He used to be the master of rock and growl.
Morrison, who once did a complete concert with his back to the audience, has turned
to vaudeville for his new incarnation.
He wore an ill-fitting
suit for his unusually lively performance at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, the
purpose-built concert arena for the Halle Orchestra. They spent a fortune on the
acoustics so you could hear a cellist picking his nose and it was worth every
Poor Van has always been the subject of criticism
for his posturing, never for his sublime voice, cutting through the ether like
a broken bottle coming at you in a Belfast alley, and here I am doing it again.
the trousers and cuffs on his new suit were too long and at times, singing jazzy,
up-beat versions from his powerful back catalogue, he resembled nothing more than
George Melly on a good day. You'd think he could have had a seamstress come to
the dressing room.
He had barrel-chested former blues singer
Chris Farlowe as a support act, which is where he should have stayed instead of
being treated so reverentially. Van has a history of doing this, once with Lonnie
Donegan, and it makes him seem pathetically modest.
there was the voice. Critics can say what they like about Van Morrison, but in
these surroundings the voice was just his. He went down Cypress Avenue, with the
childlike visions coming into view, and that voice was there. He rambled on the
Vanlose Stairway and it gripped your head and pinned you to your seat. It was
just so good to know he was still there and well and he could sound just so, just
It's a bit of a bummer really that he has lightened
up so much. I have to confess I liked him when he was cantankerous. And what was
this? A smile? No, a grin. He was actually enjoying himself.
was jokingly thinking he would be asking for requests next, when he did. Then
he sang "Brown Eyed Girl" and the sweet things in the audience
clapped their palms rhythmically as if they were at a Cliff Richard concert. It
was embarrassing, but I even forgave him that because he deserves it, dammit!
Quite what he was doing performing here for the ladies who lunch and the couples
who are regular attendees for classical concerts is a different point. They seem
to have been first online, gobbling up the £30 and £40 seats like
hungry geese, so it may not have been intended.
Van followers were paying double those prices to the ticket touts. The one-off
concert had sold out in hours a month ago and it felt more like a gala performance
with everybody dressed up. There were men in ties and four housewives next to
me who had very sensibly ordered two glasses of wine each for the interval.
have to say though how remarkably sober the audience was and they didn't make
a quick dash for one of the excellent real ale pubs nearby.
that day I had been held up in a queue at the Town Hall by an old man telling
his life story to the lady behind the counter. I was getting fidgety when a thought
came to me rather like the one Paul had on the road to Damascus.
patient," I thought. "He's not going to see Van Morrison tonight
and this is the highlight of his day."
a sobering thought then and it has stayed with me since. That, and the sound of