Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Live at Austin City Limits Festival Album (2006)

Do you have this live album?  I don't and I regret not buying it when it was released.  I've also resisted the urge to download it illegally.  In some ways it's not an official live album release like his other five live releases:  The Skiffle Sessions - Live in Belfast 1998,· Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, It's Too Late to Stop Now, Live at the Grand Opera House and A Night in San Francisco.  The Live at Austin City Limits Festival album was available only from his website and then it was only listed for sale for only a limited time.  It was gone before I was able to buy it and when it appears on ebay every now and then it is priced among his most expensive CDs (e.g. Period of Transition and Hard Nose the Highway)  
The following review is on someone's site of archived material called "past archives" in the URL.  It has no title or author's name and simply contains 10 or so items about Van.    

"Available only from shows and the artist’s website, Live At Austin City Limits Festival recorded at the titular September 2006 show, is a reasonably accurate facsimile of the current live Van experience, although it does seem more than coincidence that, when being taped, he turns in a slightly longer set than the usual 21:30 getaway, and engages in garrulous banter of a “Hello Texas! It’s great to be here!” nature.
Unusually high levels of pixie cheerfulness aside, there’s lots to enjoy on this decade’s Van live album. Largely configured as per his current road band, with the addition of old hands John Allair, John Platania and David Hayes on organ, guitar and bass respectively, it’s gently thrilling to hear these songs at home in their concert trim. Where it differs most significantly from yer real live Van gig experience is that the audience reaction seems distant, the expected ovations at the end of every solo strangely muted – probably more a matter of recording technique than any lack of appreciation by the crowd on the night. The sonics are delicious, though: you can’t quite picture Van conducting his musicians with hand signals, but sometimes intra-song muttering can be heard, presumably Van telegraphing details of the next number to the band.
Van sets even modest material such as “Days Like This” swinging gently, an ability that can sometimes get obscured at a concert by the inevitable aching disappointment that the song he’s just launched into is yet another one that isn’t on “Astral Weeks”. He drops a little squeedly-bopping scat into “Bright Side Of The Road”, before unrolling a full-blown Satchmo impression.

Cleaning Windows” revels in how delicately funky it’s become, morphing into “Be Bop A Lulu” like some kind of olde worlde sampling. A heartfelt “I Can’t Stop Loving You” doesn’t quite scrape the same heights of tingling majesty as the recent Bridgewater Hall performances documented elsewhere in this issue, but it nevertheless provides evidence of Van’s continuing growth as a performer. It’s always a delight to hear a song from “Enlightenment”, and “Real Real Gone”’s spontaneity is underscored by Van’s call of “Who’s got it?” ahead of John Allair’s organ solo, his giggling fit as he steps on to the bridge, the way it drifts seamlessly into a version of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and, after a chorus from the Crawford Bell Singers, how his response of “That sounds good, do it one more time again” conjures up another one. “Saint James Infirmary” walks through frozen streets on blistered feet, and there’s something delightfully meta about the lines “Gonna go back down to New Orleans/And the drummer does a roll on the snare” (at which the drummer does indeed perform a roll on the snare), as if simultaneously listening to the director’s commentary. “Moondance” has the expected round robin solo spots, and then he gets all gregarious on us…”It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, I can’t remember…but it’s been worth the wait! Like to do the workshop at some point”…before launching into the highlight of both the album and many a Van set, a mesmerising Celtic soul workout loosely based around the old Tommy Edwards hit “It’s All In The Game”.
Click on the link above to read the rest of the review or check out the Wikipedia entry for more information.  
Tack Listing
(All songs by Van Morrison, except as noted)
Disc One
1."Back on Top" - 5:45
2."Big Blue Diamonds" (Earl J. Carson) - 3:06
3."Playhouse" - 5:30
4."Days Like This" - 3:02
5."Muleskinner Blues" (Jimmie Rodgers, Georgie Vaughn) - 5:49
6."In the Midnight" - 5:24
7."Bright Side of the Road" - 4:29
8."Don't You Make Me High" (Daniel Barker, Ken Harris) - 3:05
9."Cleaning Windows" - 4:37
10."I Can't Stop Loving You" (Don Gibson) - 5:32
Disc Two
1."Real Real Gone/You Send Me" (Morrison), (Sam Cooke) - 5:36
2."Saint James Infirmary" (traditional arranged by Morrison) - 5:28
3."Moondance" - 6:20
4."It's All in the Game/You Know What They're Writing About/Make It Real One More Time" (Charles Dawes, Carl Sigman), (Morrison) - 7:21
5."Precious Time" - 3:52
6."Don't Start Crying Now/Custard Pie" (James Moore, Jerry West), (Sonny Terry) - 5:23
7."Wild Night" - 4:18
8."Brown Eyed Girl" - 4:21
9."Gloria" - 8:46
Quotable Quote:
"Perhaps of greater value as a souvenir than as a stand alone album in its own right, it’s nevertheless great to be able to bring on home a modicum of the magic that makes Van gigs so different, maddening and frequently rewarding."


  1. I own this album. I bought it just because it was from Austin City Limits and I live in Texas. It's not a bad album but I don't play it as often as Van's other albums.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I've never heard it although I've heard some of the cuts on Van Morrison radio. (See a post about that online radio station on this blog last year) I think Van should release more of these live shows on CD.