Wednesday 21 August 2019

Van Morrison at 3Arena, Dublin review: 'no one ever told us there’ll be nights like this'

Van Morrison performing on Cyprus Avenue
Van Morrison performing on Cyprus Avenue
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

"Music is spiritual," Van Morrison once noted. "The music business is not."

For a man who regards playing live as the absolute pinnacle of his musical endeavours, the idiosyncratic genius affectionately known as the Belfast Cowboy has made a career out of constantly keeping his fans on their toes. You never know exactly what to expect from a Van gig.

An enigmatic and intriguing reputation proceeds him. To his devotees, Morrison is a magical conduit of transcendental Celtic soul bliss. The uninitiated may think he specialises in unfathomable muso indulgence, not to mention an alleged belligerence that has become the stuff of legend. However, when push comes to shove you just can’t argue with these songs.

His entrance lends him an added air of gravitas and emulates James Brown, Bob Dylan and all the greats. The backing band start just before the Van himself shuffles onstage as a voice announces: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Van Morrison.”

Morrison appears to be wearing his entertainer's hat, resplendent in all black and even wearing shades indoors. He still doesn't say much by way of introduction or between song patter, but he looks animated and actually appears to be having a great time, which might sound as shocking as Shane McGowan giving up the sauce for Christmas.

“How y’all doing so far?” Morrison asks a few songs in, just before a beautiful, rootsy and irresistible version of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, which segues into a medley of ‘Parchman Farm’ and ‘Cry Baby Cry’; a crowd-pleasing treat first unveiled at his 70th birthday concert on Belfast’s Cyprus Avenue last August.

His backing ensemble show remarkable depth and flexibility and their overall musicianship is as peerless as you’d expect to accompany a legend of Van’s stature.

“My Mama told me there’ll be days like this,” Van croons. “When people understand what I mean, there'll be days like this.”

Well, no one ever told us there’ll be nights like this.

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