Wednesday, February 19, 2014

18-February-2014
Brighton Dome

 Brighton, England


Brendan made to trip over to Brighton
This was the second night of Van's two night stint and rather surprisingly there was little variation from the preceding night. Van eased himself into proceedings with Celtic Swing and Close Enough for Jazz before the first highlight of the night arrived with the return of Higher than the World which was really nice. Rough God (complete with the now expected Clint Eastwood impression) featured a nice duet with Shana Morrison with Van playing guitar from around the mid point of the song. After a rather jazzy Back on Top, Van led us into mystic territory for a few numbers starting with a beautiful arrangement of So Quiet in Here which ended with Van and Shana bring the vocals down to a whisper and with Van saying
'fading out' over and over. Keep it Simple followed with Van on ukukele and to my ears this song sounds much better this time around. The recently resurrected Queen of the Slipstream followed and the arrangement which highlighted brilliantly the quality of Van's musicians was breathtaking.Magnificent and a true classic in my view!

Van took over on hammond organ to deliver a foot stomping Keep Mediocrity at Bay followed by a Mose Alison cover Benediction. I have to say the latter does nothing for me, particularly the oft repeated punchline "Thank God for Self Love" which by the song's end I had replaced with "Thank God it's over"! A somewhat varied and improved arrangement of Whenever God Shines His Light included a particularly good percussion solo from Bobby Ruggerio.

At this point in the show Van introduced his special guest Chris Farlowe with Van emphasing that this was the rhythm and blues section. It has to be acknowledged that Chris always seems to lighten Van's mood and so it proved again with Van in great form and smiling from ear to ear. Van did most of the vocal work on Early in the Morning/Rock Me Baby and Hoochie Coochie Man with Chris's main contribution coming through taking most of the vocals on Stormy Monday. The band were simply superb on all these numbers with guitarist Dave Keary especially prominent, particularly on Early in the Morning where he received the ultimate accolade from Van whic consisted of repeated exclamations of "yeh" " yeh"! The blues section ended with a rather tame Born to Sing after which Chris Farlowe left the stage.
Van played piano while dueting with Shana on Have I Told You Lately. This was quite tremenous with Shana actually out singing Van on this one in my view which is no mean feat. It is possibly the best live version of the song I have ever heard.

Van dueted again with Shana on that Old Black Magic before Brown Eyed Girl was delivered for the masses, if not the purists.

Proceedings were drawing to a close now and Van brought Chris Farlowe back on to assist on a brilliant version of Stand By Me.Van seems to love singing this song and was very animated throughout its delivery.Following a quick trot to the side of the stage Van returned for the standard closing number that is Gloria.For some reason this was a particularly good version with the band going into overdrive when Van had departed and Paul Moran's organ solo was quite fantastic.

While the concert would have been elevated by a 10 minute plus In the Garden or All In the Game it nevertheless maintained the consistently high performance level to date in 2014.Van seems really into his performances and the interaction with the audiences has increased the atmosphere and made audiences even more receptive.

-Brendan Hynes

Pat wrote down his experience on night two in Brighton on his great blog Visions of Pat
Van arrived on stage and started with the now familiar Celtic Swing and Close Enough For Jazz. Then a welcome change, Higher Than The World which was great and Van's sax playing was sublime. Rough God Goes Riding followed and when Van said "Just Like Jesse James" Shana said, "Just like Van Morrison". Back On Top was next followed and then So Quiet In Here which was Van at his very best. At the end Van Van was really in the zone, repeating over and over, "We can dream on, in black and white". Keep It Simple, Queen Of The Slipstream, Keeping Mediocrity At Bay all followed with Van saying, "Move Over, Rover". Benediction was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light with Shana. The percussionist Bobby Ruggerio was really good on that one as was Van on harmonica.

Read the rest of the review here.

Setlist (Thanks Brendan H.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough To Jazz
Higher Than The World
Rough God Goes Riding
Back On Top
So Quiet In Here
Keep It Simple
Queen Of The Slipstream
Keep Mediocrity At Bay
Benediction
Whenever God Shines His Light
Early In The Morning
Hoochie Coochie Man
Stormy Monday
Born To Sing
Have I Told You Lately
Old Black Magic
Brown Eyed Girl
Stand By Me
Gloria

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

17-February-2014
Brighton Dome

 Brighton, England

The Latest (Source)
The Dome was almost full but not quite sold out, perhaps due to Morrison’s hit-and-miss reputation and the expensive tickets. Van was thankfully in a good mood however, starting off with some soulful saxophone playing in the midst of a nine-piece band. The setlist was fairly esoteric and hit-lite, with a lounge jazz and soft blues feel. At times, the template blues numbers were a little samey, or even bland, but when Morrison went into ballad mode he really hit his stride.

Third song ‘So Quiet In Here’ was a highlight, a strong song with pleasantly shuffling drums, a sweet rolling melody and a prominent Astral Weeks type bass line. Van’s distinctive voice also shone most brightly on the ballads since they showcased his rich, smooth signature style. He couldn’t soar quite as highly as he used to, but there were still some glorious flashes of Morrison’s beautiful belting.

Blues singer Chris Farlowe joined Morrison for a few songs, including an uplifting cover of ‘Stand By Me’, an interesting jazzy arrangement of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, and a rollicking rendition of ‘Gloria’. Overall it was a solid performance from a great musician, never truly lifting off into the spectacular but still an enjoyable, occasionally moving show.
-Joe Fuller

Long time Van fan, Pat, has a review of Brighton on his blog, Visions Of Pat

I took my seat in the circle and Van's daughter Shana came on first with the band minus the brass section to start the evening. She looked beautiful as always and sang three songs, God Must Love Me, Serve Me Right To Suffer and Higher And Higher which i really enjoyed. Then it was time for the Celtic soul brother himself to walk on stage with the now familiar opening of Celtic Swing followed by Close Enough For Jazz. This was followed by Back On Top which i think i enjoyed more than at Bristol. Then it was one of the first highlights of the evening for me, So Quiet In Here. It was great and i liked Shana's backing vocals and the brass section of Chris and Alistair White were really good as well. This was followed by Rough God Goes Riding, which was also great but i was beginning to realise this was almost exactly the same set as in Bristol. I wanted to hear something different. Van ended the song by doing his Clint Eastwood impression again which was funny the first time i heard it. He is trying to get away from his grumpy image though. Following this was Keeping Mediocrity At Bay.I have seen a comment about him doing this song from somebody who wasn't there. I think performed live it isn't bad at all. Benediction, by Van's friend Mose Allison was next which was ok but the gig for me was getting a bit 'samey' now. Van sat on the stool next for Keep It Simple which is on of the best songs of recent years. Then it was the excellent Queen Of The Slipstream.

Read the whole review here.

Setlist (Thanks Brendan H.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough To Jazz
Back On Top
So Quiet In Here
Rough God Goes Riding
Keep Mediocrity At Bay
Benediction
Keep It Simple
Queen Of The Slipstream
Early In The Morning
Hoochie Coochie Man
Stormy Monday
Sometimes We Cry
Whenever God Shines His Light
Days Like This
Brown Eyed Girl
Baby Please Don't Go
Help Me
Gloria/Who Do You Love
Stand By Me

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

28-January-2014
Bristol Colston Hall

 Bristol, England

Bristol Post (source)
With top tickets hovering just under the £90 mark, even the most ardent of Van Morrison fans would have hoped to get their money’s worth and within minutes of this two-hour show it soon became clear that they were going to get a good return for their investment.

Whether it’s the jazz singer, the soul brother or the blues man, you never quite know which Van Morrison will turn up on the day but this was a set that can quite easily be filed under ‘classic Van’.

Backed by a highly polished eight-piece band that included his daughter Shana on backing vocals, the famously curmudgeonly Belfast Cowboy seemed to be in unusually high spirits; in 15 years of reviewing his gigs, I have never seen him talk so much to the audience and he even had a couple of rare stabs at humour. During Close Enough for Jazz, he even slipped in a pretty good Clint Eastwood impression.

Not that his band were laughing too much – Morrison has always been a hard taskmaster and he frequently chided his musicians for not starting songs on time or finishing when he wanted.

Never one to play to the gallery or roll out the crowdpleasers, Morrison ignored his latest album, preferring to mine his extensive back catalogue, although the majority of the material came from albums from the past 20 years rather than the classics of the early 70s.

Unusually, he didn’t play his usual set staples of Moondance or Gloria, which may have cast a shadow for some fans, but instead revisited more obscure songs, often giving them a brand new jazzy arrangement, as he did with Rough God Goes Riding, a lesser-known song from 1997’s The Healing Game.

Switching from his gold saxophone to harmonica throughout the set, Morrison pulled up a stool for Keep it Simple, playing some mean ukulele.

The classic Brown Eyed Girl was given an almost freefall jazz arrangement, Benediction got a gospel makeover and a smooth-as-silk version of That Old Black Magic was given the full big band bossa nova treatment.

Daughter Shana stepped up to duet with her father on Sometimes We Cry before Morrison retraced his blues steps with covers of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Help Me and Baby Please Don’t Go – a song he first recorded as the frontman of Them 40 years ago.

Any fans hoping to get more of the mystical, transcendental Morrison were not disappointed, as he dusted off Queen of the Slipstream from the underrated Poetic Champions Compose album, So Quiet in Here and St James Infirmary.

The best was kept to last with an epic, haunting version of It’s All in The Game, which slowly built to a rousing climax, ending with Morrison whispering and repeating the line ‘No plan B, no safety net, this is it’ as he walked off stage and the house lights were turned up.

There was no encore, but after a two-hour performance of this quality, it really didn’t matter.
-Mark Taylor

Setlist (Thanks Pat C.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
Rough God Goes Riding
Keep It Simple
So Quiet In Here
Queen Of The Slipstream

Back On Top
Keep Mediocrity At Bay
Benediction
Sometimes We Cry
Old Black Magic
Days Like This
Whenever God Shines His Light
Brown Eyed Girl
Baby Please Don't Go/Takes A Worried Man
Saint James Infirmary
Help Me
It's All In The Game/You Know What They're Writing About/No Plan B/Burning Ground

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Monday, January 27, 2014

27-January-2014
St. David's Hall

 Cardiff, Wales

Brendan made the trip to Cardiff & here's his take
It was a cold dreary Monday night in Cardiff but not in Saint David's Hall where Van Morrison provided an evening of great music and warmth for the captive audience.

After opening as usual with Celtic Swing, Van's vocals were first exercised on Close Enough for Jazz before a stirring version of Rough God Goes Riding with Van and Shana Morrison singing alternate verses to great effect. Enlightenment followed with nice harmonica from Van before he took a seat to perform Keep It Simple while playing ukulele. Van commented afterwards that the problem with writing such lyrics was in trying to live up to them(or words to that effect). Incidentally the exciting news for fans who missed out when the album was first released is that the re-introduction of Keep it Simple into the set has coincided with the reappearance of the Keep it Simple t-shirts on the merchandising stand.

After the quick fire delivery of I Get a Kick out of You,Magic Time and the recently revived and re-arranged Back on Top, Van brought us into mystical territory with a beautiful version of So Quiet in Here which included Van bringing proceedings down to a whisper (as only he can do) while repeating the song title over and over at the end. This was immediately followed by the sublime Queen of the Slipstream which encapsulates brilliantly what I love most about Van's music. Van was really into the song and throwing his hand up like he used to do when singing Don't Look Back all those years ago.

Following really strong versions of Baby Please Don't Go and Sometimes We Cry, Van went into coasting mode for a while with Brown Eyed Girl,Whenever God Shines His Light, Moondance, Crazy Love (which was particularly good) and Days Like This following in quick succession.In the Garden brought us back into mystical territory but as it was a shortened version it didn't reach the great heights it normally does. Help Me quickly brought us into the home stretch with a pounding Gloria delivered as the encore.

Van was in extremely good humour throughout, interacting with the band and audience (who certainly appreciated it)and he really seemed to be in the mood (set length clocked in at 1h 42m).At the end Van thanked the audience for coming out on a Monday night and said that he and the band were privileged to play for them!!! You don't hear that very often but then again Van traditionally doesn't play a huge number of Monday night shows!
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks Patrick A.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough For Jazz
Rough God Goes Riding
Enlightenment
Keep It Simple
Magic Time
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Magic Time
Back On Top
So Quiet In Here
Queen Of Slipstream
Baby Please Don't Go
Sometimes We Cry
Brown Eyed Girl
Whenever God Shines His Light
Moondance
Crazy Love
Days Like This
In The Garden
Help Me
Gloria

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

22-January-2014
Culloden Estate & Spa

 Belfast, Northern Ireland

Photo via Pablo
Brendan sent in this review
Over the past year or so many of Van’s concerts have involved an over emphasis on the old reliables of Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Days Like This, Precious Time, Gloria etc. which has left me hoping for a return to concerts of a more challenging nature involving material which more adequately reflects Van’s superb vocal ability and back catalogue. Well tonight was such a night as Van,aided by his superb band,stepped outside his comfort zone and delivered a terrific performance which was hugely appreciated by those lucky enough to be present.

After opening with Celtic Swing and Close Enough for Jazz, Van produced the first of many highlights for me in Rough God Goes Riding complete with the now mandatory Clint Eastwood impression. This was followed by a new, more jazzy arrangement of Back on Top which featured the brass section to great effect. Next up was the show stopper for me with a brilliant rendition of the rarely played Queen of the Slipstream which included a particularly brilliant organ solo from Paul Moran. Next up was a new and beautiful arrangement of So Quiet in Here. A new arrangement of Choppin Wood was followed by the seldom played Keep it Simple with Van seated and playing ukulele. As a special request Van then performed the seldom (if ever) played Green Mansions which Van told us he had written the first two lines of in the mid 1960’s before finishing it in the 1990’s. Other highlights were a brilliant Georgia(superb organ again from Paul Moran), Enlightenment,duets with Shana Morrison on Whenever God Shines His Light and Sometimes We Cry, Bulbs and finally an extended and brilliant version of All in the Game with Van in meditative mode going to the Burning Ground and confirming that he still has No Plan B and No Safety Net. After a quick acknowledgement of the band Van was gone and sadly did not return.

Van was quite chatty throughout and referenced the late Irish comedian Dave Allen while also telling us he had dinner with Billy Connolly last week. Van seemed quite pleased that Billy told him he thought he was funny. Indeed!

It is to be hoped that this show is a sign of things to come in 2014 with Van delivering more of his lesser played and classic material to give us further shows of this quality.

-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Celtic Swing
Close Enough for Jazz
Rough God Goes Riding
Back on Top
Queen of the Slipstream
So Quiet In Here
Choppin Wood
Keep It Simple
Green Mansions
I Get a Kick Outta You
Georgia
Enlightenment
Whenever God Shines His Light
Sometimes We Cry
Bulbs
All in the Game/This Is It/No Plan B- No Safety Net/Burnin Ground/When Heart is Open

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

21-January-2014
Culloden Estate & Spa

 Belfast, Northern Ireland


Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Celtic Swing
Higher Than the World
Enlightenment
Rough God Goes Riding
Start All Over Again
Back On Top
Days Like This
Precious Time
Playhouse
Sometimes We Cry
Whenever God Shines His Light
Who Can I Turn To
Old Black Magic
All In The Game/When Heart Is Open/You Gotta Change
Help Me
In The Garden

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Jeff Lardner (Drums)
Bobby Ruggiero (Percussion)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

I Got My Name Up In Lights

John Prine: Prine says he "loves the music of Van Morrison," adding: "Van is also someone I consider one of the greats of songwriting. I can remember having lunch with him in Florida and we had such a good, long interesting talk about music. He's a huge fan of the music I love, too — country and blues."

Jason Segel: Segel said he was a huge fan of Irish musician Van Morrison and said Astral Weeks was his “favourite album of all time” which is why many songs feature in his new movie.


Christy Moore: At the moment, I'm very into country music - Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Last year, I was very into Elvis Costello. I always come back to Van Morrison - everything that he does, I get it and listen to it. But I don't listen to that much music, really. I spend too much time workin' on my own music, really. I tend to listen as a singer rather than a listener, as such.



Warren Haynes: On a recent evening, Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes sat back and listened to Van Morrison's sweeping, improvisational gem Astral Weeks. While the frequent Allman Brothers Band and Dead contributor had cherished this iconic album for several decades, on this particular occasion, the 51-year-old devoured it with renewed awe. "It was a totally different listening experience," Haynes says of hearing the vinyl edition of the 1968 LP for the first time in years. "I had been listing to the CD for the past 25 years or more," he says, "but the difference (in sound) with vinyl is tremendous."

Nick Lowe: I think that’s probably the product of the Van Morrison obsession we had at the time. We were great fans of his first few records. Up to Tupelo Honey, I suppose. We loved those records. Moondance.

Dion Dimucci: I love hanging with 'The Man'... (a good friend) we got the same roots... it's all about the music!

Ian Rankin: 1989. I'd been living in London for three years. Unemployed at first, then eventually answering an ad in the Guardian to become a hi-fi journalist. But London was getting to me, as was my continuing lack of success as a novelist. I started having panic attacks and a doctor told me to get out of town. I grabbed some clothes, my Walkman and a bunch of tapes that had just arrived from Polydor Records. They were reissuing Van Morrison's back catalogue. I had never really given the guy a fair listen. I ended up in Scarborough. It was autumn and the town was blustery, near-empty. I did a lot of walking on the beach, clambering over the rocks with headphones on, listening to Hard Nose the Highway. Music as therapy. That voice, the poetry of the lyrics, the arrangements. It all seemed to make sense, and I felt myself unknotting. When times are bad, I still play Hard Nose. I have it on CD, vinyl, and on my MP3 player. Plus, I still have the tape. It's going in my coffin with me.

Marc Cohn: Q:The greatest album, ever?

Cohn:  ..."The Birth of Soul" by Ray Charles. Or Al Green's "Greatest Hits." Or "Moondance" by Van Morrison. Or "Night Beat" by Sam Cooke. Or "Paradise and Lunch" by Ry Cooder. Or "Sticky Fingers," "Pet Sounds," "Harvest," "Born to Run," "The Band," "There Goes Rhymin' Simon," "Revolver," "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," "Court and Spark," "JT," "I Never Loved A Man," "Sail Away," and "Fulfillingness' First Finale." All of them are the best album, ever.

John Hiatt: EXPRESS: It doesn't sound like you're near death or anything. In fact, as the album title makes clear, there are still a lot of new possibilities in these songs.

HIATT: There you go. That's good. I ain't dying. I'm alive. Barely. But that being said, some of these old guys are doing their best work ever. I'm thinking of people like Van Morrison or Bob Dylan. These guys are writing and singing some of their best stuff. They're older than me, so it gives me something to look forward to.
 

Paddy Moloney: Of all our collaborations, I've enjoyed most Van Morrison. He's chaotic and has a reputation for being difficult. It's the Irish in him. But he's a genius. We have all the falling-outs you hear about. But to me he's still the best.


Kristen Stewart: I never had any idols. I do cry at concerts if it's great, I once cried horribly at a Van Morrison concert. That was kind of an obsession.

Leonard Cohen: Cohen said not much has changed on his playlist in recent years and rattled off a list of his favorite artists with long breathy pauses between names: "The same people — Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins."
 

Mark Green (Mick's Son): I also went with him (Mick Green) to stay with Van Morrison in his barn in Bath when they were recording an album together. He was a great guy and got on very well with my dad — who was really cool.
 
Simon Mayo: In 1989, he (Van) launched his new album, Avalon Sunset, with a live gig at Ronnie Scott's in London. The fortunate hundred or so gathered outside the club full of anticipation. We were all milling around waiting for the security types to let us in when a shambling tramp of a man in a mac (you're ahead of me), possessions in a plastic Comet carrier bag, wandered to the front of the queue and tried to get in.

The bouncers were having none of it. And so it was that Van Morrison was turned away from his own album launch. That's why, two hours later, the fortunate hundred were sitting around their tables in Ronnie Scott's jazz club while Van was still being talked into doing his own gig. Which eventually he did.

And it was one of the greatest concerts I have ever witnessed.

 

Ray Benson: WCP: Van Morrison helped the Wheel with its first record deal by mentioning you in a Rolling Stone interview—have you ever been able to return the favor?

RB: Yes, in fact when Van did his country record he borrowed my fiddle player and steel guitar player, and took them on the road. Van and I talked two years ago when he came and visited me in Austin about me producing an album for him but he’s still got a lot on his plate.

Ben Chasny: How did you come up with the concept of Six Organs? What initially inspired you to create the compositions you create under the Six Organs name?
One night I stayed up until dawn playing three records in a cycle: The Dead C’s Harsh 70’s Reality, Bob Bannister’s 8 Day Clock and Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece. The original inspiration came from that night.
What was it about those three records, specifically?
As for Veedon Fleece, that record has always been my favorite. It has a great rural vibe to it. I had read that Van recorded it while driving though the Irish countryside after a divorce.

How did Veedon Fleece come into play? How do you rank Veedon in the Van catalog?

That record and Astral Weeks often trade places in my mind as favorites. Side Two of Saint Dominic’s Preview is right up there as well. There’s also a part on the live record, It’s Too Late To Stop Now, where someone in the audience calls out “Turn it on!” and Van replies, without hesitation, “It’s turned on already.” That might be my favorite moment on any live rock record. It’s a moment that can’t really be explained. You just have to hear it. Tougher than the Cro-Mags! Well, not really ...


Bill Nighy: I finished up our interview by asking him if he had a chance of another life what it would be: he told me he would be a piano player or play the guitar.

"And I'd like to sing too, if I could sing. I'd like to sing the blues like Van Morrison sings them. I think he is an absolute genius, without question. One of the few people you can in complete confidence use the word genius in the same sentence."

 

Eric Clapton: Q: How do you like young blues rock bands like The White Stripes or The
Black Keys?

EC: I think, they are okay. One probably can find out what I like by looking at the music in my Ipod. I have seen these bands, I respect them, I have nothing against them, but it does not move me. I am not so much interested in finding out more about the younger generation - I have never been that type. I always listened to the older types. Recently I had seen Van Morrison live and it was the bee's knees - it lifted me so high, for so long. If I listen to someone who I admire and he gives me that exaltation, then I want to keep on doing it myself.

 

Lady Bianca: Saxophone player Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis "suggested I sing for Van (Morrison)," Bianca recalled. "Of course, I had to do it my way. We still communicate to this day."

She sang - credited under her birth name of Bianca Thornton - on four Morrison albums between 1982-85.

She also was onstage when Morrison - the cantankerous, perfectionist bard of Belfast - recorded "Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl," the first full live performance of his landmark 1968 album. It was released this year on CD and DVD.

"It was fun," she said when asked about the 63-year-old Irishman's moodiness and exacting standards. "He's a great entertainer. That's what makes him him. He's so cute. If he wasn't like that, he wouldn't be Van Morrison."

Mike Farris:
...when I was a kid, I really loved Van Morrison. I loved the way Van Morrison’s songs would paint these pictures and I would always go, ‘This guy must be on a spiritual journey’. Whether he is or not, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met the guy. But that’s the way it appeared to me, that’s what I got out of it.
 

Zakir Hussain: Hussain has always been interested in expanding the sound world of the tabla, often through collaboration with musicians from a range of musical genres. In the 1970s, one of his neighbours in the Californian town of San Geronimo was none other than Van Morrison.

“He would come and hang out in the living room and just see what we were doing,” Hussain recalls. Inevitably they ended up working together. “He’s such an incredible musician. I mean, when we went into the recording studio to play, he wasn’t, like, ‘Okay, you guys please put down the bass and the drums and the piano and stuff, and then I’ll come in and sing my part over it later’. He actually sat in there in the studio with all of us and belted out song after song, exactly the way he would have done it on the stage. It really put that energy out there for us to be inspired from and work with.”

WORTHWHILE MUSICAL collaboration, Hussain insists, is always marked by this exchange of energy. “You know how it is when you play with a musician you’ve never played with before,” he says. “You adjust your playing to find a way to be able to interact with them – and in doing so, you find something different about your instrument that you had not done or seen before. So playing with Van or John McLaughlin or Mickey Hart or anybody like that, I learned that there were other shades in my instrument that I had not yet experienced and should look into.

“Even in Indian music, when you play with different musicians and instruments you learn how to react to each one. Because it’s not just the music alone. It’s also the temperament of the artist that you have to work with. So you learn how to exist on stage and help create something positive.”

 

Graham Parker: The release of Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire in the mid-1970s helped focus his songwriting and move beyond the simple pop format.

”Bob Marley’s ‘Catch a Fire’ had come out in ‘73 or ‘74 and that made me realize that this was the future of music,” he says. ”What Bob Marley was doing — he was writing pop songs as good as Elton John was, but much hipper and, obviously, the guy had the rebel element... so that deeply influenced my music.”
At the same time, Mr. Parker had returned to his soul and R&B roots after several years of listening to British psychedilia (Cream, Jack Bruce’s solo work) and blues (Peter Green’s incarnation of Fleetwood Mac), while also discovering Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

Mr. Parker had been familiar with Them, Mr. Morrison’s early band, “from the pop charts in the ‘60s, but it wasn’t influential until I got into ‘Astral Weeks’ and then went back to his other albums like ‘Tupelo Honey.’” As for Bob Dylan, he says he was “too obsessed with soul music,” the Beatles and the Stones as a kid to give him much of a listen.

”So, I was starting to write these good songs and when I got influenced by Van Morrison, it all came together,” he says.

But no one should confuse influence with imitation. He is not Van Morrison or Bob Marley or any of the other musicians he grew up listening to. He is not a soul singer, a reggae artist or a roots rocker. Or, maybe, he is all of the above and has been for the 30-plus years he has been recording and performing rock ‘n’ roll.

”All those forms of music have been there” in his music, he says. “And I would say that every one of them is on my first album and every single thing I’ve done since is on my first album in a way.”

 

Ralph Salmis: Mike: What have been your most memorable gigs?
Definitely the Van Morrison band was the most educational gig that I have done because they are not reading gigs so I have had to work on my memory skills a lot

(Mike: He has a reputation for not being very nice to drummers)

Ralph: yes he does! We did the Montreaux jazz festival and he shouted at me in the middle of a ballad but if your giving your best there is nothing more you can do, but he has the good of the music at heart, working with him is one of the best musical experiences that I have had... I did a track on the Tom Jones reload album with Van that
I really enjoyed it was great just to watch them working together...

 

Jimmy Fallon: Can you talk about your first guest lining up De Niro, Van Morrison?
Jimmy Fallon: (snip) Van Morrison I just lucked out because he's in the city; he's performing the full album of Astral Weeks. And if you're audiophile or if you love any music you know that that's a phenomenal record. But I'm also - grew up an Irish kid and, you know, he comes on your iPod in your brain when you're born. He's just like - he's one of my favorites of all times. So the fact that he was in town is just pure luck. And I think Astral Weeks is a phenomenal record so it's a double whammy on that one.
Has Van Morrison actually seen your impersonation of him? Do you know what he thinks of it?

Jimmy Fallon:
I can almost guarantee you he has no idea who I am. I could almost guarantee that to you. But, yeah, I don't even know if I'm going to show it to him, I don't know. I don't know that guy at all. I was just psyched just to book him. I don't know if I want to, you know, piss him off before he comes on the show. But, yeah, I respect him, I love him and I could sing any song backup if he needs me.
 

CiarĂ¡n Hinds: What song would feature on the soundtrack to your life?

And It Stoned Me by Van Morrison. It's about knowing that when the rain comes, you should just revel in it. Sometime you will dry out, and the light will come back in.
Tom Sturridge: What's everyone's music taste?

Van Morrison is probably the most important person to me in the world. I can't really go a day without... I've already listened to about four Van Morrison songs this morning.
 

Gordon Lightfoot: Who are some of his favorite singer/songwriters?

Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Goodman, Bryan Adams, James Taylor, Van Morrison, Harry Chapin, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.
 

Paddy Moloney: Of all our collaborations, I've enjoyed most Van Morrison. He's chaotic and has a reputation for being difficult. It's the Irish in him. But he's a genius. We have all the falling-outs you hear about. But to me he's still the best.
 

Ben Sidran: What’s Van Morrison like to collaborate with in the studio?

He’s exactly as he appears to be onstage. He never does anything the same way twice. Everything put down in the studio is done live, so whatever you play will likely end up on the finished record.
 

Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumkins): “You no longer have [institutions] to tell you what has more value," he said. "Growing up, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Van Morrison, but I knew Van Morrison was an important artist just by the way he was talked about, by the way he was portrayed, by the way he was photographed. You don’t get that any more.
 

Robert Pattinson: Fandango: If you had a chance to collaborate with any music artist, who would it be?

I saw Van Morrison last night at the Hollywood Bowl. I've seen him five times before and he really pulled it out of the bag. He played like it was 30 years ago. I would love to do something with him now. He was my inspiration for doing music in the first place. Yes, he's still got it. He played the entirety of his album Astral Weeks. The whole thing was unbelievable. He was just as free as he was when he was younger, which was amazing.
 

Ken Bruen: Ken Bruen’s November 2008 Playlist

9) Philosopher’s Stone, Van Morrison. The aching in every line is bittersweet belief. Makes me want to rewrite my thesis for my doctorate.

 

Robert Pattinson: Interviewer: Tamara asked what is your favorite rock band?

Rob: I really like Van Morrison
 

Steve Van Zandt: “You accept Van Morrison as a native son right?’ he says.

“‘Gloria’ has become the co-national anthem of garage rock along with ‘Louie Louie’. As obstreperous as he can be, in spite of himself, he’s become quite a hero. I consider Them the archetype garage band actually, there’s been some controversy about who played on the record, but we tend to ignore those things. And he hasn’t been very helpful in that regard!”


Was Van much of an influence on the E Street Band in the early days?

“As a solo artist? Yeah, when I first knew Bruce we were listening to Astral Weeks and things like that. It became an early influence that would surface from time to time, it was one of those things that stayed quite deep in the DNA. At first it was the garage thing, and then he had a certain sort of singer-songwriter poetry sort of impact, and then he had a very significant R&B impact. So he had a very significant influence in at least three areas, and that remains I think with Bruce to this day.”

 

Eric Alterman: Eric Alterman’s October 2008 Playlist:

1) Comfortably Numb, Van Morrison with the Band. Like a coma, but in a good way … Pink Floyd’s version of this great song is hypnotic. Van Morrison can be hypnotic as well, but in a completely different way. Come to think of it, so can the Band. Roger Waters’ live version of “The Wall is mostly a disaster but this song has my permission to go on forever. Make sure you listen to that version, and not the truncated one that Marty Scorsese used for “The Departed” and Van put on his movie collection.
 

Richard Gere: Richard, besides going Paddy for The Jackal back in '97, you have been known to make Van Morrison laugh -- just wanted to say, the good people of Ireland have never actually seen that phenomenon, so thank you.

RG: Pleasure.

DL: Is that true, or just a rumour? He laughed?

RG: I played with him several times, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had in my life.

DL: That sounds great.

And what does Van Morrison look like when he's smiling?

RG: He gets taller. He gets a lot taller.

 

John Anderson (ESPN): What is your favorite kind of music genre and band?
Of the 1000 songs I have on my I-Pod 847 of them are by Van Morrison.

Foy Vance: You have been compared to Van Morrison, how does that feel? Good, I guess. Early Van Morrison is wonderful - he's a living legend. He has given so much to music in general, on the world scene as well as putting Belfast on the map.


Tim Russert: Favorite musicians: Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen. Every song, every album. My taste hasn’t changed in 25 years, and when I’m preparing for Meet the Press, that music is playing in the background.



Miriam O'Callaghan: Her dream interview would be with musician Van Morrison."I prefer to concentrate on homegrown people and I have a great passion for Van Morrison's music, so he would definitely top my wish-list," she admitted.

"I think he's a really talented musician and a very interesting person -- so I'd love to get him on the show and get to find out what makes him tick.""I know a lot of people say that he's grumpy, but I'd love to have a chat with him and get behind that exterior.

"Even if he came on just to play a song, I'd be very happy."But ever the realist, Miriam conceded: "To be honest, I think it's very unlikely
."


Rebecca Walker (Author): Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison. I heard this in the movie “Immediate Family” in 1989. I was 22 and in love. I ran to the now closed Tower Records on Broadway to buy the CD, which ushered in a long Van Morrison period in my life. This song about a man at sea returning to his love makes me weep.


Hal Ketchum: He said he was most influenced by Van Morrison, the Irish singer who delves into rock, soul, blues, R&B, jazz, gospel and country.

“Van is so open-minded about his music,” Ketchum said. “He lets it come to him. He’s a consummate singer, a great player, and he puts great bands together. He was a major influence in my life.”


Laura Dave (author): What is better than Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks?”

My favorite track from this 1968 album makes a prominent appearance in “The Divorce Party.” (It comes toward the end of the book, so I’ll keep which song a secret.) I’ve also been listening to the title song a lot lately. It is quirky, original, and sweetly hopeful. And it speeds up, just in time, to find its near-perfect rhythm. It feels like spring to me.


Jaymay: The greatest album, ever?Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. I listened to it for a year non-stop. It’s like one long song or a long dream or a long trip on a train through Italy in the rain.


Larry Kirwan: In your opinion, is there one album that defines rock and roll?

LARRY: No. But my own favorite album continues to be "Astral Weeks" by Van Morrison, even though, for a reason, I can no longer listen to it.


Kim CattRall: I love listening to anything by the Beatles in the summer," says the Sex and the City star. "Van Morrison is a favorite, too – I love 'Brown Eyed Girl!'


Johnny Depp: I remember listening to Frampton Comes Alive! too much. My brother's ten years older than me.

He grabbed the needle off the album and there was this horrific noise — wrrrraarrrar. He said, "Listen, man, you're killing me. Try this." And he put on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. And it stirred me. I'd never heard anything like it. I said, "OK, maybe Frampton Comes Alive! is a little tired."


Dan Fogelberg: Is it true you were a sideman for Van Morrison in your early career?

No, that's not the truth. I never worked for Van Morrison. I did however, open several concerts for Van and his band in 1971. My manager at the time, Irving Azoff was working for a booking agency that booked Van Morrison, so he sent me out with my guitar to open his shows solo. Generally it was me, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and thenVan and his band. Strange show, but somehow it seemed to work.


David Gray: "My heroes are people like Van Morrison, John Martyn and Nick Drake, and there are some of my songs where these influences are fairly apparent."

Ray Charles: "They asked me to come to New York to help celebrate Van's induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I went because I see Van as one of the cats that has kept the faith. Like me, he's always himself—he stays true to the music that means the most to him. It meant a lot to sing `Crazy Love' on stage with Van that evening. That's what you hear at the end of Genius Loves Company, me and Van live."'


Maura O'Connell: Deserted-island discs

1. Poetic Champions Compose, Van Morrison.

This was the first Vanalbum that I felt connected to. I was about 19, so it came out duringa seminal time in my life.


Ronan Keating: What do you listen to these days?

RK: I've been listening to a lot of Van Morrison – both old and new.He's got an awesome voice, and it's amazing how he's never faded withage. Of the newer bands, I like Train and Coldplay.


Tom Jones: "If you're doing something Van understands and likes, he's great,"Jones says. "And if the musicians are playing the way he wants them to play, he's great. But if there's a fly in the ointment he justwalks away. He didn't like the drummer on the session so he said, 'I want you to change places with the percussionist.'

So the drummer changed places with the percussionist and the percussionist played drums, and Van didn't like him either. Instead of trying to explain to these drummers what he did want, he walked out of the studio."Jones continues, "I said to the guy that handles him, 'What now? What are we going to do now?' He said, 'Van doesn't like these drummers,so we have to send to London for a drummer he knows and then we'll have another go at it.'

The session was at Van's studio in Bath, so we had to wait about four or five hours to get this drummer from London. But once Van heard him play and it gelled, he was good as gold."

"The collaborations were just incredible. I went to Van and he wastotally for it as long as we did it on one of his songs ['SometimesWe Cry'], which was totally fine by me. Just to sing with him, what a thrill."


Terry George: Tongue in cheek, George recounted how he has finally become famous in his homeland. Last February, along with another Belfast boy, Van Morrison, George was honored at the second annual “Oscar Wilde: Honoring Irish Writing in Film” event in Los Angeles.

“I was shocked that Van showed up because he’s notoriously shy, and he had a 12-piece band with him and proceeded to blow the hall away.” George recalled. “Word gets around back home and I’m hearing from my mother and brother and others back in Ireland telling me, ‘Terry, you’ve made it - you were on stage with Van Morrison!’”


Pete Doherty: ...launching into his very best Kate Moss impression, 'She was like "You know what actually I don't think that goes there very well, and that line doesn't work and na na na".

"So I'd just keep the peace really", he continued, "You just change the odd line, take suggestions. I think she was listening to a lot of Van Morrison at the time, that song 'The Way Young Lovers Do' and something about Utah and a pair of red shows. So yeah, that's her contribution."

It seems however that Doherty's memory of that period of time may just be a tiny bit hazy as it's Van Morrison's 'Astrals Track' which references red shoes, and 'Natalia' which contains the lyrics 'You Talk'
.


John Bell (Widespread Panic): THE EAR: Who are your musical influences? What are your favorite albums or CDs?

BELL: At home, I listen to the whole Van Morrison catalog. I always have my ear peeled for new Van Morrison stuff that comes out. He’s so prolific; he puts out a new album every six months so. I feel lucky to get to be a fan and not be picking his songs apart for song structure, a pitfall that comes with being a musician.I’ve never seen Van Morrison live, but at the end of our last tour, we missed him by one day when he played Atlanta. If it had been a day earlier, I’d have been there.


Jenna Bush: She (Laura Bush) loves music. My dad (President Bush) does, too. And Van Morrison, I mean, they both love Van Morrison.

Nick Lowe: What's amazing, he says, is "I always think that that song (Peace, Love & Understanding) was the first actual original idea that I had. Up till then, I'd been figuring out how to write songs, and, really, I was still rewriting the Band's tunes or Van Morrison's tunes, whoever I thought was really good back then, because that's how anybody starts: You copy the people you admire."

Glen Hansard: Hansard told me they shot the entire film ("Once") in 17 days, and in it he played street versions of several Van Morrison songs. Hansard had met and chatted with Morrison in the past (pictured below), and didn’t feel he’d have a hard time getting permission to use them.

But when he called Morrison’s people to ask for permission, he got a one word answer: No!“But does he know it’s for me, Glen Hansard? The one he chatted with? The one from The Frames?” Hansard pleaded. “Yes, he knows exactly who you are,” the assistant replied. “He knows all that, and he still says no, even though you probably already shot them, didn’t you?”Hansard was crestfallen.

They had indeed already shot the scenes with Morrison’s songs, and there was no money or time to reshoot. His only option was to call back again and beg.After several minutes of groveling, Morrison himself got on the phone. “Of course you can use the songs!” he said. He was just toying with Hansard.

Interestingly enough, those songs didn’t make it into the film’s final cut.But a soulful version of "Into the Mystic" did make it into the concert Hansard and Irglova (pictured above) played for us last night at the Landmark.


Brian Kennedy: Kennedy began his music career combining work as a solo artist with a five-year stint backing another Belfast boy, Van Morrison, in the 1990s.

It was through that association that he first became acquainted with Best, the '60s star of Manchester United and one of the greatest soccer players of all time."I knew him a little bit because any time I played Manchester with Van, George would show up," he says.

"There were a couple of occasions when me and Van and George would end up having a drink together at the hotel. Being around that and listening to these two legends, who were roughly the same age and both from east Belfast ... that was a great privilege, just to sit there and listen to them."
 

Bap Kennedy: "I've known Van since he took an interest in my first band, EnergyOrchard, in the late 1980s," he explains."Being fellow Belfast lads, we got talking and he said 'Do you fancy writing a song together?'"

Needless to say, I said yes, so we got the acoustic guitars out,threw a lot of lines at each other and, 20 minutes later, there was the song. "Wasn't it a bit scary working with one of your heroes though?"Not at all," he says, laughing at the memory. "Basically, we were just two guys sitting together writing a song."


Julia Stiles: "When I was little, every Sunday my mom would play St. Dominics Preview while cleaning the house... it had a great album cover of a blue church & Van sitting in front of it... I stole the record from her and put it on my wall.Recently I bought the cd and can't stop listening to it.

My favorite track is Redwood Tree St. Dominics Preview while cleaning the house... it had a great album cover of a blue church & Van sitting in front of it... I stole the record from her and put it on my wall.Recently I bought the cd and can't stop listening to it. My favorite track is Redwood Tree St. Dominics Preview while cleaning the house... it had a great album cover of a blue church & Van sitting in front of it... I stole the record from her and put it on my wall.Recently I bought the cd and can't stop listening to it. My favorite track is Redwood Tree with the line "Oh Redwood Tree, please let us under..." - very comforting."


Eric Clapton: "Q: Did you enjoy “The Last Waltz” [the Band’s farewell concert in 1976, in which Clapton, Bob Dylan and a host of greats performed]?

A: I did, yeah. A fantastic event. I loved it... For me, Muddy [Waters] and Van [Morrison] steal the show. Van doing [“Caravan”] with the leg kicks. Some of the greatest live music you’ll ever see
.
 

Sinead O'Connor: "'Beside You' is Morrison talking to his girlfriend, but you wouldn't realise that until the end. There are many versions of this song but the TB Sheets version is my personal favourite.

It's typical of his style lyrically, a stream of consciousness. He's a great storyteller - this one starts with: "Little Jimmy's gone way out of the backstreet, out of the window through the fallin' rain", and it soon becomes very hypnotic. Really, he's telling her that a million things might happen and a long time might pass but he'll always be there beside her.

The line I never forget is: "The dynamo of your smile reflects the barefoot virgin child." I never heard Van until I was 18 and I'd moved to London and this guy from a record company gave me his records. The thing I like about his early stuff is that they only have two chords, but you wouldn't know it because of how he plays and his voice
.
 

Dr. John ('77): With Van, I just think he’s a hell of a singer. He’s an amazing singer considering he’s from Ireland and all of this, that he sounds like he’s from West Memphis, Arkansas or something. I think the cat is phenomenal!He’ll do some more classic records I’m sure in his time. He’s gonna have plenty, plenty product that’ll be fantastic.
 
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell: Mayor of Nashville Bill Purcell recently made local music legend Van Morrison an honorary citizen of the American city. During a visit to Belfast last week he told how Morrison was " appreciative" of the accolade, but not exactly "chatty"!

"I found him communicative, appreciative and very pleased to be in Nashville," said Mr Purcell."But chatty would not describe Van Morrison," he joked.


Tim Finn: “We maybe do one or two of our own, but we’ll mostly do The Beatles or songs like ‘Wild Thing.’

We do a Van Morrison song called ‘The Irish Heart Beat,’ which we sang at our mother’s funeral. That’s getting to be a popular request.


Marty Whelan (RTE TV): Whelan had to find all the strength he could when his dear old dad died on August 11, 1998. "I miss him terribly," he tells me. When his father died, Marty played the Enlightenment album by Van Morrison (another only child) all day and night to help him get through it. He always took solace in Morrison's music and quiet contemplation.

He even recited See Me Through as a verse by Van Morrison at his dad's funeral...Ten days after his dad's funeral, Marty was presenting the Rose Of Tralee - and Van was a guest on the show. The singer came back to the hospitality room and Marty says he thinks he "bored" Van for an hour.

They sat and talked about being only children."It was one of the most special meetings that I ever had with anybody. I have never forgotten it. I am a respecter of his enormous ability to make me feel a whole range of emotions.

I told him about how his music had got me through the death of my father."Marty reflects for a moment. "The interesting thing Van said at the end of the conversation was [adopts gruff Van voice]: 'You're not a bit like I thought you'd be.
'"


Brian Williams (NBC News): To fellow Sopranos fans:

I don't know what's left to say, but I'm not going to give up that easily: how about "Comfortably Numb?" That version with Van Morrison from The Departed soundtrack is, as a friend of mine put it, "Like being in Church." It's a transforming song -- perhaps among the top three Van Morrison recordings of all time.