Sir Van Morrison and his band played a sold out concert at the Millenium Forum in Derry, featuring songs from his recent jazz and blues albums with a few from his back catalogue.
1. Van Morrison, now in his 8th decade, is still a remarkable singer. Dressed in his pinstripe suit, dark glasses and trilby hat, he handled complex jazz songs with considerable aplomb, superb phrasing and great gusto. He launched into the two back to back Muddy Waters blues songs – Baby Please Don’t Go and Got My Mojo Working – with grit and emotion, and gave us his trademark trance-inducing scatting during Raincheck. Fabulous stuff.
2. His 6-piece band are technically gifted and brilliant individuals and clearly rehearsed to within an inch of their lives, giving a coherence and tight feel to every number. And they were clearly enjoying themselves enormously, lost at times in the rhythms and complexities of the music. We had wonderful solos along the way, but it was fantastic to see each of these immensely talented musicians given free rein right at the end when Van had left the stage, each taking a virtuosic solo in turn.
3. And hey, vibraphone players are cool. Sadly I couldn’t find the name of the young woman who played percussion and vibraphone and sang backing vocals. Watching her wield her four vibraphone sticks so expertly and musically and at the same time harmonize into the mike above her instrument was remarkable. Normally at a gig, I’m looking out all the time for the guitar solos – at this show, it was all about the vibraphone!
4. With a band of this quality and jazz and blues material this good nobody minded we got so little in the way of Van’s back catalogue. The biggest cheer of evening, however, was for Moondance, which lent itself to the jazzy vibe of the evening.
5. No photos makes for a better concert. An announcement at the Millennium Forum before the concert asked everyone to turn off their phones and not to take photographs. Remarkably, there wasn’t a photo taken anytime during the concert (except for me, who sneaked a few during the encore – sorry!) and you did get the impression of a much more engaged audience which was totally focused on the music rather than recording the event.