Home Music Van Morrison Brings “Glad Tidings” But No Encore and Few Hits to...

I do have to laugh: I stopped going to Van Morrison shows a few years ago because they were so frustrating. He rarely sang recognizable songs. He was off in his own world. The whole thing was interesting for about half an hour. And this from a devoted fan who has every album and knows every note. His performances were coloring my love of the records.

So back I went on Tuesday to the Beacon Theater. The place was full. Shana Morrison, Van’s foxy 43 year old daughter, opened the show and sang “And It Stoned Me.” She has a wonderful voice and could have been a star in her own right. But she works in the family store.

Van: He sure is a stout little guy, a fireplug in a tight suit and a big brimmed hat clamped down on his head. To get a good picture of him you have to wait until he turns his cherubic face to the key light above him and shoot fast. Van Morrison does not like too much light.

The band is sweet. They are big too, with a lot of independent horns, not a horn section per se. The players are gifted and soulful. Van plays his own memorable horn pieces, too. And the band swings under his own direction. Jazz and big band are his true source material, and their intersection with country, R&B, Irish traditional music makes for his unique sound.

We were lucky: He sings “Moondance,” or kind of mumbles it. He rushes “Tupelo Honey” into a medley with the less well known “Tupelo Honey.” That’s it for hits. If you’ve come for “Gloria,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” or “Jackie Wilson Said,” you are out of luck.

An hilarious moment: someone has convinced Van to sing “Glad Tidings” from “Moondance.” It was used in a Sopranos episode. “I need the lyrics!” he shouts. “Where are the lyrics.” An assistant hands him a piece of paper, he puts it on a music stand. “Glad Tidings” lives, gloriously.

There are guest stars: 92 year old jazz legend Jon Hendricks, famous for Lambert Hendricks & Ross, comes out with his daughter Aria and talented vocalist Kevin Burke. During the 90 minute show they do a two or three numbers with Van including Hendricks’ famous “Centerpiece.” Van looks thrilled and the results are historic. Beautiful.

I’ve looked back at Van’s set lists since he started out on this set of gigs a couple of weeks ago. It’s catch as catch can. It’s whatever he feels like. And there are no encores. So after he did “In the Garden,” he said Goodnight and left the Beacon stage. The audience, many of whom spent hundreds of bucks to see him, was shocked and disappointed. I just laughed. I knew the way it would end. But it was beautiful for a few moments.

Van, you won’t read this but here’s an idea: you released a new album last year. Why not sing it on tour? Just a thought.


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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
8 replies to this post
  1. I have loved Van Morrison forever-such a big fan. Thanks for the notice, you have saved me hundreds of dollars. I guess I won’t be buying any tickets to his concerts.

  2. Difficult to understand how anyone claiming to be a devoted Van fan, and ‘know every note’, could comment on how his performances were “coloring my love of the records.” He isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ act, and hasn’t been for 40 years. And he never feels “obliged” to promote his latest work.

    Unlike ageing pop stars doing note for note reproductions at county fairs, he’s a working musician – performing constantly and reworking the interpretations. That was a central theme of these performances .. what he does is work, and the process can be laborious even when it produces stellar results. He’s been playing the same standards (“All In The Game”, “St James Infirmary” etc) for the last 20 years, but they are improvised and re-tuned; he riffs over and in each piece both with vocal and instruments, as does his excellent band. Some 20 year old cheeserette listening to her dad’s music collection and expecting a note for note ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ would be understandably disappointed by this .. but a long-time fan?

    Why would all these people return year after year to sold-out arenas to watch a famously grumpy man do what he does if they were expecting the ’71 version of ‘Tupelo Honey’, or note for note interpretations? As Greil Marcus once observed “no white man sings like Van Morrison.” If you’d choose to have that voice do it the same way every time, or perform his version of a Three Dog Night reunion, maybe you’re reviewing the wrong show.

  3. WOW. And people wonder why Van “does not like too much light…” Did you ever stop and think that it might be because of articles like this? You are such a condescending prick, throughout. Beginning your article with “I do have to laugh,” going on to say “he sure is a stout little guy,” then bemoaning that you didn’t hear what YOU call “the hits” (Seriously? You want to hear Gloria and Brown Eyed Girl? And you call yourself a Van Morrison fan?)… It’s nauseating… Oh and I looked at the setlist. it was terrific. Sometimes We Cry? Whenever God Shines His Light? In the Garden? Tupelo Honey? These are amazingly beautiful songs from terrific albums. My guess? He doesn’t play encores because, well, because of people like you — lazy, hypocritical, condescending douche-bags who feel that one of the most accomplished and celebrated rock and roll artists of all time owes them “one more song” because they paid “hundreds of bucks” for a seat. I’ve paid hundreds of bucks to see him too. I never felt that this meant that Van Morrison owed me an encore. But then again, I’m not that entitled. Instead, I appreciate it when someone puts on a show for me, when someone has the talent and the guts and the discipline and the conviction and the creativity and, once again, the courage to stand up in front of a room full of total strangers and… sing.

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