Van Morrison

At 79, Van Morrison is a living legend and, as expected, he took advantage of that to give his fans at the Santa Barbara Bowl the show he wanted, not the songs they surely would have preferred. Never known for his warmth onstage, Morrison’s night was epitomized for us when we saw his car pull away while his band was still performing the final number. That his final number was his first hit, “Gloria,” only reminded us of all the music we didn’t get to hear. With 44 albums to his credit, he had a lot of unfamiliar material to choose from; but of the dozen records I’ve listened to, often extensively, I recognized only “Into the Mystic,” and even that I barely recognized as he twisted and turned it around.
I will say that he kept the show moving, with one uptempo number after another, none lasting too long, and his backup band and singers were impeccable. His 80-minute set was unusually short: every other act I’ve seen ran right up to the Bowl’s 10 p.m. curfew; Van drove away at 9:15. His voice was remarkably intact, but his barking style came across as unfortunately harsh in the arena setting. Also unusual was the lack of  live video which made me glad, given Van’s diminutive stature, that we were seated close to the stage. I guess we were lucky to be graced with his presence, but I would have rather shared some “Tupelo Honey,” “Domino,” “Bright Side of the Road,” or even “Three Chords and the Truth,” not to mention “Brown-Eyed Girl,” instead of “Cotton Fields” and the dozen other traditional and cover songs that filled the program.

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