Slieve Donard Hotel
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Brendan Hynes sent in his thoughts on night 2 at Slieve Donard
As on the previous night, the second concert by Van Morrison at this venue started well ahead of the scheduled start time but on this occasion as the band took to the stage we had the added bonus of seeing Irish broadcaster and game-show host Marty Whelan leap onto the stage to lead the audience in a rendition of Happy Birthday specially for Van. At this point I almost anticipated Van being carried shoulder high through the audience onto the stage but alas it didn’t materialise. Celtic Swing and Close Enough For Jazz gave the show itself a pretty predictable opening before By His Grace got proceedings properly under way. Wild Honey got a rare but welcome airing but suffered somewhat from an apparent breakdown in communications where Dana Masters stopped singing a verse as if she was expecting an instrumental solo but it didn’t materialise which resulted in the band just playing but no one singing. Playhouse got another airing to great acclaim with Dave Keary and Paul Moran excelling with guitar and organ solos respectively. Mystic of the East which followed was the highlight of the night for me with Van playing guitar and singing and humming over it as only he can do. Magical!.
The lively Guitar Slim number Things I Used To Do was followed by Van telling us he had a request which turned out to be Who Can I Turn To? (featuring a great Paul Moran trumpet solo) but not before a fan had shouted out looking for Not Supposed To Breakdown from the Philosopher’s Stone album. Van explained that they didn’t perform that song and hadn’t rehearsed it but encouragingly he did say ‘next time’ which would be a great treat as it is another neglected musical gem from his incredible repertoire that I would love to hear live.
Moondance was notable for a great piano solo by Paul Moran(one more time) and was quickly followed by another eminently forgettable version of Brown Eyed Girl.An outstanding Carrying A Torch was followed by a really good Cleaning Windows which saw the gentleman from the previous night reprise his John Travolta dancing role to great acclaim. The absence of the brass section was, however, particularly noticeable on this song and they would undoubtedly have enhanced it further but it nevertheless went down a storm and received a standing ovation from many of the audience .Days Like This and Precious Time rather surprisingly were played again tonight and were followed by an absolutely blistering version of Think Twice Before You Go with Van and the band perfectly synchronised and earning another standing ovation.Whenever God Shines His Light and Baby Please Don’t go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now kept the tempo up and got a great reaction yet again.
At this point Van told us he was going to slow things down and he embarked on It’s All In the Game.Van referenced Jimmy Witherspoon as having also recorded the song and told us that he had been an artist who used to engage in the old blues tradition of ‘testifying’.Van did some ‘testifying’ himself at this point to the extent that he didn’t get to bring us to the burning ground and the song delivery came nowhere near the heights reached the previous night.After departing the stage, Van returned for a brisk rendition of Gloria before leaving the band to bring proceedings to a close which they did to great effect, especially Dana doing some wonderful chanting over the music.
The set time was 1 h 38 m and while there were a number of outstanding moments I didn’t feel the concert matched the previous night’s quality.
Happy Birthday (sung from the audience)
Close Enough For Jazz
By His Grace
Mystic of the East
Things I Used To Do
Who Can I Turn To
Brown Eyed Girl
Carrying a Torch
Days Like This
Think Twice Before You Go
Whenever God Shines His Light
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm
Cry Cry Baby
All in the Game