Van Morrison caught live in Edinburgh Van Morrison
Edinburgh Playhouse
Wednesday 23 March 2022

Van Morrison brings his mercurial talents to Edinburgh with a typically soaring set of stone-cold classics. Sam Lambeth reviews.

Van the Man? To paraphrase Peep Show, it should be ‘Ven the Men’. For tonight isn’t just about the Belfast balladeer. Over the course of nearly two hours, Van Morrison’s band are the gears and the glue, driving the singer’s bull seal bellow forward with creativity, majesty and melody.

It’s testament to their ability and their enthusiasm that when the closing Gloria – a ’60s smash for Van’s first band Them – hits a solid instrumental groove, Morrison leaves the stage a good ten minutes before the song is over and the audience does not bat an eyelid.

As they did when LTW last caught Van the Man live in 2021, each musician has ample time to showcase their significant talents, whether it be a driving guitar solo, complex keyboard parts or an electrifying stab at the xylophone.

The thought of a significant amount of stage time without Van Morrison would have seemed unthinkable for anyone attending their first concert by the blue-eyed soul stirrer, but throughout the night his band show they are some of the handiest hired guns in town.

Take the soaring solo his fine backing vocalist takes on during the epic Sometimes We Cry – whereby a rowdy fan commits a crazy novelty by almost, almost making Van chuckle during the song’s lengthy breakdown – or the dextrous guitar solos that accompany the rambunctious cover of Laughin’ and Clownin’. Morrison himself shows he has another ace up his sleeve besides his voice, performing taut and dextrous blasts of saxophone during the contemplative classic Days Like This and the jaunty Caledonia Swing. Van the Vessel would also be a more appropriate nickname, for throughout the course of the show, the songs – and that voice – seem to flow through Morrison like an act of divine intervention.

As a frontman, he is a stoic and silent figure. The only movement comes from his gesticulated thumps of the air during a crescendo or his adjustment of his music stand. Dressed in his usual uniform of natty blue suit and aviator shades, a shock of red hair poking through his ever-present trilby, Morrison resembles an ageing boulevardier rather than a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.

However, when he opens his mouth to sing, something truly transcendental happens. At 76, he still possesses a powerful, stirring set of pipes that are able to demonstrate bluesy menace or soulful sorrow with equal aplomb.

His most recent album, the glibly titled Latest Record Project Volume One, demonstrates Morrison’s commitment to the craft of songwriting is admirably workmanlike, but also remarkably consistent. For example, the groove of Double Agent slots in seamlessly amongst classics like Someone Like You.

The songs lifted from his flawless Moondance album – the uplifting These Dreams of You and the wistful And It Stoned Me – possess the same verve, beauty and charm as they did when released in 1970, but this time there is added punch and poignancy from the thumping guitars, strident sax and epic harmonies.

Brown-Eyed Girl remains Morrison’s touchstone, and its youthful pomp gets most of the seated crowd up on their feet. As the Northern Irishman bows his goodbye, he leaves the stage while still singing. It’s a fitting representation of the devotion Morrison has for his craft.

For the latest Van Morrison tour dates, please visit his website

All words by Sam Lambeth. Sam is a Birmingham-based journalist and musician. More of his work for Louder Than War is available on his archive. He also runs his own blog and his music can be found on Spotify.

Photo kindly provided by PR

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed the concert, but Mr Morrison was only on the stage for 1hr 40 minutes.
    With tickets costing over £100, this was more than a £1 per minute.
    He just walked off 2 and a half minutes into Gloria.
    No goodnight.
    No encore.
    Whilst the band were excellent, I found it strange that the guitarist seemed to be performing for Van, and not the audience.
    He reminded me of Stuart Sutcliffe, of The Beatles, who kept his back to the audience during concerts.

  2. I was was at the concert and it was simply superb, I didnt want it to end. His voice and band were incredible! Van Morrison was on stage for 90 min as he left with ten minutes to go during Gloria but happily pay double to have seen him live. In my opinion the greatest song writer there has ever been.

  3. As a guy whose seen Van about 30 times i relate to every wprd of yoir well crafted review. Its lilke the dudes getting better not older. Got.my chicago ticlets. Good venue cant wait

  4. Every Van concert in the US is always 90 minutes. A really great 90 minutes. The shows always start on time which is amusing in a place like NYC where the people who spent the most for tickets come in with about 45 minutes of Van left on the stage. During a show in NYC, Van said in effect : You don’t just get up here and start doing this, it takes about 50 years to get it right.

  5. i have been to 100 live concerts van morrison was by far the worst he never said one word to the crowd left with 10 minutes left in the show did only one hit brown eyed girl which was off key i paid 40 dollars for this junk should have gone to the bar the house band was 20 times betterl the guy should give it up

  6. We saw him last night in Chicago and thought he was great. We appreciated that, post-pandemic, he kept the set lively and not too mellow. We all need to restore ourselves with lots of fun. It is odd that he is so….stoic? His voice is as great as ever, the lyrics are passionate, but he is a stiff who doesn’t care whether you like him or not. He sings like its a day job. One that he is good at. I did not like that he left the stage before the end. It felt like he drifted off without giving the audience the chance to say goodbye or the fun of clapping to celebrate a good show. So yes, the show and the man have their oddities, but musically, it was a great night.

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