I went to see the legendary Van Morrison tonight. Having long been a fan of Van, I knew I would never get to see him. See, Van is known for not touring. The reason is (or was) that he had horrible stage fright, and would only get onstage if he was drunk. Now, that seems like an awful generalization... but I have bourn witness. Not personally of course, because Van hasn't been to Colorado in 28 years. Van is also very well known for his rock star temperament. It was well described in a thorough piece by Mark Brown of the Rocky Mountain News. He said that Van was in his top 5 concerts ever, and this is a guy who goes to rock concerts for a living. He also said that Van was in his worst 5 concert experiences.
That being said, I plunked down my $100 (for the cheat seats, in fact I had to stand in the aisle all night) and got ready to see the man. He gave the radio stations fair warning and told all that 'Van will play promptly at 7:30 pm with no opening band and will be offstage at 8:45 pm.
So the band enters at 7:35 and does some jazz. I should emphasize the jazz point. His band was a jazz band, and a terrific one at that. He had about a 6 piece band, horn section and all. Everyone was in suits, and played their asses off. After the intro jam piece, Van saunters out looking like he does in those pictures you see, suit, sunglasses, and pork pie hat. It was off to a classic Van start when he berated the drummer to play harder. Trust me, this was not a 'let's kick it up a notch', but a firm scolding. I think Van forgot he had the mike in his hand. The first few songs were terribly bland. Keep in mind that Van's voice was in amazing top form... flawless... but there was little passion felt. As I told my buddy, I wanted more Van and less band. He did a couple of epic classics in this early part, which to me totally fell flat. There was 'Have I told you lately' which he reconfigured to be a shitty mid tempo lounge song.
Then, the band kicks into 'Moondance'. Let's be honest, this is the moment we were all waiting for. It was a craptacular phoned in formula piece. I was getting really disappointed at this point, fearing just an hour of Van going through the motions and picking up a paycheck. I think somehow Van felt our complacency, because he went to an audible. He turned to the band and said 'Brown eyed girl'. I know this wasn't the setlist because the dudes all dropped their instruments and scrambled to compensate. With 'Brown eyed girl' Van tore the sold out house apart. It was a powerful and (most importantly) rendered just the way we remember it from the radio. After that, everything got better. His song choices seemed more interesting, and his passion was fully there. Here are some highlights of the setlist as I remember them: back on top, days like this, moondance, have I told you lately, gloria, jackie wilson said, and certainly a few from his terrific new disc 'Magic Time'.