In Concert

Van Morrison

The In Concert DVD captures both Sir Van Morrison’s intimate 2016 show at the BBC Radio Theatre, part of BBC Radio 2’s In Concert Series, and a bonus 12-song Up On Cyprus Avenue outdoor show the singer played on his 70th birthday. With 38 studio albums to his credit, one can expect any mix of songs when he hits the stage. On the BBC portion, we get mostly newer tunes, with Morrison playing lots of sax and his distinctive voice still quite strong.

Morrison is not one of those performers who have lots of interaction with his audience beyond what he plays and sings. There is no on-stage banter as he steps on stage wearing a hat and tinted glasses, and immediately kicks into the jazzy “Too Late.” The band lays down soft grooves on “Magic Time” from the 2005 album of the same name, Morrison takes a less-than-stellar stab at “Wild Night,” but he’s just not up to snuff vocally. “Sometimes We Cry” is a highlight here and “Brown Eyed Girl” is softer and jazzier. Morrison takes to meandering around the stage for “In The Garden,” the first time he actually moves at all during this show.

The Up On Cyprus Avenue segment on the DVD is by far the better show. There are several different tunes from those presented during the BBC show. Morrison and band are set up in a tight but colorful outdoor courtyard setting (the audience are bundled up, so we have to assume it’s a cold late afternoon) and Morrison seems more comfortable overall.

He starts out with his sax in hand, doesn’t much talk to the audience for at least two-thirds of the show, and hardly even looks out from under the brim of his hat. Things take a looser turn when the singer picks up a Les Paul and noodles with his guitarist Dave Keary, on a meandering “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

He mans the guitar again during toward the end of the show on a 10-minute “On Hyndford Street” from his 1990 Hymns To The Silence double album (Morrison was born on Hyndford Street). A good portion of the tune is presented as a spoken-word improv where Morrison reads poetry while he strums his guitar, name dropping places from his childhood (that the audience cheers for) and even at times cracks himself up with such startling self-deprecation you can’t but just love the warmth coming from someone not known for his giving stage repartee. He later takes off the guitar, walks around the stage and leads the band into the gospel ending before leaving the stage.

All the video on In Concert looks and sounds great. Morrison and his band are tight and on their game throughout. Despite the intimate setting and prestige of the BBC series show, it’s during Up On Cyprus Avenue where we get a nice look at this truly gifted singer, songwriter and instrumentalist as he lets his guard down in his hometown while celebrating his birthday.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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Van Morrison - In Concert

Van Morrison

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