Monday 26 January 2015

Van Morrison at Celtic Connections

Van was definitely the man in Glasgow.

It is under an hour since Van Morrison left the stage at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, leaving his band to jam on for a good 5-10 minutes. He's not one for chit chat between songs, or even allowing time for applause between songs, and he left the stage twice whilst still singing, but Van the Man led his band through an incredible performance tonight.

Van Morrison was playing as part of Celtic Connections 2015 and I have my brother to thank for buying me a ticket for tonight. I was excited yet nervous ahead of the show, not knowing what he would play and also having heard rumours about him being a tad grumpy at times.

I needn't have worried, I'm still under the spell he magically wove tonight. It was a truly majestic performance - vocally and musically. 

Our seats were high, only a few from the back, centre stage and we captured the beautiful Concert Hall acoustics in all their glory. 

Van's band took to the stage all dressed in black - guitar, bass/double bass, drums, piano/organ/keys/trumpet and a backing singer. They launched into an instrumental jazz number and then on strode Van Morrison to jam along on saxophone. They were in sensational form from the off.

Dropping in an Please Don't Go early on, which led into Parchman and Don't Stop was a wise move, the audience seemed spellbound at the vocal delivery and the tightness of the band. Van was on his mouth organ at this point and he also played guitar at times.

Dressed in black, with hat and shades, there was no doubt who was the boss as Van conducted and instructed the band through the performance - letting them to know when to up the pace, bring it down, extend the jam, even change instruments or to bring it to a close.

This led to a stunning run of songs with the band playing beautiful dreamy music at times, allowing Van Morrison to sing his poetic love songs over the top. Moondance was gorgeous, Sometimes We Cry was packed with soul, In The Garden was quite simply breathtaking as the lights dimmed and Van brought the music right down before letting rip with his vocals and the band came crashing back in.

Ending with the beautiful Into the Mystic and Ballerina, Van Morrison walked slowly off the stage whilst still singing to rapturous applause, leaving the band to jam on and take turns in the spotlight before a note was handed to the organ/piano player telling him to bring things to a close.

I've seen many legends grace stages in Glasgow in my 21-years of gig-going but tonight was possibly the best of the lot, certainly the best I have seen in a long, long time. Van Morrison's voice was effortless from the off - gentle when required, soaring and soulful throughout, his backing band were just exceptional - capable of reacting to his needs and producing moments of truly beautiful and dreamy music that you could get lost in.

What a show!

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