Review: Van Morrison @ City Hall

There’s something about Van Morrison that inspires devotion amongst his legion of fans. It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve seen him before, they’re always up for the chance to enjoy another live show. For me, this was the first time I’d ever seen him, and almost straight away, I found myself thinking, why have I waited this long? He delivered just what everyone wanted: a perfect mix of new tracks, old tracks, crowdpleasers and cover versions.

He started with a selection from his 2021 album. You had to know that. He wasn’t about to break the habit of a lifetime and announce anything; he just launched into one superb song after another, with not one single word of chat to the audience. But that’s what Van is known for, that’s precisely what we got, and I have no problem with it. The band of outstanding musicians knew him well enough for him to call out the next song, just as the previous one was finishing, and off they went on another journey into his unique brand of soul and R&B – all filtered through a life of listening to folk, gospel, rock, jazz and even traditional Irish music.

After five songs, he signaled the end of the ‘new stuff’ section of the show by launching into ‘Moondance’, which also served to showcase what an accomplished saxophone player he is. Older tracks then alternated with cover versions, for the next hour or more, before he left the stage. The band stayed on. We all knew there would be more, and they weren’t going to waste our time with that ‘pretend last song’ charade. An encore of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, and the anthemic ‘Gloria’ – the original garage-band classic, from the very start of his career, and that was it.

But that was only part of the fun. I was just as fascinated by the folks who had come out on a Friday night to see their hero. From my balcony seat I watched how the front row fans, who I’m thinking paid top-dollar to be up close, were somewhat reluctant to get up and boogie along with the R&B and soul groove that the superb band was laying down. No such reservations in the Upper Circle, however. They were having one hell of a party in the cheap seats: standing up, dancing and singing along from ‘Moondance’ onwards. I’m sitting up there next time. Between the two tribes, sitting in the Circle, we were a somewhat mixed bunch. There was some muted tutting at the odd rebel who got up and danced, but in the main, we remained seated until the end. I’m sure I caught the guy next to me tapping his knees with both hands at one point, but he soon calmed down. All in all a superb night.

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