If I was to make a compilation CD of the music that shaped my youth, Van Morrison would probably appear as a bonus track. He was there, lurking in the background never at the forefront. I can pinpoint his importance through sneaky memories, particularly linked to key songs and key moments that perhaps other people involved aren’t aware of. And oh how I loved the opening scene of ‘The Outsiders’ with sexy Matt Dillon leaning against the building as ‘Gloria’ played in the background – smooth.
Last night I had the opportunity to finally see Van Morrison live. The alien experience was finding myself feeling thoroughly unexcited about going to see an artist perform whom, quite frankly, I’d waited years to see. Don’t get me wrong, he and his band were fantastic; there was a real tightness to them, great skill shared among. What was disappointing to me was hearing jazz played in a large tent in a field. I felt the act would have been better suited to a more intimate venue.
When you attend festivals you run the risk of being disappointed by seeing a band you love. Either they don’t play the more esoteric tracks that true fans would appreciate or they don’t play enough popular tracks in favour of promoting their own new material. It’s difficult to get it right. In my experience a balance works well. A mix of the old and the new; the hackneyed and the rarities. Last night the place lacked buzz, energy. Over the sound of the music was this remarkable din, not of singing along with the band or even cheering, but chatting over this main act.
I guess part of me feels that an act such as this should be treated with more reverence. We were privy to a neat performance with extremely talented musicians, often playing more than one instrument, the scatting of the lead singer (although disappointingly his band was not referred to in the posters, just the singer himself when anywho who’s witnessed it knows that it’s so much more – eh hello Bruce Springsteen, what do you say to that?).
The show ran to just over an hour and a half and a significant portion was devoted to lesser known tracks, which was pleasing to hear. What came as a personal disappointment to me was when the band launched into ‘Moondance’ playing a slightly different version from the norm. The realisation that the crowd knew this song filtered through the masses at varying rates. Once it had sunk in, the crowd adopted a sudden sense of life, energy. For the remaining five or so well known tracks, it finally felt like a proper gig where people were happy and excited, charged.
I was disappointed. No more so than when I saw and heard people get so excited about ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. As a fan of this song (who isn’t?) I found myself thinking it was hackneyed beyond the point of being able to properly enjoy it. It’s not the artist’s fault. It was a fantastic performance of a song that has made him extremely well known over the years. It just upset me that this was the one that got the crowd going, I felt all of my cynicism pour through me as these people, from differing generations, bopped about. Maybe if he’d just got it over the way right at the start and zigzagged between old and new material it might have been a richer experience.
The thing that finally satisfied me was to have Van Morrison not return to the stage after he left abruptly during ‘Gloria’. I just felt that to return and take centre stage and, potentially, all the glory after the lengthy improvised stint from his band would have cheapened the entire performance. I’m glad he bowed out gracefully, shame about the lack of chat with the crowd…
Am I just a stick in the mud or have you felt this way at a gig before?