To me Van Morrison is one of the consummate, unique recording artists.
The first Van album I bought I think was Tupelo Honey way back in 1971. Since then I have accumulated my fair share of his output, on both vinyl and CD (1974’s Veedon Fleece is my personal favourite).
I have only managed to see him on stage twice – Hampton Court Palace just out of London in 2008 and the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans in 2010. Both were wonderful experiences. The Hampton Court gig (see the stage set-up above) was impressive in its coverage of his milestone songs – the sound was great and I was finally seeing an idol. It was however, bereft of stage banter (“Let’s hear it for the band” as he walked off stage was just about it) and lasted exactly 60 minutes (probably a contractual thing). Now to get there I had to catch a bus from Oxford to London, find my hotel for the night and drop my bags off, work out how to use the Underground for the first time, catch a regional train to Hampton Court and, of course, return to my digs – if Van knew how much effort I made to get there, maybe he might’ve played longer…but maybe not.
Van’s gig in New Orleans was quite different. A small band gathered around him in a semi-circle, watching his every move, as he dictated the unplanned set list and coached them into the style he was looking for – his voice supreme. Very much a Crescent City flavour that the crowd loved – a memorable set, one that I will never forget.
Now Van does have a reputation for being grumpy on occasion. His set at Jazz Fest was the only one in my four Jazz Fests where cameras were not able to be used – I complied with this request but regret that I have no pictures of the day.
Here’s an absolutely fascinating exchange between Van and the Uncut magazine editor Allan Jones, where he explains amongst other things why he is not a big Bruce/Boss fan.
If you want to avoid the possibility of seeing Van in a negative light…..step away from the link…NOW!!