Irish blue-eyed soul legend Van Morrison is one of the most unique characters in the annals of rock. Throughout his nearly 60-year career, Morrison has consistently changed paths, from rock and folk to more spiritual songs and blues, and followed his musical muse wherever it takes him.
The remarkable thing about Morrison is wherever the muse has taken him on his journey he has been able to do it at the absolute peak level. This is a guy who can do blues, jazz or gospel, wrote brilliant rock songs like “Gloria,” with Them and “Brown-Eyed Girl” and has written a handful of the most beautiful songs ever written — “Into The Mystic” and “St. Dominic’s Preview” as well as two of my choices for the greatest love songs ever composed, “Tupelo Honey” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.”
So you never know which Morrison you will get when you go see him live. Only that it will be a memorable night. Watching Morrison’s spectacular show Sunday night in L.A. at the Greek Theater (his first of two nights there, he’ll be back tomorrow, September 19), the muse was leading him and his world-class band, as well as guests Candy Dufler, Taj Mahal and a superb soul collective, through blues, folk and jazz, among others.
There were numerous highlights during the joyful, raucous celebration of the musical genres Morrison clearly loves and feels in tune with. The extended “In The Afternoon,” with Dufler was masterful; the blues meets gospel “The Little Light Of Mine” was powerfully uplifting; “I’ve Been Working” felt like its title, blue collar, determined and forceful; the slow blues of “Take My Mind Off You,” which anyone who’s ever been in love felt the sting of, was superb; his cover of Hank Williams’ “This Cold, Cold Heart” was excellent; “Ancient Highway” was a magical sojourn into the beyond, and the night ended with a turn back the clock version of “Gloria” that turned into an extended showcase for said band.
At the heart of it all is Morrison’s devastating voice. One of the great singers in all of music, he remains at the absolute peak of his vocal powers. It is compelling, emotive and feels effortless as he stands still delivering vocals that feel like they can reach the heavens. On this night, he and his band soared to the highest reaches yet again. But that is nothing new for one of rock’s true greats.