Van Morrison Was All Business In Vancouver

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Van Morrison
Van Morrison – 3.5 stars
Mavis Staples – 4 stars

Vancouver’s Rogers Arena  was transformed into a large phonographic record on Saturday night as two music legends hit the stage to perform their classics. Van Morrison was joined by Mavis Staples in a unique concert of blues and gospel classics, with musicians that sing and play real instruments . It was an evening about music quality, classic songs and very little else.

Staples, who was celebrating 60 years in the music business, was adorable. Her voice, although aged, was a pure joy to listen to. It was truly an honour to hear her belt out some great gospel songs and a couple Staple Singers classics such as The Weight (a cover of The Band’s classic) and I’ll Take You There (which was re-made by a few artists throughout the years). The 71 year old cracked a few jokes, bounced around the stage and conducted her band and background singers much like a choir leader on a mission to win the U.S. Choir Championships. For those early birds who came out to see this music legend, it was a treat and something to remember for years to come.

Van Morrison was the polar opposite of Staples. Always a recluse on stage, this night was no different, as Morrison continues his concert career as a standoffish and shy performer. Other than a brief “give it up for the band” before he walked off the stage, he did not speak and he had his back to the audience when we wasn’t at the mic. As the evening went on – all 90 minutes of it – the fans started calling out for him to speak. One boisterous fan shouted “Hey, you’re in Vancouver,” as others made loud comments about his back facing them.
This was the only time in my life that I’ve been in a city at the same time as Van Morrison, so I had to make sure I was there to witness it for myself. Having read that he can be quite stubborn and idiosyncratic, I was prepared for that, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes as I starred at the back of a music legend for most of the evening.

The band was amazing and it would have been great if Van The Man would have introduced them to us, but they’ll be forever known as the unnamed musicians in Van Morrison’s 2010 band. I was fond of the incredible pipes on the wind player, who blew his way through sax, flute and other assorted solos.

All-in-all, the show was about musicianship and songs that have transcended time, and for that, Van Morrison can’t be faulted. There were no lows in the musical performance and the incredible musicianship should be recognized as a true highlight of this show. Morrison’s voice was just like we remembered – transcendental and inspired.

With no encores and zero stage presence, Van Morrison should be criticized for charging upwards of $150 for tickets, but for music connoisseurs, this was an evening of unforgettable tunes. From the opening of Northern Muse (Solid Ground) and Brown Eyed Girl, which Morrison played piano, sax and guitar, to Moondance, Into The Mystic and the set closer Gloria, there was enough goods to merit a standing ovation at the end. But even then, it wasn’t enough to bring the singer back for an encore or even a word or two of thanks.