blues staple popularized by Mose Allison called “Parchman Farm.”

Hit medleys and songs aside, it was the inclusion of his daughter, Shana Morrison, (who also opened the show with a very brief set) that was met with great approval from longtime fans and newbies, alike. Watching and hearing the father / daughter combo for two mid-set numbers — “Sometimes We Cry” and Johnny Mercer's “That Old Black Magic – showed concertgoers just how much love and respect the two have for another. (Shana even kissed her father on the cheek as she exited stage right.)

If there was ever a time to see our musical greats before they leave this dimension, it would be now. When all is said and done, no price tag — tickets for these shows started at $89.50 and went up to $249.50 – is too much to witness a rare live music experience that lasts a lifetime.

Word has it that a few tickets were released for tonight's show on the Fox Theater's Facebook site, the last of his local run.

Yes, it's time to splurge. You only live once.

Critic’s Notebook:
• According to one bartender who works at several different venues for promoter Another Planet Entertainment, there was a big upgrade to the venue's sometimes faltering sound system. Last night's show was the second official night it was used in public. By all accounts, the move to satiate those with sensitive ears was a rousing success as everything sounded terrific and near stereo quality.
•Unfortunately, it's customary at this venue to close the downstairs bar during heritage acts, such as Bob Dylan, and tonight's show was certainly no exception. In an effort to keep the theater patrons quiet during a set laden with softer moments, the bar closed before his daughter Shana opened the show. The bar upstairs, though, was open for those wishing to make the trek.
•Unlike noisier, more raucous shows with younger crowds, cell phones were (for the most part) silenced. Because the floor was seated, few stood until Morrison's set-closing song, “In The Garden.” Heaps of applause followed as Morrison walked offstage repeating the line, “ No guru, no method, no teacher,” only to return minutes later for the night-ending encore.
-Eddie Jorgensen


Here are Christine's thoughts on gig
Night 2 in Fox theater when everything, compared to night 1, seemed to move up a notch or two. The intensity, the seriousness, the tightess of the band, the set list all different from the night before. First night was also really good too but compared to last night lacked luster.
Big hand for the band, couldn't be over stated as they were individually and collectively superb! The entire gig was so professional.

Dana Masters receiving a little more exposure last night to the delight and screams of the crowd. She's sublime, superb and beautiful! Her haunting solo pieces blend and lend to Van's catalog and like him is all blues, jazz and soul, a perfect match and a wonderful presence on stage.

When he didn't follow the opener with Close Enough for Jazz, I released a sigh of gratitude but realising it was Higher Than the World so early in the set, I sensed we could be in for something special and we were.

Did Ye Get Healed, By His Grace were breath taking and hearing really great, tight versions of Cleaning Windows, Motherless Child, Real Real Gone had us audience hyped to the nines. Carrying a torch showed the most tender side of Van I've heard in a while. It was beautifully sung as was In The Garden ( I loved the stage lighting for this too!)

Here Comes The Night and Wild Night had everyone on their feet. This was Van of old and Van of now. His voice, his sacred instrument, amazing then and amazing and different now.
Van often talks about his job! - well that was a great night's work by him and the band. You could feel they gave it everthing they had and more.

Lovely to see Shana join her Dad on both nights. Hadn't seen them together since new year's eve in the Harp Bar, Belfast.

Looking forward to tonight and hoping for a couple of more rare treats on the set list.

I always know when I've had a great Van night because I'm high as a kite afterwards ( not talking the San Fran high btw!!!) but from the intensity of his performance followed by exhaustion and then that satiated smile on my face!
-Christine M.

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Higher Than the World
Magic Time
Did Ye Get Healed
Cleaning Windows
Keep It Simple
By His Grace
Carrying a Torch
Motherless Child
Sometimes We Cry w/Shana Morrison
Old Black Magic w/Shana Morrison
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Fam/Don't Start Crying Now
Whenever God Shines His Light
Wild Night
Real Real Gone
Playhouse
Precious Time
Here Comes the Night
In The Garden
Gloria

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

18-January-2016
Fox Theater

 Oakland, USA

via DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Martinez Tribune

BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

A rare tour by singer-songwriter Van Morrison made a stop at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Monday night with the knighted 70-year-old Belfast native delivering a stellar set that delved deep into his half century old resume of hits while bridging rock, jazz and soul to provide a performance for the ages.

The 90 minute concert, the first of three sold-out shows at the ornate venue, began promptly just moments after it’s scheduled 8:00 pm start with Morrison following his five piece backing band onto the stage with an alto sax for the instrumental “Celtic Swing” before launching into “Close Enough For Jazz.” Sharply dressed and looking dapper in his customary suit wearing shades and a cool black fedora, it was a treat for those in attendance to get to experience the extraordinary voice of one of music’s most soulful jazz singers in such fine form.

Morrison, a 1993 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has a mercurial reputation. While his repertoire is extensive, like his fellow living legend Bob Dylan the Irishman has often been known to play shows that while still enjoyable leave the audience somewhat scratching their head at the end of the evening because of the dearth of his most recognizable hits. That was certainly not the case on this evening as the Irishman dug far into his vast catalog while still delivering a number of classic cuts.

The 20 song setlist that included additional medleys included tunes from at least 13 different albums, plus covers. As polished as the first half of the show was with its crisp sound and jazzy horns, the mid-way point of the production elevated the evening to another level. “Days Like This” was followed by a lively reinterpretation of 1967’s timeless “Brown Eyed Girl” before an even more upbeat “Wild Night” from 1971’s Tupelo Honey.”

“Sometimes We Cry” and “That Old Black Magic”, a pair of duets with daughter Shana Morrison followed. Next came a powerful rendition of “Baby, Please Don’t Go”. Originally recorded with Them in 1964, his first band to receive international recognition, the Muddy Waters blues standard was presented with the improvised lyrics “God put me on a farm for the rest of my life, all I done was shoot my wife” as Van The Man energetically reworked the classic with synthesized vocals and harmonica while conducted his band at key points for added emphasis. Such was the productivity of Morrison & Them that at the time of it’s release the single’s B-Side was “Gloria”, since covered by talents ranging from Jim Morrison and The Doors, to Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith and Tom Petty. Not bad for an afterthought.

Continuing the bevy of hits, the fantabulous “Moondance” followed, setting the stage for a stellar 12 minute finale of the aforementioned “Gloria” which segued back and forth with “Who Do You Love”, further propelled by the soulful backing vocals of Dana Masters. Having just seen Patti Smith perform “Gloria” on New Years Eve it was difficult for this reporter to imagine a better presentation, but it’s very hard to even remotely dismiss such a fine rearrangement of the original.

Coming just hours after the announcement of the death of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, and just over a week after the even more shocking passing of David Bowie, preceded by losses in just over a month of Scott Weiland, Natalie Cole and Lenny Kilmister it was not only a pleasure but highly cathartic to experience this international icon, a true master of his craft in such fine form.

Mercury News

Review: Van Morrison delivers inspired jazz-rock show in Oakland

Van Morrison seemed intent on proving a point.

It began when he first took the stage on Monday night at the Fox Theater, promptly -- as is his wont -- at his scheduled set time of 8 p.m. His first notes of the evening weren't sung, but rather blown thrown the alto saxophone.

He'd follow that brief instrumental with a vibrant take on "Close Enough for Jazz," from his 22nd studio album, 1993's "Too Long in Exile." Morrison was in full-on jazz singer mode, running his lines in ways that both complemented and contrasted with the virtuoso music being made by his four accompanying instrumentalists.

The point -- which Morrison has been making for decades now -- is that this is one Rock legend who isn't content with simply rehashing the glory years and then counting the cash. He's not banking on nostalgia, although that's certainly a big reason why people go see Van the Man in concert, but rather continuing to grow and develop as an artist.

Monday's 90-minute show -- the first of three sold-out nights at the downtown Oakland venue -- was an entirely satisfying evening of jazz and rock. And it was heavier on the former than the latter, to an even greater degree than I've seen from him in the past.

Yes, those looking for faithful renditions of Morrison's classic hits may have gone home disappointed. Those open to adventurous, jazz-directed reinterpretations -- which made the compositions sound fresher and more urgent than they have in decades -- probably were in pure bliss.

There was so much to like about the show, from a set list that nicely balanced the hits with deep cuts to the jazzy rearrangements to the stellar side musicians and backing vocalist.

Even the Belfast Cowboy himself, who's not the most reliable of entertainers and certainly has his off nights, delivered an absolutely inspired performance. Morrison's vocals were big, bold and versatile as they bounced through the thick blues of Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul," then rose triumphantly on the title track to 1999's "Back on Top" and the glorious gospel of "By His Grace," which Morrison performed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Half way through the 20-song set, the 70-year-old singer began sprinkling in some of his best-known cuts. But he'd do it in his own uncompromising way, starting with a jazzy version of the 1967 hit "Brown Eyed Girl" that barred little resemblance to what we've been hearing on the radio all these decades. He'd follow the same path with "Wild Night," before calling daughter Shana Morrison -- who opened the show -- back out to the stage to duet on a pair of songs, including a sensational "Sometimes We Cry."

It just kept getting better from that point, as Morrison delivered a muscular version of "Baby, Please Don't Go," the blues standard that the singer recorded with the band Them in 1964, and then soared on "Northern Muse (Solid Ground)."

Morrison closed the main set with his own classic "Moondance" and a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Help Me," then returned to rock the house one more time with an encore of — what else? — "Gloria."
-Jim Harrington

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
I Believe to My Soul
Back on Top
Magic Time
By His Grace
Motherless Child
Northern Muse (Solid Ground)
Satisfied 
Days Like This
Brown Eyed Girl
Wild Night
Sometimes We Cry w/Shana Morrison
Old Black Magic w/Shana Morrison
Carrying A Torch
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
Whenever God Shines His Light
Moondance
Help Me
Gloria

Big Hand for The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)
Shana Morrison (Guest Vocals)
John Allair (Guest Organ on Satisfied & Northern Muse)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

16-January-2016
Shrine Auditorium

 Los Angeles, USA


Billboard

Van Morrison’s amazing list of musical accomplishments -- songs like “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “St. Dominic’s Preview,” “Gloria” and “Tupelo Honey,” as well as the albums Moondance and Astral Weeks -- have earned the Belfast, Ireland, native a deserved place in both Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

So a rare tour from Morrison should be treated as a momentous event. And it felt that way at night two (Saturday, Jan. 16) of his sold-out stand at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, even before he brought out fellow icon Sir Tom Jones in the middle of the set for two songs of music royalty uniting.

Fans were understandably excited as Morrison, saxophone around his neck, was brought onto the Shrine stage by his five-piece backing band just moments after the 8:00 p.m. start time. “Ladies and gentlemen, Van Morrison,” his drummer said, welcoming the icon on stage.

At the top of his game Morrison is equal to any act. This was one of those nights. Opening with the jazz instrumental “Celtic Swing” followed by “Close Enough For Jazz,” which found Morrison ending the song with a resounding, “Oh yeah,” showing his jazz cat status, Morrison and his band established they could have just as easily been on stage at the Village Vanguard or Blue Note as the Shrine on this night.

Considered maybe the greatest “blue-eyed soul singer,” Morrison showed why repeatedly on this night, from the playful back and forth exchange he showed with his backup singer on the Ray Charles cover “I Believe To My Soul” and the gorgeous following number “Magic Time.” Other early highlights included a magnificent “Love in the Afternoon” and a raucous “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

The one question with Morrison shows in the past has been how engaged the singer would be.

Notoriously press shy Morrison has sometimes shown that same private side on stage, so when he does open up it is a big deal. Tell diehard Morrison fans that on this night he stood in the middle of the stage and did movie star impressions and you’ll see jaws drop on the floor.

Maybe it was having longtime friend Jones join him for the magnificent “Sometimes We Cry” and “I’m Not Feeling it Anymore” or maybe it was daughter Shana Morrison accompany him vocally on “Rough God Goes Riding” and “That Old Black Magic,” but Morrison was as playful as you’ll see him in concert, showing off his impressions of actors Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Cary Grant at one point.

While the impressions and special guests were both fun and invigorated the crowd, Morrison’s voice is all that is needed for a magical night. In the same way musicians, as they get older, learn control of their instrument, his voice was in peak form, as he showed during one impressive stretch in the medley “It’s All in the Game/Time Is Running Out/Waiting Game/No Plan B/Burning Ground,” taking his vocals intentionally from smooth to gravelly and back within seconds.

Morrison’s voice remains one of the greatest musical instruments in rock today. So much so that if you are compiling a musical bucket list sitting in the audience watching Van “The Man” stand in the center of stage, his voice effortlessly soaring as he delivers “Into the Mystic” should be top ten for sure. So a lot of fans in L.A. got to cross something special off their list on this unforgettable night.
-Steve Baltin

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
I Believe To My Soul
Magic Time
Wild Night
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
In the Afternoon
Enlightenment
Sometimes We Cry w/Tom Jones
I'm Not Feelin It Anymore w/Tom Jones
Moondance
Rough God Goes Riding w/Shana Morrison
Old Black Magic w/Shana Morrison
All In The Game/Time is Running Out/Waiting Game/No Plan B/Burning Ground
Ballerina
In the Mystic

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

15-January-2016
Shrine Auditorium

 Los Angeles, USA


Los Angeles Times (Source)

At the end of a week that began for many pop music fans with feelings of shock and loss at the death of David Bowie, another widely esteemed musician arrived in Los Angeles with a performance that reminded us why we value and feel so deeply connected to certain artists.

Van Morrison, who turned 70 in August, is less than two years Bowie’s senior. Yet the singer and songwriter from Belfast, Northern Ireland, may seem more the elder statesman because he came into the public eye with his band, Them, during the early part of the British Invasion, well before Bowie’s presence began to be felt.

His first of two shows this weekend at the 6,300-capacity Shrine Auditorium on Friday, launching a new U.S. tour leg, was a masterful exploration of music as something that reaches deeper than what is measured by sales charts.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, of course, has had his fair share of songs and albums that clicked commercially earlier in his career, and he dolloped several of those into his 105-minute show.

But it was as though he used hits of yore -- including “Moondance,” “Wild Night,” “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Baby Please Don’t Go” -- as bait to pull the packed audience to the deeper album tracks spanning half a century of his writing, recording and performing that served as the emotional and spiritual core of his show.

Morrison opened, in front of a tight, jazz-rooted, five-member band -- keyboadist-trumpeter and musical director Paul Moran, guitarist Dave Keary, bassist Paul Moore, drummer Robbie Ruggiero and singer Dana Masters -- blowing his alto sax on the instrumental “Celtic Swing.”

From there he took on a variety of roles: lead singer, harmonica player, rhythm and, occasionally, lead guitarist.

His rendition of “And the Healing Has Begun” was particularly comforting for those still feeling raw about Bowie’s death, as Morrison sang about the restorative power of music:

And we’ll walk down the avenue again

And we’ll sing all the songs from way back when

And we’ll walk down the avenue again

And the healing has begun

As he often does in concert, he used the basic framework of his recorded versions of songs as a springboard to in-the-moment vocal and instrumental exploration. He opened songs up, riffed and extemporized, marrying the technical dexterity of a seasoned jazz musician with the emotional acuity of a veteran blues artist.

He reached beyond his own extensive song catalog to assay “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” hewing closer to Paul Robeson’s version than to the Richie Havens rendition more familiar to those who grew up in the age of Woodstock.

He reworked even his own most familiar songs, not in the frequently unrecognizable way that Bob Dylan often re-imagines his classics, as if consciously defying fans to sink into mechanical singalong mode, but to make them relevant to who he is now.

In place of the bouncy R&B lilt he originally came up with for “Brown-Eyed Girl,” he recast it this time with a decided jazz swing rhythm. “Moondance” also veered even more into jazz than his recorded version with inventive yet smartly straightforward sections he played on his alto sax in tandem with trumpeter Moran.

Perhaps the most illuminating new version of one of his signature songs was his approach to “Baby Please Don’t Go.” When he recorded it in 1964 with Them, when he was in his late teens, it was a forceful, desperate plea from a young man on the verge of adulthood.

Fifty years later, he sang Joe Williams’ blues standard with a vastly more restrained yearning, a wish filtered through the acceptance that comes with the experience of knowing that life sometimes has something else in store than what we have in mind.

Morrison's daughter, singer Shana Morrison, joined him briefly mid-set for a spirited arrangement of “That Old Black Magic” that seemed inspired by the Louis Prima-Keely Smith version. At one point, Morrison sang one of his lines, casually flicked his thumb in his daughter’s direction for her to pick up the song from there. It was a joyful moment of father-daughter communication, the master seeming to challenge her to “now show me what the student has learned.”

The pièce de résistance was his performance of “It’s All in the Game,” an early 20th century melody written by future U.S. Vice President Charles Dawes, given lyrics in 1951 by songwriter Carl Sigman and popularly recorded in 1958 by Tommy Edwards.

Morrison’s version has little in common with Edwards’ lovely but relatively straightforward performance. Morrison uses it almost as Buddhists use “om” as a chant to help them connect with a higher realm.

He stretched each line, twisting, turning, repeating words and syllables, so when he reached the line “and your heart will fly away,” Morrison led listeners with him along his transcendent path.

It wasn’t, however, as if Morrison, who returns to the Shrine Saturday night, spent the night with his head in the clouds. For an artist who is notoriously prickly, who has often spent time on stage tongue-lashing band members when they didn’t deliver what he had in mind, Morrison was in an uncommonly jocular mood, making quips to the audience and to his fellow musicians.

All in all, Morrison’s performance was a thoroughly invigorating celebration of music, and by extension, of life that arrived just when many of us needed it most.
-Randy Lewis

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Close Enough for Jazz
Magic Time
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
In the Afternoon/Burn Baby Burn/Raincheck
Motherless Child
And The Healing Has Begun
Thanks For The Information
Moondance
Old Black Magic w/Shana Morrison
Rough God Goes Riding w/Shana Morrison
Wild Night
Whenever God Shines His Light
Brown Eyed Girl
In The Midnight
All In The Game/Burning Ground
Into The Mystic

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

20-December-2015
Nells Jazz And Blues

 London, England
Evening Show


Brendan sends in this review
After all the excitement surrounding the afternoon show it was perhaps unsurprising that the evening show started in a very sedate manner. However, when the opening three numbers consisting of Celtic Swing, Sack of Woe and Centrepiece/Corrine Corrina(none of which rose above the level of mediocre) were followed by Days Like This and Precious Time the prospect of a really disappointing set list loomed largely. Mercifully, Van then played Enlightenment and following repeated requests by dedicated fan Pamela Kendix he finally capitulated and performed the always treasured Foreign Window to great acclaim. When a terrific Tore Down A la Rimbaud followed, the concert was back on an upward curve. Sometimes We Cry was well delivered and enthusiastically received quickly followed by What Am I living For? from the country album. Early In the Morning/Rock Me Baby were powerfully delivered and really lifted proceedings. The only song repeated from the matinee show followed in the form of In The Afternoon which once more was fantastic and was thankfully afforded total reverence by the audience. There were also a couple of comedic moments included on this occasion with Van telling us the ancient highway was actually the MI 5 before quickly correcting the reference to the M5 but not before the band and audience had erupted with laughter. When Van had moved into a segment of Don't You Get Me High and referred to 'when you feel my leg' an enthusiastic chap appeared to be volunteering and shouted up to Van who quickly retorted "not you" much to everyone's amusement! Cleaning Windows was good to hear again but suffered significantly once more from the absence of the brass section. In my view the band are restricted considerably by the reduced band numbers as there is a predictability and inevitability which sees every musical break in songs consist of a guitar solo followed by a piano/organ solo (or vice versa) apart from the occasional trumpet solo by Paul Moran who obviously has to stop playing the piano/organ at that point in the song to the detriment of the overall sound. From a musical viewpoint it is hard to understand why Van chose to eliminate the brass section which has been a constant and I daresay key element of his music throughout almost the entirety of his career but the decision has certainly not resulted in enhanced concert performances.

Van strapped on his guitar for Why Must I Always Explain but didn't really bring it to the level of previous renditions and Ballerina which followed was dogged by some sound problems which Van was clearly unhappy with but it nevertheless included a fine trumpet solo from Paul Moran. In The Garden brought proceedings to an end but Van departed quite early without ever getting really engrossed leaving the band to play out the last six minutes without him which they did with each taking extended solos and Paul Moore's one on bass being particularly good.

Set time was 84 minutes with Van really pushing the boat out by staying on stage for 78 minutes.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Sack O Woe
Centerpiece/Corina
Days Like This
Precious Time
Enlightenment
Foreign Window
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Sometimes We Cry
What Am I Living For
Early in the Morning/Rock Me Baby
In the Afternoon/Raincheck/Burn Baby Burn
Cleaning Windows
Why Must I Always Explain
Ballerina
In the Garden

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

20-December-2015
Nells Jazz And Blues

 London, England
Matinee Show



Brendan sent in his review
Early arrivals for the third of Van Morrison's four weekend shows were met by closed doors and signage indicating a repossession of the premises. There was talk of bailiffs inside the premises and I had a vision of Van throwing himself in front of the doors to stop the band's equipment being seized but with the show eventually going ahead we were denied such a sight!

The show started with an alternative instrumental apparently called Bags Groove which was followed by Who Can I Turn To? which featured a great trumpet solo from Paul Moran. Moondance also saw Paul excel on piano and he was really hogging the limelight as he also excelled on trumpet during a powerful I Believe To My Soul. Sometimes I Feel Like A motherless Child went down a storm with Van's electric guitar contribution getting an ovation. Things I Used To Do was a pretty pointless addition to the set but Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket which followed was certainly welcomed and featured great guitar from Dave Keary and an absolutely incredible organ solo from Paul Moran (is there no end to this man's talent?). Think Twice Before You Go and Whenever God Shines His Light raised the tempo and were well received before Carrying A Torch afforded Dana Masters a chance to shine on vocals. Van briefly alluded to the bit of drama earlier in the afternoon before appropriately playing In The Afternoon.Yet again this was the show stopper as Van took us an extended journey down the ancient highway to the overpass before finishing with the repeated line"sitting pretty at the end of the line "to an enraptured ant totally hushed audience. Phenomenal! Magic Time and Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now were well performed but contained no surprises. All In The Game included some Hawaiian guitar sounds from Dave Keary which greatly pleased Van who departed the stage shortly after leaving the band to play on for a further 5 minutes or so. Paul Moore played some intricate bass but the drum solo which followed was simply a time filler.

My overall feeling was that the show which lasted just 81 minutes was very short but also very sweet.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Bags Groove
Who Can I Turn To
Moondance
I Believe To My Soul
Motherless Child
Things I Used To Do
Take Your Hand Outta My Pocket
Think Twice
Whenever God Shines His Light
Carrying A Torch
In the Afternoon/Burn baby burn
Magic Time
Baby Please Don't/Go Parchman/Don't Start Crying Now
It's All in the Game

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

19-December-2015
Nells Jazz And Blues

 London, England
Evening Show



Brendan Hynes sent in this review
This show had a somewhat erratic start as an instrumental number was quickly abandoned after a few notes to be replaced by Celtic Swing. Unlike the previous runs of shows at this intimate venue the setlist did not deviate greatly from the standard and pretty predictable shows of recent months with the exceptions being Sack of Woe, Wild Night and Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket (which included a great organ solo from Paul Moran). Highlight of the show was undoubtedly In The Afternoon which saw Van become totally engrossed and providing us with one of those moments we always hope for and savour. The ancient highway was certainly fully utilised tonight and after Van went into Burn Baby Burn territory it ended with him humming for quite some time to the band's laid back accompaniment. Wonderful! The rest of the set was somewhat predictable but was played with considerable vigour by both Van and the band so the energy level never flagged.

After Brown Eyed Girl was somewhat surprisingly played,the opening strains of Gloria which followed indicated that the show was over already. Set time was a paltry and unacceptable 80 minutes (Van was gone after 74 minutes) and quite honestly if Van is either unable or unwilling to do two full shows he should confine himself to one show per day as the audience at each show just end up being shortchanged. The much criticised standard 90 minute set length is miserable enough without cutting it even further.

Two more shows await on Sunday and one hopes for a few rare nuggets to be unearthed during them.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Sack O Woe
Motherless Child
Carrying A Torch
Wild Night
Sometimes We Cry
Think Twice Before You Go
Take Your Hand Outta My Pocket
Keep It Simple
Whenever God Shines His Light
In the Afternoon/Burn Baby Burn
Baby please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
I'm Not Feeling It No More
Brown Eyed Girl
Gloria

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

20-November-2015
3 Arena

 Dublin, Ireland


Brendan Hynes sent in this review
This was Van's first full concert show back in Dublin since the particularly triumphant one back in early 2012. Despite being seated in the front row it was my misfortune to encounter probably the most ignorant and noisy group of people (who were visitors from abroad) I have ever had to endure at a seated concert in the row behind who talked and laughed loudly throughout the entire concert (apart from the first two songs which they missed as they were still stocking up their drinks at the bar). Repeated requests to desist were met with derisory responses and they informed me that "Man,this is a rock concert" as an explanation. They reserved the maximum level of talking and laughing for the quietest numbers particularly And the Healing Has Begun, All In The Game and In The Garden. Wonderful!

The concert itself started pretty tamely with Van racing through Celtic Swing, Close Enough For Jazz, Magic Time, Days Like This and Keep It Simple in quick succession none of which reached any great heights in my opinion. A really strong version of Playhouse brought both the band and audience to life and featured a brilliant trumpet solo from Paul Moran. Sometimes We Cry featured a strong duet with Dana Masters with Van also playing some tambourine. The Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now/Custard Pie medley went down a treat and was notable for Van's change of wording during Parchman Farm to Communion Wine which he attributed to someone changing his script. Before embarking on In The Afternoon Van asked the audience if they were alright and if the people up the back could hear. While Van brought us down the ancient highway and onto the overpass that's as far as we got and the song ended quite abruptly before it really went anywhere. Talk Is Cheap was pretty ordinary fare but Not Feeling It Anymore was anything but with Van swaying over and back at the microphone and his feet shuffling as he sang.The audience loved this one and roared their approval. Things I Used To Do did very little for me but was followed by a strong Why Must I Always Explain with Van on electric guitar. The guitar stayed on for a welcome rendition of And The Healing Has Begun which didn't go on for as long as I would have liked but was great while it lasted. Whenever God Shines His Light was well delivered and received prompting a few dancers to emerge from the crowd. All In The Game got as far as No Plan B but not much further so we were not transported to the Burning Ground on this occasion as Van quite quickly departed the stage. Van returned for a lively Help Me before asking for a "big hand for the band" and exiting once more. As the annoying 90 minute mark had not yet been reached Van did return once more for a welcome and well received In The Garden which saw Van invoke the help of the 'holy guardian angels' before the 'no guru no method no teacher' chant after which he departed into the night leaving the band to excel with splendid solos culminating in Dana doing some great vocal work which drew a storm of approval from the audience. The reaction at the end was so strong that it prompted keyboard player Paul Moran to take an audience photo for posterity. Set time was 1h 37m.

-Brendan Hynes

Set List
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
Magic Time
Days Like This
Keep It Simple
Playhouse
Sometimes We Cry
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now/Custard Pie
In The Afternoon
Talk Is Cheap
Not Feeling It Anymore
Things I Uses To Do
Why Must I Always Explain
And The Healing Has Begun
Whenever God Shines His Light
All In The Game
Help Me
In The Garden

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