Today’s post is some reader response to the question on the Word Magazine site that asks “anyone seen Van Morrison live?” Word Magazine has been around since 2003 but the August 2012 issue will sadly be the last. It's a shame to see its passing considering it was a fine music magazine. In fact, it won the UK's Music Magazine of the Year for 2007 and 2008. The Word Magazine’s most Van issue was August, 2007 when Van featured on the cover and gave an extensive interview inside. Here are some of the answers to to the question about Van’s performances.
Anyone seen Van Morrison Live?
Charlie Mingles - I just bought tickets for his show at The Playhouse here in Edinburgh in March. Although the tickets didn't go on sale, even for priority members, till 9am this morning, the best seats (front three rows where you can bathe in Van's famous warmth & joi de vivre) were already sold out by 11.30 when I phoned. No matter, we've got some in the Circle that sound okay. As everyone probably knows, he's notorious (Bob-Dylan style) for his inconsistency when performing live. Anyone seen him live recently?
Ralph - E mailed me a live pre-sale link yesterday so that is probably where the front rows went. I must say £75 for a front stalls ticket did not appeal in the least. I have seen Van many times but decided a few years ago it is now a case of diminishing returns for increasingly expensive tickets. He no longer has the vocal range he once had (true of most vocalists as they get older), the recent material is not a patch on previous glories and he is reluctant to revisit what we mere mortals consider his finest work.The exception being the Astral Weeks reruns which he charged a further premium for. A great shame as I was lucky enough to witness some truly wonderful shows in the past and would love to see another one. Hope you have a good night nonetheless.
Fuzzy - Got given a ticket for him at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester in 2003, the magnificent Solomon Burke was his support and he was marvellous despite being sat on his throne all through the performance. On the other hand,Van Morrison was a miserable so and so.stimpy - I saw him dozens of times in the 70s & 80s and every gig was a treat - he was either mind-blowingly good or stropped off stage after a perfunctory set. During the 90s he seemed to start phoning it in and there were less and less transcendent moments. The last straw for me was when he installed a large digital 'countdown' clock starting at 90 mins. The second that clock hit 00:00 he was gone. If you've never seen him, then you should certainly try him once, just in case his muse hits him during the show. When that happens there's no better live singer...
Colin H - I understand he played a series of charity gigs at the Culloden Hotel outside Belfast last week, at £200 a head. I heard that a well known rock star walked towards him backstage... and ended up turning on his heels and walking the other way when Van spotted the approach and unleashed his joie de vivre on the poor sod. The world will not be a sadder place etc etc...
Colin H - Apparently the Culloden shows were partly to break in a new band. But then knowing his reputation in this area, his Odyssey show could be a wholly different crew - he keeps a couple of bands on the go at one time, some (very good) musicians never get out of the rehearsal room, while some mediocrities get to play on stage with him for swathes of time. (Of course, some very fine players also get to the stage band...) But very few players can last long in his band given the way its run, the demands on their time, the working environment. I've paid to see him maybe half a dozen times over the past 20+ years, but I decided after the last one (at the Ulster Hall or Waterfront - can't recall) a few years back that enough was enough. He seems to treat his audience with contempt, so why should he have my money for the privilege?
dai - I’ve seen Van about 27 times. Some of the greatest shows I ever saw, mainly in early 80s and late 90s.Last one I saw was Astral Weeks live in New York, 2007. Generally brilliant. A tip, get there at the start time on the ticket. Otherwise you may miss half the show.
Steve Turner - Saw him once at Warwick Castle. I thought the music that night was truly special. He never said a word and as a consequence my GLW thought the show was a pile of crap even though she agreed the music was great.
Dr Volume - I'm not a Van Fan but as a fan of The Fall a lot of the comments above ring very true. Increasingly overpriced tickets, phoned in performances with the occasional glimmer of greatness, gigs quickly curtailed once the artist had decided to retire backstage and yet you keep going back with hope in your heart that this time it will be brilliant. The only real difference is that with The Fall its definitely not a good idea to turn up early, or indeed arrived with any hope of catching your last train/bus home unless you're happy to miss the last few songs.
Guffster - Huge admirer but haven't bought any of his new stuff for a while and if I'm honest don't really get Astral Weeks - I find it a bit dull and find the articles written about it (apart from PDN's) pretentious to say the least. Saw him twice - one of the smaller halls at the SECC 25 years ago (that has made me realise that I am old) and he was on for the 90mins and off. Saw him 10 years later at Wembley Arena with Georgie Fame and he was excellent and you couldn't get him off the stage. GLW and father-in-law have seen him since and just not worth parting with the hard earned cash to see him. Doubt I'll see him again and will just remember how good he was at Wembley - how often do you hear that?
mojoworking - Haven't seen Van since 1985 and vowed never to pay to see him again. He played whatever his current album was (A Sense Of Wonder, probably) in its entirety right off the bat. Trouble was, the album had only just been released and I didn’t know a single song from it. He then compressed some of his "hits" into a 10 minute medley and that was it, he was off. Never spoke a single word to the crowd all night. Not even “Goodnight”.
BernkastelCues - Seen him about 20 years ago on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. Was a huge fan of his work at the time - even Wavelength. He came on, refused to address the audience, (Georgie Fame did the pleasantries) went through a perfunctory set, then left. He may not enjoy the performance experience, but if he's going to charge me top wonga to sit in the rain then I'm afraid I'm gonna expect more. Unforgivably poor. Haven't bought any of his work since, and find my listening of tracks I previously enjoyed is compromised by my updated opinion of him as a James Hunt. So, in my case at least, the live experience can be regarded as "counter productive."
johna_online - I agree with virtually everything said about Van on this thread which can be distilled into great music (on the whole and ignoring last 15 yrs) but live a miserable git since the early 80's. You cannot overlook the man's talent though and its a shame that his reputation swamps his artistry. He is one of the very, very few artists who have made several truly great albums but I will probably never go and see him live again or buy one his albums.
David Kelner - I can only reiterate what most other people have said. Seeing him live puts you off at least 6 months from listening to what is, aside from Bob Dylan and perhaps Neil Young, the greatest solo artiste back catalogue around. The only time I have seen him perform live with any commitment and feeling was at the NEC a decade or so ago when he followed Bob Dylan on stage. Perhaps he felt he had something to prove. Never has there been a greater contrast between an artiste's work and the actual person.