Archive for the ‘Van Morrison’ Category

Van Morrison Sage Gateshead 24 March 2022

van tixVan the Man and I go back a long way! I’ve been a fan for many years, since the early 70s when I saw him a few times at festivals and in Newcastle City Hall, once at a particularly triumphant show when he played with the Caledonian Soul Orchestra and was simply tremendous. My last encounter with the great man was on a cold August night on Newcastle racecourse during covid restrictions. It was an outdoor socially distanced “arena” concert and worked quite well. Van was, as he usually is these days, on top form that night.

For me, the guy is simply a genius. I rate him alongside seeing Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and many other great artists from my past. Everyone I go to see is quite old these days, but then so am I, and like fine wine many of these artists have matured with age. They have come to terms with their back catalogues and frequently draw from them; whereas in the 80s they would often neglect some of their own excellent classic songs. Van has a very distinctive voice, and uses it to great effect. I have heard his voice described as transcendental, spiritual; he uses his voice as the true instrument that it is.

van 1The Sage is packed, completely sold out, demonstrating the staying power of Van Morrison. We all know what to expect. The advertised stage times are 8 PM start; 9:35 PM finish and Van sticks to that more or less exactly. The set is a mixture of old favourites and some new songs from his Latest Record Project album. Van looks quite dapper in blue suit and matching hat. He is surrounded by excellent musicians and like any great bandleader a wave of his hand or a simple flash of his eyes signals to a band member to start, or finish, their solo spot. The band open the proceedings before they are soon joined by Van Morrison who is in fine voice and looks well. He plays quite a lot of saxophone, perhaps a little too much for me, but overall the mix is fine. His guitarist, female singer and vibraphone player are worthy of particular mention. The keyboard player also takes a lead on many of the songs, playing what looks to me like an old Hammond organ. The double bass player and drummer are also excellent (apologies if I missed any other band members!) Van accompanies his singing with his usual jerky up-and-down arm movements, choreographed in time to the music.

Classics like “Days like This” and “And It Stoned Me” sound as fresh as ever. Towards the end Van leavesvan 3 the stage, soon to return and delight the audience with the classic tracks “Brown Eyed Girl” and, finally, the Them 60s hit “Gloria”. Van leaves the stage again, this time for the last, and the band continue jamming on “Gloria” for 5 to 10 minutes, each member taking a solo. Of course we all know that that is the end, but everyone stays until the last note is played. As we file out, I see a lot of smiling faces: everyone enjoyed the show. After all, we all know what to expect and these days Van always delivers his best. Me, I would have liked to have heard “Into the Mystic”, “Moon Dance” and “Here Comes the Night”, but maybe I am just being greedy! The concert and the man were as great as ever. Long may he return to sing for us.

van 2Someone once told me that Van Morrison returns home on his private plane back to Ireland every night after the show. I often wonder if this is true. The man is a genius, an enigma and we are lucky to be able to witness him perform his magic. Happy days.

Setlist:(Something like this) Caledonia Swing; Latest Record Project; Deadbeat Saturday Night; Double Agent; Days Like This; Someone Like You; Magic Time; Precious Time; Laughin’ and Clownin’; My Time After a While; Ain’t Gonna Moan No More; These Dreams of You; Sometimes We Cry; And It Stoned Me; Enlightenment; Broken Record; Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria

Many thanks to Jackie, photographer for the night, and Elaine for helping me into bed; the garage beat of “Gloria” still pounding in my head.

Van Morrison Newcastle Virgin Money Unity Arena 3 September 2020

So this was my first concert since seeing Elvis Costello in March and my first socially distant concert! Quite a different and in some ways daunting experience. The arrangements all sounded very well organised with everyone attending being in their own little cell, in my case myself along with my carer, Jackie.

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The advertising for the event said: “Get ready for the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue arriving in Newcastle this summer! If you’ve missed live music, the thrill of a shared experience and are ready to get out in Newcastle – you will need to be at this summer’s biggest music event.”

The Virgin Money Unity Arena is based at Gosforth Park, just a 5 minute drive from central Newcastle. The arena is designed to be safe and encourage social distancing with organised car parking, safe queuing systems into the arena and a dedicated area for car-loads of friends or family to enjoy the event.

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The line-up for the series of concerts at the venue was strong but for me, one name stood out: that of the legend that is Van Morrison. Van Morrison is a true artist, and like any true artist he has his highs and lows. He has given me some of the best concert memories of my life, but I have also seen him deliver performances which were disappointing and where it appeared he wished he wasn’t on the stage. However, I would also rate the time I saw him at Newcastle City Hall with the Caledonian Soul Orchestra in the early 70s as one of the best 10 concerts of my life. But that is part of the magic and mystique that is the artist Van Morrison. You can never quite predict how well he will perform or indeed what he will perform but, for me, the experience is always worthwhile.

The arrangements worked well on the night and lived up to promise. Our taxi driver was led through a special entrance round the back of the racecourse and after a swift entry we walked along a track which had been laid across the grass to avoid my wheelchair sticking in any mud (which would not be good) and were taken to our little private cell near the front of the stage. We had been asked to arrive between 6 PM and 7 PM, and the concert started at 8 PM. We arrived at 6:45 PM, which worked well and meant we didn’t have too long to wait. I was soon fortified by a pint of pale ale and, with blankets wrapped around me (it was a little nippy) I was all set up and ready for a night with my hero. It turned out to be a nice night (I was dreading rain); cool, but pleasant.


Van Morrison took the stage just after 8:15 PM resplendent in a long, dark coat and complete with a hat with ear coverings and shades. Very well set up for the night ahead. Tonight we were presented with Van on true, top form. Accompanied by a great, jazzy band tonight we saw Van play lots of saxophone and mouth harp and sing a selection of songs drawn from throughout his career, and including some jazz and blues standards, in his best soulful voice. Quite a lot of scat singing (“bit, but, bat”; I think you know what I mean) but it all fitted together well. Early on in the set we were treated to the early Them classic “Baby Please Don’t Go” and a great version of “Moondance”. We were then treated to a set of rhythm and blues and soul classics including “The Party’s Over” and “Have I Told You Lately”. The set drew to an end with “Brown Eyed Girl” with the band playing while Van left the stage. The band played on, looking over to the left of the stage to see if the main man would return. He did, and closed the set with a tremendous version of “Gloria”. We were soon led along over our little track, the theme G L O R I A ! still bouncing around my head.

Our taxi was waiting to take us back home again, picking up my carer Chris along the way, so that he and Jackie could help me get into bed still thinking how great it had been to be in the company of Van Morrison once again. For me, the man stands up there as a true artist/genius, alongside contemporaries Bob Dylan, David Bowie, John Lennon and Pete Townshend. You really can’t get much better on a nice cool, summer night. I just read that Van Morrison played at the Electric Ballroom in London a few days later and was accompanied on stage by Chris Farlowe. Now that would have been something to see!

Setlist was something like this: A Shot of Rhythm and Blues; Three Chords and the Truth; Baby Please Don’t Go; I Can Tell; Moondance; Carrying a Torch; Wild Night; Did Ye Get Healed?; Have I Told You Lately; Ain’t Gonna Moan No More; Precious Time; Sometimes We Cry; Whenever God Shines His Light; Enlightenment; The Party’s Over; Broken Record; Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile); Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria

Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Newcastle City Hall 27th July 1973

Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Newcastle City Hall 27th July 1973
I coulnd’t let this section of my blogging pass without writing about Van Morrison again. I first saw Van Morrison at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. He had just created The Caledonia Soul Orchestra which is often considered to be “one of the tightest performing backup groups of the 1970s” (Wikipedia). This was, without any doubt, one of the greatest gigs I have ever witnessed. The concert was put on by local promoter Geoff Docherty and his Filmore North organisation, and it cost me all of 60p to sit at the back of the hall and witness one of the greatest singers and performers I have ever seen. Van sang with such passion and soul that night. I’ve seen him several times since this concert, but nothing has come close to matching that peformance. The tour was captured on the live lp: Its Too Late to Stop Now, some of which was recorded at a show at London’s Rainbow theatre, which took place just a couple of days before the Newcastle gig. The Rainbow Theatre gig was voted by Q Magazine readers as one of the top live performances of all time. Morrison was going through a divorce at the time and it is often said that his selection of material and impassioned performances were evidence of his inner turmoil. “I would say that that tour represented the height of his confidence as a performer,” band member John Platania remarked”, and the resultant double live album is considered as representing Van Morrison at his peak. I can picture him now, singing great versions of Here Comes the Night and Gloria. Everything about that show was perfect. The band was tight, the string section added a depth to the songs, Van was singing great, and more importantly he was clearly enjoying himself, and the crowd were up for it. We knew we were witnessing something special. If I had a time machine and could go back and relive a handful of gigs this would be one of them. I next saw Van at one or two festivals, including Knebworth, but didn’t catch up with him again at the City Hall until 1979. By then Morrison was moving in a more pop oriented direction, and although I still enjoyed the gig, the power and passion of that early 70s show was lacking.
ItsTooLateToStopNow John Collis comments that “with the magnificent Caledonia Soul Orchestra on song he [Morrison] came of age as a magnetic stage performer, culminating in the release of the double set It’s Too Late to Stop Now one of the most impressive of all attempts to squeeze the stage excitement of a rock performer on to vinyl.” (Collis, Inarticulate Speech on the Heart). So today I’ll think a little of that amazing 1973 concert, and look forward to the next time I have the chance to see Van Morrison, who for a couple of hours simply spellbound me in the City Hall all those years ago.
Setlist from the Van Morrison Rainbow Theatre London concert of July 24, 1973: Warm Love; Take your Hands Out Of My Pocket; Here Comes The Night; I Just Want To Make Love To You; Brown Eyed Girl; Moonshine Whiskey; Moondance; Help Me; Domino; Caravan; Cyprus Avenue; Wild Night; I Paid The Price; Saint Dominic’s Preview; Gloria.
The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Line Up: Van Morrison – vocals; John Platania – guitar; Jeff Labes – keyboards; Jack Schroer – saxophones; Bill Atwood – trumpet; David Hayes – bass; Dahaud Shaar – drums; Terry Adams – cello; Nancy Ellis – viola; Tom Halpin – violin; Tim Kovatch – violin; Nathan Rubin – violin.

Bob Dylan Newcastle Telewest Arena 20 June 1998

Bob Dylan Newcastle Telewest Arena 20 June 1998
Support from Van Morrison
This was a standing gig, with support from Van Morrison. The arena was far from full, as I recall. From a newspaper of the time: “Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, two genuine legends of rock, kick off a short national tour today. As they’re so moody and unpredictable, this pair can often disappoint, but when they rise to the occasion, it can be one of those all-time great nights. Well worth a risk, if only to say that you’ve seen them.” On the night Van was quite moody, as the newspaper suggested; however Dylan seemed in better spirits. The set included quite a few acoustic songs, and several tracks that were unfamiliar to me. The highlight for me was the last encore of Rainy Day Women, during which Dylan and the crowd really lit up. Setlist: Gotta Serve Somebody; If Not for You; Cold Irons Bound; Simple Twist of Fate; Silvio; To Ramona; Masters of War; Love Minus Zero/No Limit; Tangled Up in Blue; Forever Young; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Highway 61 Revisited. Encore:Love Sick’ Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

The Allman Brothers Knebworth 1974

The Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, The Mahavishnu Orhcestra, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Tim Buckley.
Knebworth Park 1974 The Bucolic Frolic
This was the first of the great 1970s one day festivals to be held at Knebworth Park. I went along with my mates John and Gillie, catching a bus to Stevenage and them making our way to the site on the Saturday morning. We arrived just in time for Tim Buckley, who came on early in the day just as the crowds were entering the site. I remember his deep booming voice echoing around the field, but little else about his set. Next up was the Sensational Alex Harvey band, who were already a favourite of ours, and a great festival crowd pleaser. We made our way to the front to get a good view of Alex, Zal and the others who started with Faith Healer, which was still quite a new song at the time. Alex was an amazing front man, had no fear at all and was also a bit of a philosopher: “Don’t pish in the water. Don’t buy any bullets , don’t make any bullets and don’t shoot any bullets”. You couldn’t get more of a contrast than Alex Harvey followed by John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orhcestra, but such a rich mix of music was quite commonplace at 70s events. John was dressed entirely in white and he and his band took us through a wonderful blend of jazz, rock and classical music which swept through the field. The Mahavishnu Orhcestra was a big band, featuring Jean Luc Ponty, who had recently made his name playing with Frank Zappa. Van Morrison was just amazing, and at his peak, in the early 70s, and his set at Knebworth was great. His band on the day was a three piece, which was very small for Van, and a contrast to the Caledonia Soul Orchestra who I saw him with a few weeks later. I was never a big fan of the Doobie Brothers, they were a bit too funky for me, however John recalls them as the highlight of the day. They went down ok with the crowd, but by then everyone was waiting for the headliners. Jessica and Ramblin’ Man were real favourites that summer, played at all the festivals, and The Allman Brothers Band had a reputation for being THE Jamming band, renowned for playing long sets and mega versions of their songs, particularly Whipping Post. They didn’t let the crowd down. Gillie, John and I spent some time wandering around the site that day, and Jessica was constantly playing in the background. The Allmans came on late and played until well after midnight. Greg Alllman said at some point during the set “We are going to play every damn song we know” after continued shouts for Whipping Post. We slept the night on the site and got the bus back home the next morning, running into some of John’s school friends on the bus. Allman Brothers setlist: Wasted Words; Done Somebody Wrong; One Way Out; Stormy Monday; Midnight Rider; Blue Sky; In Memory of Elizabeth Reed; Statesboro Blues; Come and Go Blues; Ramblin’ Man. Encore: Trouble No More; Jessica; You Don’t Love Me / Les Brers In A Minor. Second Encore: Whipping Post. Thanks to John for the scan of the flyer. John comments that is was overall a very exciting day, with a diverse, even eclectic, line up which happened a lot a the time and gave everyone a chance to appreciate lots of different styles of music.

Van Morrison The Sage Gateshead 11 Feb 2012

Van Morrison The Sage Gateshead 11 Feb 2012
“No cameras. If anyone takes a photograph he says he will walk straight off stage” the lady at the door told me as I entered the concert last night. Welcome to a gig by the enigma that is Van Morrison. I was seated in a box to the left of the stage, just a few feet away from where the great man would stand. The gig had been sold out for weeks; Van’s legend is as strong as ever, and he is filling halls out again, as it should be. Spot on at 8pm as advertised the band took the stage, followed by Van who walked on from stage left playing a saxophone. They were straight into Brown Eyed Girl; a version with a jazzier feel than the original. Morrison was singing well and you don’t get much tighter than this band. So far so good, I thought. I’ve enjoyed the last couple of Van gigs that I’ve seen, and expected this to be similar. But it was so much better. Last night, I could sense that Van was getting more into the performance as the night went on. Maybe it was because I was close to the stage and could clearly see the expression on Van’s face, but I think it was more than that. I swear I saw him smile a few times, and by the last few songs he was singing with a commitment and passion that I haven’t seen for many years. Between songs he was having some little chats with members of band, particularly the bass player; obviously giving them some instructions as to the next song and the arrangement. I’d love to be able to hear what he was saying. Van himself played sax and harp on several numbers and on Haunts Of Ancient Peace he sat and played at a keyboard, something I can’t recall seeing recently. He even introduced one of the songs and asked us to thank the band several times. The band, by the way, are excellent; switching from jazz to blues to soul, with some great solos, whether it be by the sax player, guitarist or the pianist. By the last song, the old Them classic, Gloria, they were really rocking, and Van was belting out the lyrics. He just gets better. Setlist: Brown Eyed Girl; Higher Than The World; Not Feeling It Anymore/Hurting Game; These Dreams Of You; Enlightenment; All In The Game/No Plan B/No Safety Net; Real Real Gone/You Send Me; Crazy love; Moondance; Into The Mystic; Precious Time; Haunts Of Ancient Peace; In The Garden/Holy Guardian Angel; Fair Play; Ballerina; Help Me; Gloria. I told a guy at work, who used to go and see Van a lot, that I was going to the gig. He told me that he had been disappointed by Van’s performances in the past, and wouldn’t go again. He missed a treat. Wish I had tickets for York tonight, but I checked and its sold out, which is as it should be. Come back soon Van.

Van Morrison in concert 1973 – 2007

Van Morrison in concert 1973 – 2007
I’m going to see Van Morrison at The Sage Gateshead on Saturday, so I thought I would spend a little time reflecting on my previous concert experiences of the great man.
I first saw Van Morrison at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. He was performing with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, and it was without doubt one of the greatest gigs I have seen. The passion and soul that Van showed that night was astounding. I’ve seen him several times since, but nothing has matched how he was that night. I’ve written separately on that great concert. I next saw Van at one or two festivals, including Knebworth, but didn’t catch up with him again at the City Hall until 1979. By then Morrison was moving in a more pop oriented direction, and although I still enjoyed the gig, the power and passion of that early 70s show was lacking.
I was back at the City Hall for a Van gig in 1983, and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. It was as if he was going through the motions, and didn’t really want to be there. I talked to other fans who saw him around the same time, and they felt the same. He was back in Newcastle at the Arena as special guest for Bob Dylan in the 1990s once, maybe twice, I don’t remember. I’d lost faith in him by then, and shamefully admit I stayed in the bar during his set. I thought I’d seen the last of the Van I’d seen at that gig in 1973. However, in recent years I’ve been playing Moondance, Astral Weeks and the live album now and then, and have realised just how great his music is. So it was in that frame of mind that I went to see Van again at Middlesbrough Town Hall in 2005. I saw glimpses of the old Van again at that gig. The set was short, and Van didn’t acknowledge the audience at all, but he sang well, and it looked like he cared again. The set included some of his well known songs such as Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl, and a bunch of stuff that I didn’t recognise, and I am pleased to say that I enjoyed it. I was sold out again. So it was in that frame of mind that I took Laura to see Van at the Sage in 2007. We had cheap seats looking down on the stage from above and once again, he delivered. The set included more classics than in 2005. I think we got Here Comes the Night and Gloria, certainly one of them if not both. Even Laura enjoyed it, and she has become quite hard to please. Those last couple of gigs have convinced me to catch Van each time he comes to the North East. So I’ll be at The Sage on Saturday to see Van again, and I’m really looking forward to it. I know what to expect, and it should be good. I’ll report back on Sunday and write a review of the gig. I’ll dream a little of that gig in 1973, and be thankful I have the chance to hear some of those songs again, performed by the master who wrote them, and who spellbound me in the City Hall all those years ago.