Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Van Morrison Signs With RCA For 35th Studio Album, Due Early 2015

George Benson & Van Morrison recording session for "Higher Than The World" duet in August 2014. 
Breaking news from Billboard Van has signed with RCA and will release new album in 2015.

Van Morrison will release his as-yet-untitled 35th studio album on RCA Records in early 2015, the label confirmed Tuesday. The set will be a follow-up to 2012’s Born To Sing: No Plan B, which was released via Blue Note and debuted and peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

“We are thrilled to have Van Morrison, the iconic musical visionary and legend, join the RCA roster,” RCA President and COO Tom Corson and CEO Peter Edge said in a joint statement. “He is one of the most prolific and talented songwriters and performers in music today and we are honored to have him join us at the label and work with him on his forthcoming new album.”

Added Morrison in a statement, “I am looking forward to working with Tom, Peter and the RCA team as we plan release of the new project for next year.”

The upcoming set will mark Morrison’s first set for Sony Music, following a long stint with Warner Bros. in the 1970s (Astral Weeks, Moondance), a 7-year run with Mercury in the 1980s and stints with Polydor, Exile, Virgin/Point Blank and Blue Note. Though he continues to tour extensively through Europe, Morrison hasn’t performed in the States since a U.S. tour wrapped in November 2013.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

10-December-2014
Olympia Theatre

 Dublin, Ireland

via Pablo G.
Brendan sent in his thoughts on the show
The question I pondered in the build up to this show was whether the magic of the inaugural Lit Up Inside show in The Lyric Theatre in London the previous month could be repeated. The resounding answer delivered at the Olympia was that it most certainly could and this was another marvelous night for dedicated Van Morrison fans in particular.

via Pablo G.
The format was similar to the London show with Eamon Hughes, editor of Van’s Lit Up Inside book, doing the introductions before some footage from an old BBC Arena programme was shown of Van and Bob Dylan singing Foreign Window in Greece. Van was then introduced for a question and answer session largely conducted by author Ian Rankin but with some input also from Eamon Hughes.If anything, Van was even more relaxed this time round and really warmed to the process as it developed. Interestingly, the questions explored differed significantly from the London show and Van somehow got drawn into areas one might not have anticipated including a reference to a book written by Morrissey which Van was clearly very impressed by as he really enthused about its brilliance. At this point Ian Rankin somewhat mischievously interjected to say that Morrissey is not like Van at all because Morrissey is grumpy. This seemed to go over Van’s head despite Ian repeating the comment but it was not lost on the audience who laughed heartily. Van also got quite animated talking about Spike Milligan and a performance he had given where a cat ran on to the stage and according to Van the cat did a 30 minute performance. This all went down great with the audience who would not normally encounter Van’s humour and wit to such a degree.



Following the interview there was a short film of Van in discussion with poet Michael Longley followed by readings of some of Van’s lyrics by Michael Longley (Coney Island and Into The Mystic) and by Irish broadcaster Marty Whelan (Tore Down A La Rimbaud and Madame George).The latter, who was hugely enthusiastic about Van’s work, was unable in my view to match Edna O’Brien’s mesmeric readings of both songs at the London show, particularly Madame George.


After a short interval the concert performance commenced with the rarely played Alan Watts Blues in a really nice arrangement followed by stirring performances of Tore Down A La Rimbaud and Wonderful Remark. The beautiful Foreign Window followed and while it was great the brilliant acoustic guitar work of Dave Keary which was so prominent at the London show was somewhat drowned out by Van’s electric guitar on this occasion which was a pity. Coney Island conjured up lovely images in our minds and was followed by Magic Time which was one of two additions to the London set list (the other one being Moondance as the penultimate number).In introducing Why Must I Always Explain, Van informed us this was a re-write of Tupelo Honey and this version featured Van on electric guitar with the legs pumping as he sang over his solo in that inimitable style of his. Incredibly when the song had just finished an audience member shouted out looking for Tupelo Honey to which Van replied like a shot “we just played it!”.Van then brought us through Celtic Excavation with nice saxophone playing from him and on Into the Mystic. This was quite incredible and Van brought things down to a whisper as he stepped away from the microphone and then back and then away again gently whispering the lyrics to a totally silent Olympia. It was hard to follow that but Madame George wasn’t far behind and it is great to be treated to such a classic from the vaults again. Moondance brought proceedings to a halt as Van thanked the band while the audience clapped along enthusiastically with their closing instrumental workout. This was not quite the end however as Van returned one more time to deliver On Hyndford Street to leave the audience truly healed having enjoyed a really magic time in the presence of the undisputed musical genius that is Van Morrison.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Alan Watts Blues
Tore Down at La Rimbaud
Wonderful Remark
Foreign Window
Coney Island
Magic Time
Why Must I Always Explain
Celtic Excavation/Into the Mystic
Madame George
Moondance
On Hyndford Street

Big Hand for The Band!
Dave Keary (Guitar)
Jeremy Brown (Bass)
Paul Moran (Keyboards)
Bobby Ruggiero (Drums)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

23-November-2014
Great Hall

 Downpatrick 
Northern Ireland

via David K.
After the previous evening’s concert it was with a great sense of anticipation that I made my way to the second of Van Morrison’s concerts at Downshire Estate. The concert started very promisingly with the instrumental Caledonian Swing replacing the regular Celtic Swing opener and providing a nice variation. As was the case the night before, Blue Money followed to the great delight of the audience. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child was next and I felt it was even better than the night before. In particular, Paul Moran was given the latitude to play an extended organ solo which was quite exceptional and further enhanced the magnificence of what we were hearing. Melancholia featured Dana Masters prominently on vocals and a great piano solo from Paul Moran in a wonderful arrangement. Van then gave us another rare gem in The Streets Only Knew Your Name which was quite beautiful. Everything was going great but then the first signs of turbulence appeared as the band launched into Wavelength but without any vocal contribution from Van for the first couple of verses. A stage crew member came on with what appeared to be a lyric sheet but it wasn’t clear whether Van had drawn a blank on the lyrics or there was something else he was unhappy about. When the song finally took off with Van finally on board (much to the relief of the audience who were holding their collective breath) there was some great guitar playing from Dave Keary before the band brought the song to what proved to be a premature end while Van continued to sing resulting in them having to start up again. It was somewhat shambolic and whatever the reason it was clear that Van and the band were not on this occasion on the same wavelength. The wonderful Queen of the Slipstream brought the concert back onto an even keel followed by Sometimes We Cry featuring Dana Masters on shared vocals. At this point Van engaged briefly with the audience to tell us he was going to change things around a bit and do a number off the country album. What followed was a song called More and More but pretty quickly I knew I would be quite happy to hear less and less of this particular song. When Days Like This and Precious Time followed in quick procession I sensed a distinct shift in emphasis and so it proved. Nonetheless, a pretty rip roaring Think Twice Before You Go livened things up again somewhat followed by Open The Door and In The Midnight which featured Dave Keary doing the high pitched vocal piece and impressing Van so much he got him to do it again. Van then gave us a really thunderous version of John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillun which is really quite infectious. Magic Time was pleasant but no more than that but Higher Than The World elevated things once again before Van coasted firmly into festival set territory to finish the concert with Jackie Wilson Said, Whenever God Shines His Light,Real Real Gone and Brown Eyed Girl. The concert finished very tamely dead on 90 minutes with no encore and the band not bothering to do any real extended instrumental workout after Van had departed.

The concert ddidn'tscale the heights of the previous night’s show and Van clearly wasn’t anything like as animated but there was so much good(and at times great) music in there(particularly the opening 7 songs) that it still for me provided plenty to enjoy and savour. It was just a pity it ended in a pretty downbeat manner as this can often be the abiding memory that one is left with afterwards.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks to David/Pablo)
Caledonian Swing (Instrumental)
Blue Money
Motherless Child
Melancholia
Streets Only Knew Your Name
Wavelength
Queen of the Slipstream
Sometimes We Cry
More and More
Days Like This
Precious Time
Think Twice Before You Go
Open The Door (To Your Heart)
In The Midnight
Boogie Chillun
Magic Time
Higher Than The World
Jackie Wilson Said
Whenever God Shines His Light
Real Real Gone
Brown Eyed Girl

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

22-November-2014
Great Hall

 Downpatrick 
Northern Ireland


This was the first night of Van Morrison’s two night stint at this intimate venue and reports coming back from those who had heard some of the sound check promised the unearthing of some rare musical gems. Happily these reports proved well founded and after the usual Celtic Swing opener Van launched into a really vibrant Blue Money which I don’t recall hearing live previously so it was a real treat. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child followed and this was quite magnificent with backing vocalist Dana Masters making a significant contribution to it’s delivery. 

Next up was a beautiful arrangement of Melancolia which far exceeded the recorded version in my estimation. Without getting time to draw breath we were then brought into mystical territory with a wonderful Someone Like You during which Dana Masters’s superb soulful voice extracted a spontaneous round of applause from the audience. I felt she stole Van’s thunder somewhat on this one but I’m sure he doesn't mind. It was just getting better and better and a thunderous Wavelength followed with superb guitar playing from Dave Keary. The always welcome Enlightenment was followed by a brisk Choppin Wood before Van launched into an extended blues/rock and roll medley starting with Baby Please Don’t Go then onto Parchman Farm before Van and the band let loose on Don’t Start Crying Now/Boppin the Blues/Mean Woman Blues/Shake Rattle and Roll. Van and the band were in rip roaring form during this medley and it fairly brought the house down. A rather short Rough God was ended quickly by Van who seemed unhappy with something so De Niro, Pesci and Clint impressions did not feature at all. 

Magic Time featured some nice piano from Paul Moran who also excelled with a great organ solo on the following number, In the Midnight. Fairly routine versions of Moondance and St. James Infirmary were followed by a fairly rare rendition of Glad Tidings which featured a lot of hand clapping from the band with which the audience joined in. Keep it Simple was sung with great conviction by Van who spat the lyrics out as if he really meant them. The start of this song featured a cameo appearance by one of Van’s crew who upon hearing the opening line charged onto the stage holding Van’s ukulele only to be met by a look from Van which sent him scurrying back off even quicker still holding the ukulele. Great entertainment! The opening bars of Help Me indicated that the night was coming to a close but not before Van brought proceedings right down to a whisper before engaging in a monologue during which he had some sort of imaginary conversation asking whether the person he was talking to was referring to “you know who?” while also making references to blackmail. I don’t really know what this was about but it was certainly something different. Van then thanked the band and departed the stage before returning for a funked up version of Gloria which moved into I Feel Good and gave the band the latitude to really cut loose which they did.

The show clocked in at 1h45m and was a really good one. The inclusion of the rarely played numbers brought an added dimension to the show and served to emphasise the wealth of material in Van’s armoury much of which has been sadly neglected over the years but since the publication of it Lit Up Inside seems to have been revisited by Van which is good news for all his fans.
-Brendan Hynes

Setlist (Thanks David K./Pablo G.)
Celtic Swing
Blue Money
Motherless Child
Melancholia
Someone Like You
Wavelength
Enlightenment
Choppin' Wood
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm
Rough God Goes Riding
Magic Time
In The Midnight
Moondance
St James Infirmary
Glad Tidings
Keep it Simple
Help Me/Lonely Avenue
Gloria

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Van's Concert Schedule


19-Dec-14
London, England
Nell's Jazz & Blues Bar

20-Dec-14
London, England
Nell's Jazz & Blues Bar

21-Dec-14
London, England
Nell's Jazz & Blues Bar

05-Jan-15
Belfast, northern Ireland
Lyric Theatre

19-Jan-15
Barcelona, Spain
Gran Teatre del Liceu

26-Jan-15
Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

15-Mar-15
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Europa Hotel

19-Jul-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel

20-Jul-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel

23-Aug-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel

24-Aug-15
Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Slieve Donard Hotel

Monday, November 17, 2014

17-November-2014
Lyric Threatre

 London, England

LIT UP INSIDE : A short personal reflection

If anyone had asked me 10, 15, 20 years ago what sort of Van concert I’d love to see most of all – this would have been it. Van performing with real thought and care some of his best songs, with great intros and explanations, and very sympathetic backing from a small rhythm section. I’ve seen the Coleraine conversation and playing with Derek Bell on TV in ‘88, but I missed the Swansea Literature event with Gerald Dawe in ‘95, so it was wonderful to finally get to enjoy The Man stripped down to basic Van, and firing on all cylinders.

The first 50 minutes was taken up with a chat in armchairs between Van and Ian Rankin, whose main hero Rebus is always playing Astral Weeks; a couple of film clips from old TV programmes – Dylan and Van on the Hill of the Muses, and Van talking with Michael Longley; and readings of the lyrics from Michael Longley and Edna O’Brien. The introductions were made by Eamon Hughes, the editor of Van’s lyric book.
Ian and Van hit it off pretty much straight away and had obviously been talking for a while backstage – Ian came out with some real sensible questions and some good quips too – the one about George Best Airport being a goodie. When asked how it felt having Bob play behind him on Foreign Window, Van cracked that Dylan had done it before – for Harry Belafonte! - Bob’s first professional recording. Some questions from the audience elicited one or two good comments including the possible derivation of ‘Justin’ by Paul Durcan. But like most of these things Van has stock answers, and although Ian did throw him a couple of times, it was all entertaining and interesting.


The film of Van chatting with Michael Longley from Without Walls led into Michael reading a couple of lyrics – Coney Island and Into The Mystic. Just proved to me that lyrics are not poetry. However Edna O’Brien put a whole different spin on the lyrics, and Madame George became mesmerising with her soft brogue and emphasis in unusual places, and following the verses right through to the end repetition.


After the interval came the piece de resistance – a superb selection of songs with Van singing so well and getting deeply into the music. The band were following him with delicacy and precision – Dave Keary’s fills and trills were exceptional. Van was seated for most of the show and played acoustic on Foreign Window and electric on Why Must I? and Mystic, and took a few solos.

His readings of the songs were by no means straightfoward, adding intonations, asides and extra lyrics, and using that powerful voice to real emotive power. Many of the songs early in the set got explanations before and after, and Madame George even had location references during the song. Coney Island brought a memory to him while singing and he stifled a laugh and added a line about ‘dropping you off at the corner’! Strange he should perform Wonderful Remark when it’s not in the book – Volume 2 next year?


Both Madame George (actually sang as Madame Joy) and On Hyndford Street were tour de forces, both using different voices to complement the music. These songs bring Belfast alive for me, and I can imagine those long 1950s Sunday summer nights lying in bed trying to get to sleep while listening to the radio. He had those voices over Beechie River, I had tennis players from the tennis club – we all had our own sounds floating in on the warm air. Sunday six bells – what a great phrase. And adding in Satre and Christmas Humphreys for good measure tonight.

Van proved again that lyrics are lyrics – they are different with every night, every nuance, every musician, every improv, every original thought that inspired them for the singer, and every new thought they bring to the listener. I don’t care now if I never see Van again – I’ve fulfilled every ambition by seeing and living and breathing this Lit Up Inside show. But as Van told us tonight it’s always being NOW, but there will be other NOWs to come till we get the healing done.
10/10
-Simon Gee



Telegraph

Irish poet Michael Longley promised a unique night, and "Van Morrison presents an evening of words & music" was certainly that, not least because we heard Edna O'Brien reading Madame George as a poem.
The event, at London's Lyric Theatre, was to mark a new book brought out by Faber, Lit Up Inside, which contains the lyrics to nearly 200 Morrison songs, presented as poems.
So was Van the Man lit up? At times, definitely, but there were also moments of vintage deadpan Morrison. The second half of the evening was a concert. He introduced Foreign Window by saying: "This was partly based on a documentary about Lord Byron in which he said 'I have learned to love despair'. I wish I could."
It was mainly chatty Van rather than grumpy Van treading the boards, though, and novelist Ian Rankin did a good job of drawing out anecdotes during a 25-minute question-and-answer session. We had listened to Dr Eamonn Hughes talking about Morrison and watched film footage of Morrison singing with Bob Dylan, and when Rankin asked him how many people have had Dylan as an accompanist, Morrison said: "Harry Belafonte, for one." Asked by Rankin about shows like the X Factor, and whether they were for people "selling their souls", Morrison replied: "Nothing has changed. I wish it had."
The thing about Morrison is that he adores music. Old jazz musicians who know him will tell you that he is passionate about the music of his youth - Morrison is 69 - and he was fulsome in his praise of blues musicians such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Leroy Carr and Lightnin' Hopkins. "it's difficult to understand how people supposed to be so uneducated, like Lightnin', were coming up with Elizabethan language and imagery in songs that were like poetry," Morrison said. He talked here with real fondness about the jazz and blues he had heard as a boy, both from his father's record collection and by listening to AFN radio. "Ray Charles, Sidney Bechet, Mahalia Jackson singing the Lord's Prayer. It was only years later I realised that wasn't normal. I heard Lenny Bruce doing a sketch about Stars of Jazz when he was an in-thing."

Longley, 75, told the audience that what he and Morrison talked about most was jazz: Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith – "where it began" – and the man known as Dr Jazz of Belfast, the late Solly Lipsitz, who ran the Atlantic Records shop on Belfast High Street.
If there was a point to the evening, and to the book, it seemed to be to place Morrison among the literary figures of Ireland. Morrison compared himself to William Blake (he had London, I had East Belfast seemed to be the gist)and used the term 'Blake-ian' three times. But it wasn't all portentous. Morrison has a funny side (he is a fan of Spike Milligan and The Goons and is good at impersonations) and this came across in a few replies to Rankin. After Morrison said that "I wrote poems before I ever picked up a guitar", Rankin asked if a young boy in Belfast would have had to hide his poetry writing for fear of being beaten up. "My first poem was about a shipyard and you wouldn't have been beaten up for that," Morrison joked. He was also witty when Rankin listed the writers Morrison had name-checked in a song (Beckett, Joyce and Wilde), with the singer saying: "Yes, and George Best and Alex Higgins, too."
But both Longley and O'Brien repeatedly described the songs they were reading as poems. O'Brien admitted that she has always been "a little stuck on him" and said she thought he was "in the business of making magic". The 83-year-old author of The Country Girls read his Astral Weeks song Madame George particularly well – and it would be easy to trip up over the lines:
'And the love that loves to love,
That loves the love that loves,
The love that loves to love,
The love that loves to love,
The love that loves.'

Morrison, dressed in his John Lee Hooker outfit (dark hat, dark suit, sunglasses), had already left the stage at that point to prepare for his concert.

So what did we learn?
• That he connects with Samuel Beckett, especially in a love of repetition of words and an agreement about having to go on despite a "sense of despair and futility".
• That the song Moondance started as an instrumental, which he had been playing as far back as 1965, when he used to jam on saxophone in Notting Hill with Mick Fleetwood on conga drums. Have I Told You Lately (that I love you) also started as an instrumental.
• That Tore Down a la Rimbaud took eight years to finish – the longest it's ever taken him to complete a song.
• That part of his early song Mystic Eyes was inspired by the scene in Dickens's Great Expectations in which Pip meets Magwitch.
• That he was a big fan of Sixties English folk singer and guitarist Steve Benbow.
The concert, just under an hour, was enjoyable. This was gentle Van with a tight, acoustic, four-piece backing band (piano, double bass, drums, guitar) featuring brief, chatty explanations of the songs he played, including Alan Watt Blues, Wonderful Remark and Why Must I Always Explain. There was a jazzy version of Into the Mystic.

The highlight, showing Morrison at his playful best, was a version of Coney Island. In the foreword to the book, Rankin says of Morrison's music: "There was a search for the spiritual in the commonplace . . . But there are also stories teeming with incidents and characters and grand travelogues, and extolling of life's simple pleasures."
That's true of the spoken song Coney Island, which Morrison said had a significance because as a boy, around 1959, he helped deliver bread in the van for Stewart's bakery in East Belfast and he would have to get up at 5am to make deliveries at the beach in Coney Island. Belfast, of that time, resonates in some of his best songs about Orangefield, which was still almost a village with cobbled streets when he was growing up.

Although Coney Island had been read out earlier by Longley, Morrison played around with the composition, telling the affluent audience that "jam jar" was "Cockney rhyming slang for car" and, with a grin, changing the emotional end to the song, which is about a car journey across the glorious countryside of Northern Ireland, to include the joke:
'And all the time going to Coney Island I'm thinking,
Shall I drop you off at the next corner?'
For Morrison fans the book is interesting (although for the £500 deluxe version you might want your own Van the Man house concert), not least because you can finally learn some of the lines to songs such as Bulbs, in which I now know he sings about someone called Ada:
'Now Ada was a straight clear case of,
Havin' taken in too much juice.'
You also get a sense of the range of his writing and some of the bleakness in lesser known compositions such as Not Supposed to Break Down:
'Fifteen families starving,
All around the corner block.
Here we're standing so alone,
Just like Gibraltar Rock.'
But Longley was right. This was a unique event, right down to Morrison, no isolated rock for once, exiting stage left, whispering like a revivalist preacher, as he sang a line about crossing a river.
-Martin Chilton


London Evening Standard

Van Morrison has long been regarded as pop’s outpost of grouch. Not any more. Not since last night, when Morrison was gently interviewed on stage by the well-researched and only slightly cowed author Ian Rankin. Whatever Morrison’s motives beyond promoting a book (and Lit Up Inside is a lyrics compendium rather than an autobiography), the writer of Why Must I Always Explain? explained himself with good grace and even a smile.

If that wasn’t enough, Ulster poet Michael Longley and Ireland’s esteemed author Edna O’Brien out read some of Morrison’s lyrics. At the age of 83 O’Brien’s glamorous, stately magnificence remains undimmed: wonderfully, she declaimed Tore Down a la Rimbaud like a frisky Shakespearean heroine.

After that, Morrison’s set might have been an anticlimax. Instead, he cheerily and painstakingly introduced almost every song, most of which had been referenced in the chat or spoken by the Irish giants.

Better still, the man who has spent recent years bludgeoning his back catalogue into bluesy pub rock has rediscovered what made him great. Backed by a super-subtle, super-restrained four-piece band and referencing Samuel Beckett, Byron and Allen Ginsberg, Morrison showcased his almost other-worldly ability to paint word pictures.

The lengthy, languid and impossibly beautiful On Hyndford Street ended the evening with Morrison singing off-stage and, amazingly, he even inserted a genuinely funny new line into Coney Island. As an artist and as a performer, Van Morrison is re-born. About time too.
-JOHN AIZLEWOOD

Setlist (Thanks David K)
Intro: Eamon Hughes
Film: Foreign Window Van with Dylan
Q&A: Ian Rankin & Van
Film: Van & Michael Longley
Reading: Michael Longley - Coney Island & Into The Mystic
Reading: Edna O'Brien - Tore Down a La Rimbaud & Madame George

Second Half - Van & His Band:
Alan Watts Blues
Foreign Window
Tore Down A La Rimbaud
Wonderful Remark
Coney Island
Why Must I Always Explain?
Celtic Excavation/Into The Mystic
Madame George
On Hyndford Street

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

Monday, November 03, 2014

03-November-2014
Nell's Jazz and Blues Bar

 London, England


FOR MARY AT NELL’S

A very interesting show in which Van The Man became Van The Blues Man, Van The Comic, and Van The Raconteur. Maybe Billy Connolly was right after all.

The words ‘health’ and ‘safety’ didn’t apply tonight with 300+ souls rammed into the space for 150 laid back jazzers. Thanks goodness some wag didn’t shout “f-f-fire” during Streets Of Arklow. Remind me not to go back to Nell’s when there is a crowd-puller on stage.

But at least most of the crowd had a close up and personal sight and sound of Van enjoying himself for once. Having seen many interminable, by rote, shows during the last 20 years it was a joy to see those besuited legs a-pumpin’, the chest expandin’ and the jowls a-howlin’.

A pretty pedestrian start with Van warming up the band and getting their chops loosened. A real pleasure to hear the new(ish) vocalist Dana letting rip on New Symphony Sid – she has a fine jazz and gospel voice and is more than capable of standing with Van on an equal footing. Even when she was presented twice with songs she was not prepared for (Streets and Somerset) she slipped in behind Van with some choice harmonising.

The first highlight hurried in with Someone Like You – a long-time personal favourite – which was delivered in style and with much emotion. A lovely version. Then came Van’s dedication of Magic Time to Mary Bell – an unexpectted but sincere tribute and a very dynamic reading of the song too. Maybe us fans are not so parasitic after all.

We then settled into some excellent versions of well-known Van standards – a rich and concentrated In The Midnight, a spirited Rough God with Dana letting go, and a good reading of If You Only Knew which I haven’theard live for ages – since 2003 GB tells me.

Van’s maracas had by now appeared from backstage, so it was OK to summon up the ghosts of Bo Diddley and Them. In fact much of the blues material reminded me so much of Van as lead singer of an r&b band – what with Dave playing those Billy Harrison licks. The r&B section finished with the Harpo belter Them made ‘famous’ Don’t Start Crying Now, and Van mentioned his recent Slim Harpo award which he said wasn’t on his website - takes two clicks Van, to find it. A diverting Sometimes We Cry followed, with Van cupping his ear a la Johnny Ray (sorry, reader, but I am old enough to remember Johnny Ray ‘crying’ with his hand over his bad ear on Sunday Night At The London Palladium).

Hooker’s Think Twice was another belter, and the show was chugging along at a goodly 7 out of 10 when a jolly decent fellow down front requested Streets Of Arklow. Van hesitated at first but Paul Moran’s enthusiasm led into Van getting into the zone and rendering a delicious balanced Streets, summoning up those long past celtic emotions from his Irish trip in the rearlly 70s, and the show became an instant 7.5!

Next up was more Hooker with that fabulous Hooker boogie. Having been immersed in a 45 minute Canned Heat boogie down the Marquee in the 60s, I just love it, and even the Red Hot Pokers’ version coiuldn’t destroy that riff. Of course Van brought it off in great style – ad-libbing the Henry’s Swing Club verse into Nell’s Club and Kensington High Street, and Vince Power got one more of the many name-checks.

Through some throwaway Van stuff in the next couple of ditties, and another fine Moondance. Van went off and was soon back on to play tribute to his old acker, Acker Bilk, with Somerset. Then the evening finished with a roaring Help Me full of improvs around the Revue-era Lonely Avenue.

All in all a thoroughly satisfactory show with some real highs and no lows, no tumbleweed tonight, and Van as loose, amiable, chattyand funny as I’ve ever seen him. Echoing Brendan’s last comments, I still want to hear more of the Van Classics - even some of those in Lit Up Inside – and most of those that aren’t. But not all long-time fans agree – they want a rich stew with many elements – not just Van’s writing. But after all, in 50 years time no-one will be singing Van’s songs like Van!
-Simon Gee


7.5 / 10

NELL’S JAZZ & BLUES CLUB
LONDON
ENGLAND
3 NOVEMBER 2014
1h 51m
:Celtic Swing (*)
:Lost John
:The New Symphony Sid
:Someone Like You
:Magic Time
:Who Can I Turn To?
:In The Midnight
:Rough God Goes Riding
:If You Only Knew
:I Can Tell
:Baby Please Don't Go >
Parchman Farm >
Don't Start Crying Now
:Sometimes We Cry
:Think Twice Before You Go
:Streets of Arklow
:Boogie Chillen
:Whenever God Shines His Light
:Brown Eyed Girl
:Moondance >
My Funny Valentine
***
:Somerset
:Help Me > Stormy Monday >
Night Time Is The Right Time >
Lonely Avenue >
Mansion On The Hill >
Mean Old World

Van Morrison : vocals (except on *), saxes, harmonicas, maracas
The Van Morrison Band : Dave Keary : guitar; Dana Masters : lead and back-up vocals; Paul Moran : keyboards, MA; Paul Moore : electric and double bass; Bobby Ruggiero: drums, MC; Alistair White : trombone, tuba; Chris White : saxophones, flute.

Setlist (Thanks Mike S.)
Celtic Swing
Lost John
Symphony Sid
Someone Like You
Magic Time (Dedicated by Van to Mary Bell)
Who Can I Turn To
In the Midnight
Rough God Goes Riding
If You Only Knew
I Can Tel (You Don't Love Me)
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchment Farm/Don't Start Cryin' Now
Sometimes We Cry
Think Twice Before You Go
Streets of Arklow
Boogie Chillin
Whenever God Shines His Light
Brown Eyed Girl
Moondance/Funny Valentine
Somerset (Acker Bilk tribute)
Help Me/Stormy Monday/Lonely Ave/Stormy Monday

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

28-October-2014
Royal Albert Hall

 London, England


Van Morrison at Royal Albert Hall,London-28th October, 2014

Van Morrison returned to the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday night to do his third Bluesfest headline concert in just under two and a half years to another capacity audience. Opening as usual with Celtic Swing, Van then followed with a very jazzy Lost John, If You Only Knew and Talk is Cheap before introducing as his guest the one and only Georgie Fame.I thought he would do his party piece Vanlose Stairway duet with Van but alas it was not to be and instead we got New Symphony Sid which is a poor substitute. This had been a pretty mundane start to the show and I was fearing the worst but happily there was much better to come starting with a stirring cover of John Lee Hooker's Think Twice Before You Ago. Sometimes We Cry was powerfully delivered aided in no small measure by Dana Masters on shared vocals.A thunderous Baby Please Don't Go was combined with Parchman Farm and Don't Stop Crying Now to really up the tempo.Rough God Goes Riding was a real highlight, not only because it was a particularly good version, but also because it featured Van doing impressions of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cary Grant and Clint Eastwood .The Joe Pesci one was particularly good and Van delivered it with such gusto that it left me wondering if he may have aspirations of achieving an Oscar nomination sometime in the future to go with all his music awards. A jazzy Back on Top followed but I have to say that I don't think this arrangement matches the original one. The magnificent Queen of the Slipstream followed and was quite breath taking. The audience cheered wildly after this one and were clearly pretty ecstatic. Whenever God Shines His Light followed and again featured Dana Masters prominently on vocals. I Can't Stop Loving You was followed by a really good version of Real Real Gone which finished with You Send Me featuring the brass section and Dana on vocals to great effect. Next up was All In The Game which Van told us had been recorded by hundreds of artists but not like this. How right he is as this is one cover version by Van that I never tire of hearing as he has really made the song his own and no other version even comes close to matching his.We again got an extended 12 minute version with Van really getting into it and bringing us to the burning ground but no mention of safety nets this time though. Van departed the stage at this point but not to the ecstatic response one might normally expect. Judging by the looks of astonishment on people's faces it was because they couldn't believe the concert could possibly be coming to an end at 8.50 pm which is perfectly understandable as most people going to a concert don't expect to be going home around 9.00 pm and most of the other Bluesfest concerts had scheduled finishing times of 11.00pm. Mercifully Van returned twice to deliver Boogie Chillen, Help Me/Lonely Avenue and the always welcome Ballerina but it was all over far too quickly which resulted in quite a lot of adverse comment afterwards.



One very surprising fact which emerged from this concert is that, when account is taken of the full songs and segments of songs done on the night, half of them were not written by Van but were covers of other peoples work. In the context of the recent publication of Lit Up Inside featuring Van's lyrics it is somewhat ironic that he would choose to spend half the concert doing cover versions of other people's work to the exclusion of so many brilliant songs from his own repertoire which never get an airing(Madame George, When The Healing Has Begun,The Healing Game, Streets of Arklow, Troubadors and St. Dominics's Preview being just a few examples) and which are vastly superior to most of the songs by others that he regularly includes.

In summary, this concert had moments of high quality with Van clearly in great form and the band excellent as usual but the chosen set list largely dictates the real quality of a Van Morrison concert and this one was quite lacking given that the vast majority of the most brilliant songs Van has written were not played which is a real pity as their inclusion would undoubtedly elevate his concerts to heights that few artists could even come close to matching.
-Brendan Hynes


Setlist
Celtic Swing
Lost John
Talk is Cheap
If You Only Knew
The New Symphony Sid (w/Georgie Fame)
Think Twice Before You Go
Sometimes We Cry
Baby Please Don’t Go
Rough God Goes Riding
Back On Top
Queen of the Slipstream
Enlightenment
Whenever God Shines His Light
I Can’t Stop Loving You
Real Real Gone
All in the Game
Boogie Chillen’
Help Me
Ballerina

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

26-October-2014
Europa Hotel

 Belfast, Northern Ireland

via Pablo G.

Setlist
Celtic Swing
New Symphony Sid
Baby Please Don't Go
Rough God Goes Riding
Queen of the Slipstream
Sometimes We Cry
Think Twice Before You Go
Days Like This
Whenever God Shines His Light
I Can Tell (You Don't Love Me)
If You Only Knew
That's Life
Philosopher's Stone
It's All In The Game
Glad Tidings
Boogie Chillun
In the Garden
On Hyndford Street

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

25-October-2014
Europa Hotel

 Belfast, Northern Ireland


MLK in IRE Blog

There is something innately special about the thought of seeing a favorite artist or band play their hometown. Dylan in Minnesota. Bruce in Jersey. Wilco in Chicago. To see these guys perform where it all began, before all the hype and celebrity nearly guarantees a unique and powerful performance unlike any other.

Van Morrison, having long been revered amongst the extended Kane and Fitzpatrick family, would easily fit in this camp. I have fond memories of listening to “Wild Night” on repeat while drinking Tahitian Treat by the case load and battling my brothers in NHL ’95 over and over again at my dad’s house nearly 20 years ago. He has since stayed on my short list of favorites through the years; with a more recent highlight being able to witness, along with 100,000+ of our closest friends, Morrison deliver a blistering set to close out the 2010 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

So last week when I discovered Van was playing an intimate show in his hometown of Belfast, it was a no brainer: I was hopping a bus and heading north. What made this gig even more compelling was the venue of choice, the historic Europa Hotel. Known as the most bombed hotel in the world after suffering nearly 30 attacks during The Troubles, it has persevered through the years and is now a main tourist destination and top hotel for Belfast City. President and First Lady Clinton stayed here in 1995 and 1998 while working on the peace process in Northern Ireland. NOTE: I unsuccessfully tried to book into the Clinton Suite for my stay on Saturday night, although the fine folks at the front desk did put me just down the hall on the 10th floor.

After a five-hour journey with connecting busses from Galway to Dublin and Dublin to Belfast, I arrived at the Europa Hotel Saturday evening just in time for the pre show ballroom dinner. Yes, when you book a ticket to see Van Morrison in a 300-person room in the most famous hotel in his hometown, you get a full course meal and all you can drink wine before the show. Who says Van is a total curmudgeon?

At my table were a great group from Belfast who had all seen similar shows from Van at least four or five times previously. They were pleasantly surprised to hear my story of why an American living in the West of Ireland decided to travel north for the night to see the show (when it was established that no one at the table was familiar with Pearl Jam or Wilco I decided to hold off on describing any of my other previous rock n roll pilgrimages) and remarked how they were fascinated by the amount of people they have met who travel from all over the world for a chance to see the legend play his hometown.

Moments after the final plate was cleared the band took the stage, launching into the instrumental “Celtic Swing,” with Van leading the way with his signature sax.

What struck me most about Morrison last night was his effortless skill as a bandleader. Directing his seven-piece group with both a casual persona as well as a striking professionalism of someone who has been at the top of his game for over five decades. He truly appeared to be enjoying himself on stage too, remarking halfway through his set, “Hey I’ve finally got a pulse tonight!”

Whether it was because it was a hometown show or just a lucky Saturday night, the crowd was treated to two hours of amazing music from one of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. With a songbook as rich as his to pull from, there was no sign of the massive chart topping hits that are played at karaoke bars every night the world over, and I don’t think the crowd would’ve had it any other way. If you told me some 20 years ago that one day I’d witness Van The Man perform in such an intimate and historic venue right in his own backyard, the word “surreal” would immediately come to mind. Last night confirmed it, a night I will not soon forget.

Until next time.

-MLK

Setlist
Celtic Swing
You Make Me Feel So Free
Lost John
Someone Like You
Magic Time
Talk is Cheap
Think Twice Before You Gp
Blues Medley
Baby Please Don't Go
Enlightenment
I Cant Stop Loving You
Whenever God Shines His Light
Back on Top
Days Like This
Rough God Goes Riding
Georgia
Glad Tidings
Boogie Chillun
In the Garden
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)
Dana Masters (Vocals)