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.