Tuesday, July 22, 2014

22-July-2014
Festival Theatre

 Edinburgh, Scotland

The Herald

SARTORIALLY, Van Morrison seems to be modelling himself on Al Capone these days. Squeezed into a black suit, his face obscured by shades and a fedora, the marquee name at this year's Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival looked like a man wanted by the FBI.

Musically, however, there was no identity crisis. Although nowadays its idiosyncrasies can grate as well as astound, Morrison's voice remains an hugely powerful and versatile instrument, and after hitting his stride with a glorious Queen of the Slipstream there was simply no stopping him.

Aided by a superb six-piece band augmented with Morrison's daughter Shana on backing vocals, even relative obscurities such as the bad-mood blues of Too Many Myths sounded fierce and fresh.

In fact, the notoriously taciturn 68-year-old seemed perilously close to enjoying himself, bantering about Billy Connolly and offering a bizarre impression of Clint Eastwood during a rousing Rough God Goes Riding. As he became lost in the music he jerked his right arm up and down, like a man ringing an invisible bell.

Moondance was long, liquid and mostly instrumental, Morrison setting up some lovely interplay between his sax and Paul Moran's muted trumpet.

He jazzed up Brown Eyed Girl and tore through the old Them hit Baby Please Don't Go with such ferocity the decades simply melted away.

No matter what it said on the stage backdrop, eventually all genre distinctions dissolved.

To finish his two-hour set Morrison conjured up extended versions of In the Garden, Ballerina and Into the Mystic which were simply breath-taking, the final triumph of an artist still finding new ways to transport and be transported.
-Graeme Thomson

Setlist Thanks Mike S.
Celtic Swing
Close Enough for Jazz
Back on Top
So Quiet in Here
Queen of the Slipstream
Keep it Simple
Choppin Wood 
Who Can I Turn To
Philosophers Stone
Too Many Myths
Talk is Cheap
Rough God Goes Riding
Moondance
Brown Eyed Girl
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm
In the Garden
Ballerina
Into the Mystic

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

17-July-2014
Stuttgart Jazz Festival

 Stuttgart, Germany


TAZ

Many years ago, Van Morrison was badly defamed by an English newspaper. A reporter had dared to give him the attribute "Rock Star". This could not be allowed to sit on Morrison. In an open letter he distanced himself vehemently from such defamation: "For the benefit of the unenlightened it is not my nature to be a rock star. What I am is a singer who does blues, soul, jazz, etc. etc. etc. "And who did not understand, was "taught again” on his reord “What's Wrong with this Picture”: “I'm singing jazz, blues and funk / Baby, that's not rock 'n' roll."

On a bright glowing summer evening at the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart, the visitors of the Jazzopen could see and hear for themselves that Van Morrison's wonderfully weightless music finds its sources rather in the back catalog of Blue Note or in the Mississippi delta than in the classic rock genre. In the first, glorious swinging instrumental "Celtic Swing" each of the six musicians introduced himself with a solo, and repeatedly Morrison himself was playing the saxophone while the beautifully meandering melodies continued.

What Morrison in a mafia-like outfit - black suit, black hat, dark sunglasses – did with his voice, can only be described in the words of Peter Handke: "He has a wonderful feeling," Handke said about Van Morrison, “and then the "what" "and the “how” will become one.": an immense longing, something unutterable transcendent. The "how", the gift to lend words through a fantastic sense for rhythm, modulation, articulation, the quality of an epiphany. Van Morrison is 68 years old and his lyrical, sometimes breathy sometimes shouting voice seems to still have gained force in recent years.

With so much genius there is of course always also something to complain about. Almost every article about Van Morrison concerts includes a small reference: How sullen, moody, rude the little old man behaves on stage! How he throws nasty looks on his fellow musicians and has no eyes and words at all for the audience. It’s true, he did not care a lot about the audience at the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart, although he probably once mumbled something like "Thank you". But who cares? Who says, someone who makes gorgeous music and is blessed by God with a heart-warming voice, should be everybody’s darling.



However, you seemed to have caught quite a good day on the only concert in Germany: Van Morrison had obvious pleasure, the set was perfectly arranged, all the songs grooved, as if the Schlossplatz were a small jazz or blues cellar. The harmonica shouted, the bass strolled, the Hammond organ roared. In short: the musicians played to the point.

Of course, there was no encore. Morrison offered for one and a half hour songs from all phases: "Back on Top”, "Days Like This", "The Philosopher's Stone", "Brown Eyed Girl," "Baby Please Don’t Go" and "Gloria" from Them to "Moondance" and "Whenever God Shines his Light", at times a veritable hit with Cliff Richard, this time presented as a duet with daughter Shana, who somehow fell off as a background singer. Not quite the daddy.
The fact that Morrison quite often conjures up the Lord connects him with the great Mavis Staples, who with her 75 years gave off more energy than the blazing Stuttgart evening sun: drums, guitar, bass, and three very fine accompanying singers - and songs from a time when the Staple Singers marched with Martin Luther King towards a better future: "I'm a living witness," the gospel-Goddess said and intoned Pops Staples' "Freedom Highway". Rough, soulful, enthusiastic. You cannot spend a Thursday evening more beautiful and uplifting.

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Open The Door (To Your Heart)
Back On Top
So Quiet In Here
Queen of The Slipstream
Days Like This
Choppin' Wood
Rough God Goes Riding
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm
John Henry
Philosopher's Stone
Lonesome Road
Whenever God Shines His Light
Enlightenment
Moondance
Brown Eyed Girl
In the Garden
Help Me
Gloria

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

15-July-2014
Stravinski Auditorium

 Montreux, Switzerland


Blues Reissue

Van Morrison at the Montreux Jazz Festival

For over 50 years Van Morrison is now on stage. During this time he has managed to hold despite its polarizing way his audience at bar: Van Morrison released in 2012 with his latest album, "Born to Sing: No Plan B" be a total of 53 work as a solo artist. He remained always faithful to his music, new paths were rarely committed by him. Still, you never know when a concert by Van Morrison what the today 68-year-old musician holds everything and what mood he goes on stage.

In Montreux "Van the Man" is slow in coming. So part of the prelude to the evening concert of his band and singer Shana Morrison, his daughter from his first marriage. This shows the number Julie London "Cry Me A River" which vocal qualities are present in the band.

After three songs then enters the master with his saxophone under great applause the stage. Shana Morrison takes a set further back into place, and leaves her father into the spotlight.

Rare Van Morrison sings about political issues. The Northern Irishman has never considered himself a great protest singer, let alone he ever wanted to stretch his finger warningly. However, in the Auditorium Stravinski sings the 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland-born musician in the song "Open The Door (To Your Heart)" from the new album at the beginning about money, finance and capitalism. Free quotes from the song: "Money does not satisfy you, it is only there to pay your bills."

One is amazed not bad, after having taken a closer look at the stage: The American funk musician and saxophonist Maceo Parker is spontaneously alongside the band members Alistair (trombone, euphonium) and Chris White (sax, clarinet and flute). As this apparently short-term commitment came about, probably few know. For the fans it does not matter, because Parker plays alongside the brothers White a few gifted solos such as in Medley, "It's All In The Game / You Know What They're Writing About / No Plan B".

"In the Garden" from the year 1986, and the acoustically held "Ballerina" from the "Astral Weeks" album of 1968 leaves the fans in the packed auditorium, Stravinski then completely immerse yourself in the world of Van Morrison: And that is not only tormented and angry ("Rough God Goes Riding"), but also dreamy, beautiful sounding and soothing. And because Van Morrison in addition to the instrumental interludes also has this incomparable, demanding voice, this concert is able to touch. Even as the Sonny Boy Williamson Cover "Help Me" then "Van the Man" and his daughter goodbye quietly from the stage.
-Patrice Althaus

Setlist
Celtic Swing
Open The Door (To Your Hear)
Back On Top
So Quiet In Here
Queen Of The Slipstream
What Would I Do
Satisfied
Keep It Simple
Little Village
Who Can I Turn To
Rough Goes Gold Rising
Higher Than The World
Moondance
It's All In The Game/No Plan B/Burning Ground
In The Garden
Ballerina
Help Me

Big Hand for The Band!
Chris White (Saxophone)
Alistair White (Trombone)
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Paul Moore (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)
Special Guest: Shana Morrison (Vocals)
Special Guest: Maceo Parker (Saxaphone)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

16-June-2014
Hampton Court Palace

 Surrey, England


Petra sent in her thoughts on the gig
The scenery could not have been more stunning: the courtyard of a medieval palace in Tudor style, formerly owned by King Henry VIII in the 16th century. Auditorium and stage of the open air gig surrounded by ancient brick walls with ancestral crests, moats, towers and chimneys, all effectfully illuminated. Prior to the concert, the beautiful palace gardens were opened to the public for picnics and strolling around. It was a cool summer night, with chilly gusts of wind, the sky overcast but luckily no rain.

At 8:15 pm Shana and Van’s band stepped on the stage: Paul Moran on keyboards and trumpet, Dave Keary on guitars, Chris White on saxophones and clarinet, Alistair White on trombone, Paul Moore on bass and Bobby Ruggiero on percussions. No Jeff Lardner tonight.

Shana did three solo songs before Van joined the musicians. She started with a lovely version of Van’s ‚Astral Weeks‘ classic, ‚Sweet Thing‘, followed by two of her own songs.



Then Van was there – pinstripe suit, trilby, ascot and a paisley pattern shirt. But he was wearing kind of a Barbour country-style jacket over it, olive colour with big pockets, what diminished his elegant attire a bit, but made sense, considering the ugly wind chill. Shuddering ourselves, we pitied the musicians on stage exposed to the cold wind.

Van began with the instrumental ‚Celtic Swing‘ on saxophone, followed by ‚Open The Door (To Your Heart)‘. Nothing special, so far ... But then the first surprise: ‚Higher Than The World‘ – one of the rare gems we like to hear. Next was ‚Rough God Goes Riding‘ with Shana joining him. Van changing the lyrics to ‚.. she gave me that toll-free number to call ..‘ made me smile.

Then I did not trust my ears – Van setting up „So Quiet In Here“ – one of my favorite songs I always longed to hear live ... A lovely version with Van singing: ‚... maybe maybe Baby – we can dream on, dream on ...‘

Before we could recover from this treat I thought all my dreams came true tonight: „Queen Of The Slipstream“, with a nice e-guitar solo by Dave and Van playing harp.

Now the dream faded for a while – Van took his cute little ukulele and went into joking mode: He mumbled: „Billy Connolly (a Scottish comedian) once said: ‚Van is very funny. Can you imagine this? Van is funny ...“ This brought a good laugh to the audience at Hampton Court.
Playing the ukulele, Van sang „Keep it Simple“. Not one of my favorites, but together with the relaxed mood a nice side trip. On it went with „Back On Top“ and „Magic Time“, not on my dream set list either, but decent versions with great sax and trombone solos by Chris, Alistair and Van himself.

„Sometimes We Cry“ was next by Van with Shana and Chris on the baritone sax.

„Whenever God Shines His Light“ is a song I am normally not particularly fond of. But tonight it was one of the highlights – it emitted great energy. Shana sang with Van, and Dave Keary played an absolutely stunning fade-out on the electric guitar. I could do with some more guitar solos in Van’s band ...

Now the „workshop“: „All In The Game“ passed into „You Know What They Are Writing About“. Great solos by the horn section – trumpet, trombone and baritone sax. Ending with „... make it real ... No plan B ... No safety net ... This is it ..“ So far familiar from previous gigs, but then Van mumbled „... right where you are, right where you are ..“, over and over again.

Back to well-known ground then: „Moondance“ ending with some notes of „My Funny Valentine“. A bit dreaded by most Van fans as heard a bit too often, but still a great version tonight with a beautiful upright bass solo. It seemed to me - maybe I was just in this mood because of the magic setting surrounding us – that each instrumental solo tonight sounded like new - sparkling and sophisticated.

„Enlightenment“ followed with Van on harp, lovely version.

Then another dream version: „In The Garden“. Nice solos from Dave on his acoustic guitar, Alistair on the trombone, Paul piano and Chris played the clarinet. An incredible ending from Van: He went into singing ‚... and your holy guardian angel, in the midnight hour ... and I pray to my guardian angel ... help me angel ... in the midnight hour ... in the WITCHING hour ... angel ... angel ...‘ Again and again, leaving us breathless and wanting a break. But no mercy – it went on:

The best „Ballerina“ version ever. OK, up to now, I thought the best version had been the one in Montreux 1980 with John Platania and Pee Wee Ellis ... And now this one. Van’s vocals were unusually intense tonight, followed by an unheard trombone solo by Alistair and likewise unusal sax solo by Chris. Lately, when Van was singing „Ballerina“ he moved into an uptempo mode, which matched the song but was miles away from the initial dreamy version. Tonight, Van found a completely new ending: he sang ‚... living on a lonely, lonely, lonely 22 storey block ...‘, over and over again. But then he went like, ‚... it’s so lonely up here, lonely at the top, in New York City ...‘ . ‚... you better buy your ticket and pay the price if you wanna come up ...‘ After a short break he adds: ‚... and see me sometimes‘. And everybody has a good laugh, understanding he means us now, the audience ... And suddenly I realize that it’s no longer the melody of „Ballerina“ but has become „Lonely At The Top“, one of bonus tracks of the remastered „No Guru No Method No Teacher“ album, a definitely lesser known title. But what an ingenious idea to combine it with Ballerina and the loneliness described there ...

Before we can recover from this tour de force, we hear the first notes of „Help Me“ and we sense, it’s all over soon ...

No „Gloria“, no „Brown Eyed Girl“, but some rare gems and absolute favorites of mine, and even the well-known ‚standards‘ sound great tonight.

After the show we met up with Nosey and Pat and compared our notes and impressions. Surprisingly, our notes were mostly identical and all of us thought that it was an absolutely brilliant concert, in my opinion the best we ever went to – big thanks to Van, Shana and the band !
-Petra Söllner

Setlist (Thanks Petra)
Celtic Swing
Open The Door (To Your Heart)
Higher Than The World
Rough God Goes Riding
So Quiet In Here
Queen Of The Slipstream
Keep It Simple
Back On Top
Magic Time
Sometimes We Cry
Whenever God Shines His Light
All In The Game  >  You Know What They Are Writing About  > 
Make It Real  >  No Plan B  > Right Where You Are
Moondance
Enlightenment
In The Garden
Ballerina > Lonely At The Top
Help Me

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

25-May-2014
Town Hall

 Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland


Setlist Early Show (Thanks Pablo)
Celtic Swing
Talk Is Cheap
Roving Rambler
Open The Door (To Your Heart)
Keep Mediocrity At Bay
Choppin' Wood
St. James Infirmary
Playhouse
Foggy Mountain Top
I Can't Stop Loving You
Into The Mystic
That's Life
Baby Please Don't Go
Ballerina
Help Me


Setlist Late Show
Celtic Swing
Talk Is Cheap
Back On Top
Choppin' Wood
Keep It Simple
Keep Mediocrity At Bay
Who Can I Turn Yo
So Quiet In Here
Magic Time
Baby Please Don't Go
All In The Game/Burning Ground/No Plan B
Georgia
Ballerina
Help Me

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

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)