Tuesday, November 29, 2016

28-November-2016
Royal Concert Hall

 Nottingham, England

Nottingham Post

Van Morrison was knighted by Prince Charles this year. At 71, he's still a genuine one-off, a musical giant who has influenced countless lesser talents, many of whom have gone on to achieve far greater fortune and fame, with his intoxicatingly original blend of soul, jazz, spirituality and Celtic mysticism.

On stage in Nottingham, he wasn't trying to charm us. Evidently suffering from a bit of a cold, he kept attacking a large box of paper tissues and drinking glasses of water and cups of what looked like throat medicine. Smartly dressed in suit, hat and shades, he barely spoke to the sold-out audience, and gave only the briefest gruff instructions to his razor-sharp six-piece band.

But it didn't matter. Despite the sniffles, his voice soared as he tore through a setlist crammed with classics, played with astonishing delicacy, taste and - just when you didn't expect it - explosions of primal power.

Although some of the eccentricity is doubtless explained by his legendary stage fright, he still seems remarkably uncomfortable on stage. Time and again, in mid-song, he turned to his setlist or some other item on the pile of paperwork behind him, only to magically turn to the microphone and tear into the next verse at exactly the right moment.

He began with two songs from latest album Keep Me Singing, his 36th. It's a lovely record, and one which shows his total disregard for anything approaching musical fashion. The man who's performed with Bob Dylan and Dr John also had a hit single with Cliff Richard, remember, and the new album features backing vocals from Lance Ellington, who regularly sings with the band on Strictly Come Dancing.

After kicking off with latest single Too Late, he pulled out Every Time I See A River, a new song co-written with 78-year-old West End lyricist Don Black, who also wrote the words for Born Free and Diamonds Are Forever. The result is 100 percent Sir Van, though. It was great.

With a back catalogue totalling hundreds of songs, it's always a question of what he's going to leave out. But there were plenty of gems for the hardcore fan - a raging Tore Down A La Rimbaud, a masterful Beautiful Vision, a soulful Crazy Love - and plenty of hits for the rest, including beautiful versions of Someone Like You and Sometimes We Cry, and even a surprisingly powerful rendition of his Cliff co-hit Whenever God Shines His Light.

The only letdown was Have I Told You Lately, on which the melody was thrown away by the over-hasty tempo of an ill-advised new arrangement.

As he raced towards the end, we got Moondance, Brown-Eyed Girl and a spectacular No Guru, No Method, No Teacher which he was still singing as he walked off, bringing the house down.

Moments later he was back for an explosive Gloria, which brought the oldest audience I've ever seen at a concert to its feet before he raced off for the final time, unleashing his band to hammer home several minutes of instrumental virtuosity before lights-out and home. Champion.
-Sean Hewitt

Setlist (Thanks Pamela)
Too Late
Every Time I See A River
Higher Than The World
Have I Told You Lately
Someone Like You
Carrying A Torch
Moondance/ My Funny Valentine
Baby Please Don't Go / Don't Start Cryin' Now / Gimme Some Lovin / Here Comes The Night
Whenever God Shines His Light
Wild Night
Beautiful Vision
Tore Down a la Rimbaud
Sometimes We Cry
Precious Time
I Can't Stop Loving You
Crazy Love
Full Force Gale
Enlightenment
Brown Eyed Girl
In The Garden
Gloria

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

14-November-2016
Festival Hall

 Glasgow, Scotland


Brendan Hynes sent in this review
In keeping with the precedent set the previous night in Edinburgh Van Morrison varied the set list once again with seven different songs included on this occasion. The first of these was the pleasant instrumental Caledonian Swing from the new album while Memory Lane from the album was later performed and was really impressive. The Beauty of The Days Gone By saw Van on acoustic guitar and it seemed to catch the band by surprise as Van started more or less unaccompanied before turning around to see if the band were going to join in which thankfully they did with Paul Moran adding a fine extended trumpet solo to the rendition. A rare and most welcome Domino followed and Van and Paul Moran manfully added some brass sounds which are pretty integral to this song but they were obviously restricted to doing so only when Van wasn’t singing and Paul was not playing keyboards. Mose Allison’s Benediction (Thank God For Self Love ) was a rather poignant inclusion in the set given that his death was announced the following day and the reason for the exclusion of the Parchman Farm(a song long associated with Mose) comedy routine after Baby Please Don’t Go now seems apparent. In The Garden was the final set list change from the previous night but was once again quite a shortened version so Van didn’t really get too immersed in it but it was beautiful nevertheless while it lasted and he departed into the wings at its ending only to return once more for Gloria which saw the band cut loose once again to great acclaim.

Highlights among the remainder of the concert included Someone Like You, Tore Down A La Rimbaud and Beautiful Vision once more, the magnificent Haunts of Ancient Peace (which ventured into Summertime in England territory down by Avalon with even Mr. Lawrence getting a mention along the way) and The Mystery which was wonderful once again but was somewhat blighted towards its conclusion as Van attempted a harmonica solo only to find the first harmonica he tried to be out of tune so he promptly flung it back down. The second one Van tried was even worse and suffered the same fate while the third one didn’t sound much better but he persevered as we all kept our heads down and prayed(to The One of course).

While not quite reaching the heady heights of the previous night’s Edinburgh concert with Van appearing somewhat subdued this was nevertheless another really good show which was loudly acknowledged by a captive audience at its conclusion.

-Brendan Hynes

Set List
Caledonian Swing
Sack of Woe
Back On Top
Too Late
Memory Lane
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword
Have I Told You Lately (fast version)
Beautiful Vision
The Mystery
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Haunts of Ancient Peace/excerpts from Summertime in England
The Beauty of the Days Gone By
Domino
Carrying a Torch
Lonely Avenue
Benediction (Thank God For Self Love)
Moondance
Someone Like You
Brown Eyed Girl
Baby Please Don’t Go/Don’t Start Crying Now
In The Garden
Gloria

Big Hand For The Band!

Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Mez Clough (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)
Set Time 1h 40m.

Monday, November 14, 2016

13-November-2016
Edinburgh Playhouse

 Edinburgh, Scotland


Brendan Hynes checks in with this review
From the outset of Van's latest show on this mini UK tour it was obvious that he had decided to shake things up a bit as he opened with Sack Of Woe followed by Back On Top which featured nice guitar and piano solos from Dave Keary and Paul Moran respectively. Three songs from the new album followed in Too Late, Keep Me Singing, which featured Van on harmonica and was really nice, and finally The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword which Van certainly sang with great gusto. Beautiful Vision got another welcome airing with nice steel guitar from Dave Keary and lovely vocals from Dana Masters who got a deserved ovation. The fast version of Have I told You Lately which followed also featured Dana prominently before a relatively rare rendition of The Mystery which was quite wonderful. What followed was even better as Van wandered over to the piano(always a promising sign) for a beautiful Haunts of Ancient Peace (complete with some Common One references) which featured excellent steel guitar and trumpet solos from Dave Keary and Paul Moran respectively. Van remained at the piano for a reinvigorated Open The Door (To Your Heart) before he delivered a fine I Believe To My Soul featuring a great trumpet solo from Paul Moran. Tore Down A la Rimbaud was spectacular once more and was followed by a really good Carrying A Torch. Van strapped on the guitar for Why Must I Always Explain and performed some really nifty guitar sounds at the end of what was another highlight. It was then back into blues territory for a resounding Lonely Avenue with Dave Keary's great guitar solo being acknowledged by Van with a few "yeah" utterances. Moondance, Crazy Love and Cleaning Windows were all well delivered and received before another sublime version of Someone Like You which once again featured Dana on vocals to great effect. Brown Eyed Girl which followed was a small price to pay for the quality of show being enjoyed tonight. The opening notes of Celtic Excavation which followed prompted me to ensure my seatbelt was fastened in the sure knowledge that Van was about to transport us on a wonderful journey Into The Mystic which he duly did before exiting the stage still singing as the audience loudly shouted their approval. Van returned one more time for Gloria which has now become a vehicle for the band to showcase their impressive individual talents with extended solos once Van has departed. Dave Keary was first up with an even longer solo than heretofore followed by Paul Moran on trumpet, synth and organ, Paul Moore excelling once more with intricate bass, Mez Clough indulging the rockers in the audience with a long drum solo before finally Dana mesmerised us once more with her vocal/chanting contribution to bring the show to a close.

This was an outstanding performance by Van and his band which was rapturously enjoyed by the audience and was aided in no small measure by Van digging more deeply into his extensive and wonderful song catalogue than his been the case in most of his more recent shows.
-Brendan Hynes

Set List
Sack Of Woe
Back On Top
Too Late
Keep Me Singing
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
Beautiful Vision
Have I Told You Lately
The Mystery
Haunts Of Ancient Peace
Open The Door (To Your Heart)
I Believe To My Soul
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Carrying A Torch
Why Must I Always Explain
Lonely Avenue
Moondance
Crazy Love
Cleaning Windows
Someone Like You
Brown Eyed Girl
Celtic Excavation/Into The Mystic
Gloria

Big Hand For The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Mez Clough (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)


Set Time 1h 45m

Thursday, November 10, 2016

09-November-2016
Philharmonic Hall

 Liverpool, England


Brendan Hynes take on night 2
In contrast to the previous night’s show this one included six songs from the new album opening nicely with the instrumental Caledonian Swing and followed briskly by Too Late and Look Beyond The Hill. Going Down To Bangor raised the tempo considerably before the inclusion one more time of what is clearly a favourite of Van’s in Magic Time. Every Time I See A River got a welcome airing and was pretty impressive to be followed by the speeded up Have I Told You Lately which wasn’t. The sublime Someone Like You saw Dana Masters share some of the limelight with impressive shared vocals while Beautiful Vision was reprised once more and this time featured steel guitar from Dave Keary. Other notable inclusions in the set( which again drew fairly heavily on ‘the hits’) were a full throttle version of Think Twice Before You Go, another nice version of In The Midnight, an even more powerful Tore Down A La Rimbaud than the previous night’s one and a fine though again somewhat shortened In The Garden which drew some screams of delight from female members of the audience as the song commenced. As on the first night, Gloria closed proceedings with another terrific version more or less on a par with the previous night’s one and getting the same stamp of approval from the audience which were entirely on their feet by then.


Set List
Caledonian Swing
Too Late
Look Beyond The Hill
Going Down To Bangor
Magic Time
Every Time I See A River
Have I Told You Lately (fast version)
Someone Like You
Beautiful Vision
Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now
Think Twice Before You Go
In The Midnight
Cleaning Windows
Moondance
Sometimes We Cry
Precious Time
Share Your Love With Me
Jackie Wilson Said
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Brown Eyed Girl
In The Garden
Gloria

Big Hand For The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Mez Clough (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)

Set Time 1h 40m.

08-November-2016
Philharmonic Hall

 Liverpool, England


Brendan Hynes sent in this review
Van Morrison opened the first concert of his two night stint at this venue with Too Late from the new album followed in quick succession by Close Enough For Jazz and Look Beyond The Hill which is also on the new album. Rather surprisingly there were to be no more songs from the new album tonight with much of the rest of the show drawn largely from the ‘greatest hits roadshow’ as evidenced by the rather uninspired set list with Van’s more creative work largely unexplored. There were thankfully some exceptions however including the welcome inclusion of Beautiful Vision which featured a great guitar solo from Dave Keary and beautiful backing vocals from Dana Masters. Tore Down A La Rimbaud was terrific and featured great organ playing by Paul Moran.In The Midnight again featured Dana on vocals while Dave Keary played some nice steel guitar and contributed his seemingly impossibly high vocal range towards the song’s ending all of which drew an acknowledgement from Van by way of an outstretched arm. In The Garden made a welcome return although Van didn’t really get immersed in what was a fairly short version and he departed the stage as the song drew to a conclusion. He returned for what turned out to be a pretty terrific version of Gloria as the band really cut loose once Van had departed with Paul Moran adding an extended and quite brilliant trumpet solo into the mix while Paul Moore added to his fan base with a terrific bass solo which was accompanied by the entire audience clapping along while Dana’s terrific vocal/chant at the end drew a rapturous audience response.

While Van was in great voice throughout aided by a superb sound system this was largely a workmanlike performance by him devoid of any real transcendental moments for the audience to savour.

Set List
Too Late
Close Enough For Jazz
Look Beyond The Hill
Magic Time
Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now
Sometimes We Cry
Have I Told You Lately (fast version)
Precious Time
Enlightenment
Whenever God Shines His Light
Cleaning Windows
Beautiful Vision
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Carrying A Torch
Moondance
Saint James Infirmary
Jackie Wilson Said
In The Midnight
Brown Eyed Girl
Help Me
In The Garden
Gloria

Big Hand For The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Mez Clough (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)


Set Time: 1h 39m.

Monday, October 31, 2016

30-October-2016
Bluesfest - O2

 London, England


Brendan Hynes review of gig
Van Morrison made what has become by now his annual appearance at this festival but as this large venue was only filled to about half capacity, saturation point appears to have been reached. Van had a hard act to follow in Jeff Beck who turned in a guitar virtuoso performance in opening the show but Van proved well up to the task. Too Late from the new album opened Van's set in lively fashion followed by an up tempo version of Have I Told You Lately which in my view detracts from the song's quality. A nice delivery of Magic Time was followed by a lively version of Wavelength. Van then announced his new single off the album as Every Time I See A River and this sounded great live and even better than on the album featuring a lovely guitar solo from Dave Keary and nice backing vocals from Dana Masters.Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now raised the tempo and was followed by Here Comes The Night.Cleaning Windows was enjoyable but continues to suffer from the absence of a brass section which is such an integral part of the song in its original incarnation.

When Van announced a blues medley featuring Chris Farlowe and Jeff Beck few could have imagined what was to follow as we were taken through Stormy Monday/Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket/Lonely Avenue with Van and Chris trading vocals interspersed with searing guitar solos from Jeff.Van went into John Lee Hooker style mode during Lonely Avenue with terrific vocals answered magnificently by Jeff on guitar. This was incredible! Chris stayed onstage to trade vocals with Van on Sometimes We Cry and as usual improved Van's humour no end.Moondance was merged with Way Beyond The Hill from the new album to good effect before we reached another major highlight with In The Afternoon which again got the full treatment from Van and included a superb trumpet solo from Paul Moran and nice backing vocals from Dana.Help Me signalled that the end was nigh but Van returned for two encores in Ballerina which featured lovely acoustic guitar from Dave Keary and then Gloria which saw the band cut loose once Van had departed with Dana on vocals and Paul Moore on bass being particularly impressive.

All in all this was a fine and fitting show to conclude Bluesfest 2016.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist
Too Late
Have I Told You Lately
Magic Time
Wavelength
Every Time I See A River
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
Here Comes The Night
Cleaning Windows
Stormy Monday/Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket/Lonely Avenue (w/Chris Farlowe & Jeff Beck)
Sometimes We Cry (w/Chris Farlowe)
Moondance/Look Beyond The Hill
In The Afternoon
Help Me
Ballerina
Gloria

Big Hand For The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Mez Clough (Drums)
Dana Masters (Vocals)

Set Time 1H 29M

Monday, October 10, 2016

09-October-2016
Forest Hills Stadium

 New York, USA


Dan Murray's take on gig
Look Beyond the Hills

Located near a lovely residential area in Queens, Forest Hills Stadium is a pretty big venue, but tightly configured and with excellent sound throughout.

I had been worried about the weather for days, and it turns out that Matthew was still stinging the area with his tail, whipping up strong winds and some showers. The showers abated by mid-afternoon as the storm moved further out to sea, but the winds stayed brisk during the entire show. It was a chilly, chilly evening, but that set the atmosphere for a pretty hot gig with Van and the band seemingly unbothered by the weather. Morrison was in excellent voice throughout the show, opening with Too Late and finishing with In the Garden and Gloria. The set list was expertly pegged to the crowd.

Of course, at a venue this size, there is going to be a very diverse group: The idiots who talk and don't listen, those who listen sporadically, and those intent on following every note, some dancing and smiling and having a grand time. I was surrounded by each type.

Ghostly, softly illuminated clouds sailed over the venue as skies partially cleared for the gig, a big half-moon cookie of a moon shining down. Jetliners banked gently near the stadium on their airport approaches, their lights twinkling. It was a great atmosphere.

Van and the band knew they had to cut through the cold in the air, and they did a great job helped out by the superb sound system. The music was sharp and spot on.

Van continues to revel in performing at the moment, his body language full of energy and his head tilting back and emoting with power.

Every song was well-performed, with In the Afternoon getting the workshop treatment. With Bobby Ruggiero back on drums for the US gigs, Van returned the Parchman Farm spouse-shooting drumshots into the set, and that Old Black Magic duet returned with a lovefest by dad for daughter Shana, who opened the show with a nice, longer-than-usual set. Tore Down a la Rimbaud was joyous and inspiring.
Van featured 4 songs from his gorgeous new album, but not Out in the Cold Again. That would have been too appropriate.

In the Afternoon continues to be a welcome beauty, Van exploring new avenues on the ancient highway until sittin' pretty on the mountaintop above the deep blue sea, with vistas stretching out over miles and miles of golden sand. Always great to get Garden and the Holy Guardian Angel. Van sang this one and Gloria clear out into the wings and through the side curtains.

Van fan Brian Heffler suggested I contrast this show with the Culloden gigs I was fortunate to attend 3 weeks ago. Some of the differences are obvious, Forest Hills is 40 times bigger than the Culloden. It has bench seating, primarily, instead of tables in an elegant ballroom. It is open air with much more people movement and distraction.

But Van and the band surmounted all of those things on Sunday night. The music at the Culloden and the music at Forest Hills featured the same commitment and pleasure-inducing features, although obviously the Culloden was much more intimate and conducive to a little more stretching out on the workshops. All the shows were highly successful.

Van and the crew now swing out to the West Coast for 5 more gigs, in very different venues. I have a feeling they are going to be memorable.
-Dan Murray

Setlist (Thanks John Z.)
Too Late
Wild Night
Magic Time
Someone Like You
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm/Don't Start Crying Now
Here Comes The Night
Cleaning Windows
Sometimes We Cry
Old Black Magic w/Shana Morrison
Precious Time
Going Down To Bangor
In the Afternoon/Ancient Highway/Raincheck/Sittin' Pretty
Whenever God Shines his Light
Why Must I always Explain
Brown Eyed Girl
Keep Me Singing
Let It Rhyme
In The Garden
Gloria

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

29-September-2016
Radio Theatre

 London, England


Setlist
Too Late
Magic Time
Wild Night
Baby Please Don't Go/Don't Start Crying Now
Here Comes The Night
Every Time I see A River
Cleaning Windows/Be Bop A Lula
Let It Rhyme
Whenever God Shines His Light
Sometimes We Cry
Going Down To Bangor
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
Keep Me Singing
Enlightenment
Carrying A Torch
Brown Eyed Girl
Jackie Wilson Say
In The Garden

Monday, September 26, 2016

21-September-2016
Culloden Estate & Spa

 Belfast, Northern Ireland


Brendan sent in his thoughts on gig:
This was the fourth installment of these special shows highlighting Van Morrison’s lyrics and followed a similar pattern to the previous shows with Van first being interviewed by writer Ian Rankin before readings of some of Van’s song lyrics were delivered by luminaries from the world of acting and poetry in the form of Kim Catrall, Scarlett Sabet and Paul Muldoon.

The interview was a bit of a duel between Ian and Van with the latter not allowing himself to be led in particular directions by the line of questioning. Parts of the interview were quite hilarious (sometimes unintentionally) with Van at one stage questioning whether something he said was funny as the audience were laughing merrily. At one point Ian provided a quotation purported to have come from Van to the effect that it is not so much the words that are important as the conviction behind them when they were written. Van asked him who wrote that to which Ian replied “you did”. Van was quite amused at this revelation and said he didn’t recall doing so before going on to joke that it sounded like something he might have stolen from the writings of Mark Twain! At another stage Van asked whether this was comedy and were Ian and himself a double act. When pressed as to whether he could see himself as a comedian and doing a ‘stand up’ routine Van replied that he could see himself doing a 30 minute routine if someone wrote some better jokes for him!

The first readings were done by Kim Catrall and featured Someone Like You and a rare outing for Meaning of Loneliness from the ‘What’s Wrong with This Picture’ album which was delivered particularly well and even featured some singing at the end by Kim. Van provided acoustic guitar backing for both readings and there appeared to be huge mutual respect between both artists. Scarlett Sabet enthralled us with On Hyndford Street and The Way Young Lovers Do before Paul Muldoon finished this segment of the show with Cleaning Windows and Madame George to great acclaim.

After a short break the music part of the show started quite suddenly with a vibrant Tore Down A La Rimbaud as audience members rushed in all directions to reclaim their seats. The magnificent Foreign Window followed and was brilliantly delivered and ecstatically received before a relatively rare rendition of Little Village kept things moving nicely. At this point Van introduced a song off the new album called Out In The Cold Again which was not out of place alongside the established material and it saw Van bringing the sound way down low to a whisper. Three of the next four songs (the exception being Fame) were also off the new album namely Going Down to Bangor(a fairly routine rhythm and blues number), Memory Lane which was quite nice and Too Late which is the current single from the album. I felt the performance fell quite flat at that point and given the brevity of the performance the showcasing of so many new songs was somewhat inopportune. Personally, I would happily have swapped a couple of them to hear songs such as Madame George and Into The Mystic which were such spectacular highlights of the London and Dublin versions of the show. We were not to be left disappointed, however, as Van concluded the set with an extended and mesmeric In The Afternoon before departing into the night.

Brendan Hynes

Set List
Tore Down A la Rimbaud
Foreign Window
Little Village
Out In The Cold Again
Going Down To Bangor
Fame
Memory Lane
Too Late
In The Afternoon

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

19-September-2016
Culloden Estate & Spa

 Belfast, Northern Ireland

Setlist (Thanks Per H.)
Look Beyond the Hill
Too Late
Magic Time
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Foreign Window
Carrying A Torch
Fame
Baby Please Don't Go/Don’t Start Crying Now
Here Comes the Night
Out in the Cold Again
Have I Told You Lately (Vegas Version)
In the Afternoon
Precious Time
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Whenever God Shines His Light
Into the Mystic
Brown Eyed Girl
It’s All In the Game/Burning Ground
Gloria