Van Morrison’s amazing list of musical accomplishments — songs like “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “St. Dominic’s Preview,” “Gloria” and “Tupelo Honey,” as well as the albums Moondance and Astral Weeks — have earned the Belfast, Ireland, native a deserved place in both Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
So a rare tour from Morrison should be treated as a momentous event. And it felt that way at night two (Saturday, Jan. 16) of his sold-out stand at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, even before he brought out fellow icon Sir Tom Jones in the middle of the set for two songs of music royalty uniting.
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Fans were understandably excited as Morrison, saxophone around his neck, was brought onto the Shrine stage by his five-piece backing band just moments after the 8:00 p.m. start time. “Ladies and gentlemen, Van Morrison,” his drummer said, welcoming the icon on stage.
At the top of his game Morrison is equal to any act. This was one of those nights. Opening with the jazz instrumental “Celtic Swing” followed by “Close Enough For Jazz,” which found Morrison ending the song with a resounding, “Oh yeah,” showing his jazz cat status, Morrison and his band established they could have just as easily been on stage at the Village Vanguard or Blue Note as the Shrine on this night.
Considered maybe the greatest “blue-eyed soul singer,” Morrison showed why repeatedly on this night, from the playful back and forth exchange he showed with his backup singer on the Ray Charles cover “I Believe To My Soul” and the gorgeous following number “Magic Time.” Other early highlights included a magnificent “Love in the Afternoon” and a raucous “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
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The one question with Morrison shows in the past has been how engaged the singer would be.
Notoriously press shy Morrison has sometimes shown that same private side on stage, so when he does open up it is a big deal. Tell diehard Morrison fans that on this night he stood in the middle of the stage and did movie star impressions and you’ll see jaws drop on the floor.
Maybe it was having longtime friend Jones join him for the magnificent “Sometimes We Cry” and “I’m Not Feeling it Anymore” or maybe it was daughter Shana Morrison accompany him vocally on “Rough God Goes Riding” and “That Old Black Magic,” but Morrison was as playful as you’ll see him in concert, showing off his impressions of actors Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Cary Grant at one point.
While the impressions and special guests were both fun and invigorated the crowd, Morrison’s voice is all that is needed for a magical night. In the same way musicians, as they get older, learn control of their instrument, his voice was in peak form, as he showed during one impressive stretch in the medley “It’s All in the Game/Time Is Running Out/Waiting Game/No Plan B/Burning Ground,” taking his vocals intentionally from smooth to gravelly and back within seconds.
Morrison’s voice remains one of the greatest musical instruments in rock today. So much so that if you are compiling a musical bucket list sitting in the audience watching Van “The Man” stand in the center of stage, his voice effortlessly soaring as he delivers “Into the Mystic” should be top ten for sure. So a lot of fans in L.A. got to cross something special off their list on this unforgettable night.
Here’s the full set list:
“Close Enough For Jazz”
“I Believe to My Soul”
“Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Cry Cry Baby”
“In the Afternoon”
“Sometimes We Cry” (with Tom Jones)
“I’m Not Feeling it Anymore” (with Tom Jones)
“Rough God Goes Riding” (with Shana Morrison)
“That Old Black Magic” (with Shana Morrison)
“It’s All in the Game/Time Is Running Out/Waiting Game/No Plan B/Burning Ground”
“Into the Mystic”