Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Van Morrison In Concert

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Van Morrison
In Concert
Eagle Rock Video

The video equivalent of last fall's pair of albums, Versatile (Legacy, 2017) and Roll with the Punches (Caroline, 2017), Van Morrison's In Concert is comprised of not just one, but two concerts. The main feature was recorded for the BBC Music In Concert Series in 2016, while Up On Cypress Avenue is a slightly shorter hour-long bonus (sic) commemorating the Belfast cowboy's seventieth birthday (hence its introductory historical intro?), recorded the year prior in the general locale to which the title refers.

Each setlist is almost wholly only different from the other, rendered with a slightly different lineup of musicians (Robbie Ruggiero is at the drum kit on the secondary portion instead of Dez Clough). Both polished presentations (in DVD, Blu-ray and digital video, but no audio CD) showcase an extremely well-practiced band captured on an array of blues and jazz-oriented material plus a smattering of the Irish soulman's original material, well-known ("Brown Eyed Girl," "Wild Night") and otherwise ("Cleaning Windows").

Audience response is proportionate to the song selection, even if it doesn't exactly correlate, as on "Let It Rhyme," from Keep Me Singing (Caroline, 2016), where he and vocalist/percussionist Dana Masters, engage in some lively interplay. Sir Van's rather stolid stage presence belies the emotion in his voice when he's singing: a detached demeanor and somewhat stiff body language render him magnetic via mystery begging the question of how can he summon up such depth of feeling with no overt physical manifestation of same? Wearing dark glasses hardly makes him more forthcoming, though like the dark suit (getup similar to that worn by the whole band) and his now trademark fedora, he at least looks as sharp as the music sounds.

As is also apparent sometimes here, Van seems more than a little begrudging in his offerings here, obviously so on older material such as "Here Comes the Night" And there's the slightest hint of self-indulgence when he plays the saxophone, an admitted love of his, simply because his instrumentalizing, as on display during "Magic Time," doesn't quite compare to the ingenuity or force of his vocals. No question there's a linear logic in his solo there though, as is also the case with his harmonica playing on "Baby Please Don't Go"/"Don't Start Crying Now").

Morrison's backup band evinces a similarly pithy approach. However, the other prominent soloists, guitarist Dave Keary and keyboardist Paul Moran, don't have much opportunity to stretch out and display their chops, but that's a direct reflection of the tight, concise arrangements, as is the camera work and editing of director Janet Fraser Cook on the main feature and her counterpart Phil Jennings on its companion piece: technique is purely conventional, at least insofar as it neither adds nor detracts from the action, but rather frames it all in the best possible light (literally and figuratively).

Of course, that's in keeping with the spartan stage production which relies on the natural theater and drama of the players and singers in the midst of performing. Intentional or not, continuity becomes manifest within Van Morrison In Concert. The relatively cozy BBC Radio space adds more than just a modicum of welcome warmth, as does the semi-circular alignment of the band and its equipment on the stage. Likewise, the sylvan setting of the twelve-song al fresco performance is inviting, but the audience, like the artist, retains a somewhat reserved mien, seemingly curious as much as anything else.

Oddly, there is no extensive exposition detailing the dual nature of this title, either on the artist's official site or that of the label. And more's the pity in that regard, since taken as a whole, this package, a purposeful self-portrait in song like its aforementioned audio counterparts, represents a crystal-clear depiction of contemporary Van Morrison.



comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Van Morrison
London, UK
Van Morrison
London, UK

Related Articles

Film Reviews
Green Book: A Serious Comedy and Jazz Allegory
By Victor L. Schermer
December 28, 2018
Film Reviews
Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (2CD/Blu Ray)
By John Kelman
December 22, 2018
Film Reviews
Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly
By Mike Perciaccante
December 3, 2018
Film Reviews
Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut
By Doug Collette
November 17, 2018
Film Reviews
Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge - 50 Years of Defining Culture
By Doug Collette
October 7, 2018
Film Reviews
The US Festival 1982: The US Generation
By Doug Collette
September 2, 2018
Film Reviews
Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait
By Mark Sullivan
August 26, 2018