Published on 7th November 2019
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Monday, 28th October 2019
When Van Morrison takes to the stage, it’s all about the music. No fanfares, no fantastic light show, no conversation between songs (and sometimes not even a gap between songs!). Morrison lets his music do the talking, and it speaks volumes about his passion and dedication to his art.
The final date on this briefest of autumnal tours, just four dates, was the sold-out Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. Morrison took to the stage and opened with Three Chords And The Truth, the title track from his latest album. Three Chords is a superb collection that stands alongside his best works, phenomenal for an artist whose peers are often content to lie back and live off their age-old royalties.
The setlist covered Morrison’s entire career, from picking up his harmonica for a rocking Baby Please Don’t Go, his bluesy 1964 debut hit with Them, through to more tracks from his latest offering Nobody In Charge and Early Days, a tribute to the pioneers of rock and roll, his influences as a young musician. Across the evening we were treated to a delicious mix of rock, blues, folk and his soulful Celtic mysticism.
The early influences are still found in much of Van The Man’s music and surfaced in lively renditions of Bo Diddley’s Ride On Josephine and Lester Young’s Jumping With Symphony Sid. The latter was just one of several opportunities for The Man to step back and allow the spotlight to shine on each of the members of his 6-piece band, including the legendary guitarist Jay Berliner, who played on Morrison’s seminal debut album Astral Weeks, and bass-man David Hayes who joined Morrison shortly after.
The first of Morrison’s classic pieces came early with Saint Dominic’s Preview, a semi-autobiographical account of the musician’s own early days, and the opening bars were greeted with a warm ripple of applause. An up-tempo jazzy version of Have I Told You Lately, with a ska-beat, was one of several numbers during the evening to feature Morrison with a brief saxophone solo. The medley of In The Afternoon, Ancient Highway, Rain Check and Sitting Pretty was quite magnificent and this was followed by the jazz-laden The Party’s Over.
The classics came thick and fast: Days Like These, Blue Money, Little Village and Foreign Window as Morrison pretty much made up the setlist on the spot. On one occasion he even changed his mind at the last moment as the band were about to strike up with one tune, he suddenly signalled for them to switch to Magic Time.
The great man’s voice was in fine fettle throughout and belies his 74 years, but the highlight of the evening came at the end of his main set. With David Hayes laying down his bass guitar for a double bass, Morrison delivered a measured and tender version of the exquisite Ballerina from the Astral Weeks album. As Morrison turned and left the stage the audience rose as one, a standing ovation for a great performance.
Of course, Morrison returned for the obligatory encore, a rousing rendition of another early Them classic, GLORIA. Again, Morrison just turned sharply and, with no acknowledgement of his audience, left the stage still singing. The band played on for another 10 minutes, each taking their turn in the spotlight and leaving the stage until only drummer Bob Ruggiero remained. Following his super drum solo, the band returned for one final flourish and the evening was over.
Van returns for two nights at The Dome, Brighton, in December and a five-night residency at The London Palladium in March.
[Photo by Bradley Quinn, used with kind permission.]
Three Chords & The Truth
It Was Once My Life
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Baby Please Don’t Go
Ride On Josephine
Days Like These
Jumping With Symphony Sid
Nobody In Charge
Have I Told You Lately
Ain’t Gonna Moan No More
In The Afternoon/Ancient Highway/Rain Check/Sitting Pretty
The Party’s Over
Whenever God Shines His Light
Van Morrison – Vocals, Saxophon
Jay Berliner – Guitar
Bob Ruggiero – Drums
David Hayes – Bass
John Allair – Keyboards