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August 10, 2009

Concert review: Van Morrison at DAR Constitution Hall

van morrison

Midnight Sun commenter AmyWoo saw Van Morrison perform at DAR Constitution Hall this past weekend. Here are her thoughts:

Having read several less than stellar reviews of Van Morrison’s recent performances, I have to admit I went in to Friday night's concert at DAR Constitution Hall expecting the worst. And for the first hour and 45 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised.
 
In spite of the fact that none of his "big hits" appeared on his set list that night, I thoroughly enjoyed the music Morrison played.

One of the greatest things about seeing an established artist like Morrison is the incredible musicians that make up the band. Morrison didn't disappoint in that respect – I don't think I've ever heard someone wail on the viola quite like Tony Fitzgibbon.

Of course, the caliber of musicians playing with Morrison didn't stop him from the occasional barking demand to play "long notes" or switch to the "tom-tom or whatever." ...

The crowd was loving it. Every other song was getting a standing ovation and people were even dancing in the hallways. But Morrison didn’t seem too pleased. While I didn’t notice any glaring issues, Morrison was clearly unhappy with the sound. And around 9:45 p.m., it seemed he’d had enough.

As the band played out the end of "On Hyndford Street," Morrison unceremoniously walked off stage. Someone muttered a quick "Van Morrison" into a mic and the crowd leaped to their feet in appreciation. With the crowd still standing, the band members looked at each other and almost sheepishly left the stage.
 
The applause continued for a few minutes, everyone clearly expecting an encore. But the house lights came on and the stage hands quickly began breaking down the equipment.
 
Never before have I seen an audience turn so quickly from thunderous applause to audible displeasure. Fans who had paid between $100 and $400 a ticket for the evening’s performance were slowly realizing that not even two hours in, the night was over.

The concert was one I’ll definitely remember and for the most part, think upon fondly. But nothing can sour a memory like exiting a venue to the boos and hisses of a disgruntled crowd.
 
Set List (from Van Morrison News)
 
Northern Muse (Solid Ground)
Fair Play
The Mystery
Foreign Window
Streets Of Arklow/You Don't Pull No Punches (snippet)
In The Garden
Astral Weeks
Beside You
Slim Slow Slider
Sweet Thing/Burning Ground
Cyprus Avenue
The Way Young Lovers Do
Ballerina
Madame George
On Hyndford Street

(Photo of Van Morrison performing at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles by Getty Images)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:00 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

Comments

I saw him 5 years ago at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. They had carved out a concert venue into the side of a mountain over looking the Paul Masson winery. The view was breathtaking. Van was playing a matinee show (4pm) on a Thurs. He comes out with a full jazz band and does a solid 2 1/2 hours or until the sun set over the mountain. 'Prolly the greatest concert I've ever been too, and I've been too a lot of shows! Van was on top of it, playing guitar, sax, and harp.

Paul Masson you say? I know someone who enjoys the fine vintage offerings of Paul Masson...

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/midnight_sun/blog/2008/11/drunken_orson_welles.html

MAA HAA THE FRENCH!

Come to think of it, Van the Man kind of resembles Orson these days.

Van Morrison has a reputation as a crank, and a less-than-two-hours show would be appalling for those prices, but...does anyone think the convention of an encore is sort of weird?

You know that the concert will end around a certain time, so the band plays until 30 minutes before that time and then pretends to be done and leaves the stage. And then the crowd must cheer and beg for more, but the band always comes back for an encore, which is scheduled into the set. But an encore is meant to be extra, but if it's scheduled, how is it extra? The cat-and-mouse thing always struck me as odd. Wouldn't you ultimately hear more music if the band just played through until the end? I guess I just have no sense of showmanship.

"Come to think of it, Van the Man kind of resembles Orson these days."

yeah, right, like you kinda resemble obama.

Karlosi

They share a common facial feature: Jowls.

What a let down. To alot of people that kind of money is an awful lot to pay to end up having the artist leave the stage without even an encore less than two hours into the show. Does he think he's God or something. Come on Van think back to your pre fame and fortune days and remember what it's like to pay alot of money for something you think to be special only to be let down.

My wife and I were there, having traveled all the way from South Carolina for the show and a Washington weekend. Very disappointing. We knew he was there to perform Astral Weeks and like Amy, were pleased with most of the show, but the way he slunked off the stage and didn't come back out was downright sad. The band seemed shocked that there would be no encore. We travel to concerts quite often, once or twice a year for artists we enjoy and this was by far the least satisfying of any of the shows we've traveled to.

Van Morrison thinks of himself as a diva apparently!

Regarding pomme's encore query, I have two encore stories.

When ELO did their "spaceship set" tour (don't recall the album title), I was at the Chicago stop of the tour I happened to be next to a photographer for a local music paper. Not only was the encore "planned" but the photographer was looking at his watch and counting down to the exact moment the band would re-emerge onstage. He "cued" it perfectly, down to the second, having seen previous stops on the tour. He muttered something like "Say what you will, they ARE punctual - X minutes and Y seconds, every time."

Also in Chicago, Elvis Costello was touring in support of one of his early albums. I wasn't there, but the story certainly made waves the next day. He played a relatively short show, the band left the stage, the crowd chanted for several minutes and then the house lights went up. Slowly, the chanting died, and people left. After about fifteen minutes to a half an hour, depending on who tells the tale, the band came back on stage, looked out at the small remaining crowd, and Costello reportedly mumbled something like "Now we know that you lot who stuck around are the SERIOUS fans!" into the mike and ripped into another set, reportedly much longer than the first.

Your review hit the nail on the head. First time for my wife and I after many attempts and we were blown away by the music, the band and especially the acoustics of DAR. We were 3 rows from the top and still heard every amazing note on the viola and flute. I knew going in that the show would be about an hour and 45 and there might be an encore. I was still disappointed, but the memory of a great performance has helped ease it a little. I do understand that the night before had a lot of technical issues and while they had encores the show was shorter overall.

We went to Atlantic City and based this trip around seeing Van Morrison at Ceasers ($600 for tickets)..he started 30 minutes late, he played for 1 1/2 hours...he looked miserable. Although Astral Weeks is good...he did not play any original music which should have constituted at least 1/2 of the concert...he slogged off stage, left his band and slogged back on to finish with an ok version of Gloria...how disappointing...I want my money back!! He was very arrogant and did not even acknowledge that audience..devoted fans who got him where he is today...never again!

Obviously many of you may be unfamiliar with Van's lack of stage presence. I once attended a show where he performed the entire concert with his back to the audience. He is a perfectionist and a clock watcher. Another concert I attended lasted exactly 90 minutes. And he walked off the stage without an acknowledgment to the audience. Although I love his music and although he always assembles a group of stellar musicians, his shows lack spontaneity as each song is meticulously honed leaving little room for improvisation. Know that going in and you won't be disappointed.

I may as well add my Van experience to rest of the stories.

Van played a "secret" show in a fairly small club at SXSW last year. I waited in line, along with the rest of the faithful, thrilled with the opportunity to see a legend.

The bar closed abruptly at 7:50 so extraneous noise wouldn't be an issue. He didn't make any friends with that move. Strike one.

The lights went down, the crowd cheered and screamed. He sang from 8pm sharp to 9pm. What he sang was the surprise...all of the songs from his current release. Not one hit. People were shouting hit song titles yet they were ignored.

His band was fantastic, but he didn't introduce any of the members. Strike two.

I remember having such mixed emotions; excited to hear him live, but so disappointed with his lack of professionalism and pathetic attitude. Strike three.

I'm a fifty year old guy who has seen many, many concerts over the years. I had never seen Van Morrison but had greatly enjoyed and admired his music. Even though the ticket was pricey, I sucked it up and bought one for myself. While I certainly didn't expect to hear Van Morrison classics for the entire evening, I did expect to hear a few hits interspersed with the sublime and esoteric music he wound up performing. His on stage attitude toward both the audience and his band was churlish, and as previously mentioned, he played less than two hours with no encore. I'm just happy that I attended the show by myself, so I cut my losses. This concert definitely falls under the category of the old Russian adage, "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Never again. Stay home and listen to his CD's, and perhaps remember a time when he cared about pleasing an audience.

I've just purchased tickets for his concert in Montreal. Now I'm feeling like I shouldn't have spent the money. I had to dig deep for the $$$.

We paid the highest $ value for tickets at DAR Constitution Hall for Van The Man. Were we ever ripped off! 1st our tickets, while technically in the 1st row were all the way to the left of stage in the corner behind the Piano. We could see nothing...not that there was a lot to see...but we wanted to see Morrison, especially my wife who was really excited to have"great seats".. Nada.. we could see nothing. 2nd there were seats open behind us that we asked if we could move to and were told no, and watched by the guard like a hawk (At 2/3rds through he told us we could finally move.) So I stood up...I could see morrison's head over the Piano. The music was alright, and Astral Weeks may have been Award winning but personally I like the popular stuff more (his classics). Van slurred a lot (way more than the Van style) of the words and although I get that's somewhat his evolved style...I like the words enuciated. Otherwise everyone (singers) could just humm. I bought Van's last 3 albums including his Country One - Payin the Devil. To rap this up...based on my experience, at best this was a "C+" performance, a "D" for fan appreciation and an "F" to the ticketing "a" holes. Van is no longer "the man" for me. I'll never buy another album or ticket and he's outta my personal top 10 all time.- I guess he'll have to Pay the Devil as he'll get no more subsidy from us if he needs to. Van Nomorrison to us...

Yikes! Just bought 4 tix for CT concert.Not looking forward to it but I hope his attitude improves in the meantime.

My wife and I have seen Van twice and this weekend will be the 3rd time. Van is Van, grumpy, plays for 90 minutes and that is it. If you get him longer and he is a good mood, bonus..He is a brooding artist..I personally think the writer of the article should have done more homework on Van's style. He rarley plays his hits and ususally plays what he is into at the time..Hence he is playing Astral Weeks, an acclaimed album that never made it that big in sales or popularity..The author of the article mentions that he did not play his hits? The Mystery is a big one if you really know Van beyond "Moondance"...

Just saw Van at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore. Loved him, loved the fantastic jazz band, thrilled he didn't play a lot of old stuff..tho he did slip Gloria in about 3/4's of the way through and it was fun- Van played 4 instruments, sang his ass off and did not waste time with a phony encore- it was a very respectful audience-not there to dance around but there to listen and applaud appropriately for each featured musician -So he played for two hours..Yes he just walked off but that's what he does.I love this guy and his music..very happy the audience was sophisticated and knew how to show appreciation.

The concert in Baltimore was great. The audience was sophisticated and the band was sophisticated. Van Morrison is a true artist and I am thrilled that I witnessed his perfomance.

2 hours? did we see the same concert? I love his music, not just the old stuff (could have lived without Gloria, but the jazzy Moondance was great), and was prepared for the 'no chatter, back to the audience' style, but he played for 90 minutes TOPS, then bolted like he had a plane to catch. Seriously, I saw him run to the waiting car outside the Meyerhoff, and most of the audience was still inside. His voice was fabulous, but for that price, the adoring audience (OK, those that didn't seem to need to get up every 15 minutes) deserved either an encore, or a bit more of a show.

JM - you're right. And the late arriving audience was just rude.
The accompanying musicians were average at best. You folks in Bmore have many, much more accomplished musicians at local taverns. Of course, I guess the audience is too "sophisticated" to dirty themselves by entering a bar.
I also am aware Van isn't the greatest enunciator of all time but an English to gibberish dictionary would've been appreciated in the almost $200 ticket price.

To Carol and Chris:

I was in Baltimore and was dying to get out of my seat and dance to the grooves. Sophistication and appreciation can be expressed in more than one way. Sorry to say it, but the stiffs in the B-more crowd were the only let down in my opinion.

I agree with you. I just went to his concdert last night at MGM in CT and he was yelling at his band in the middle of the song that he couldnt hear them- play louder and then in the middle of "Gloria" He walked off the stage and never came back on. For being such a huge fan my whole life, I am really disappointed. I will not reccomend this tour to anyone. He is selfish and greety and does not care about his fans. Its sad that it took me this long to realize it. Just buy the CD if you really want to hear him. I would suggest retiring Van Morrison!

I also saw Van last night @ MGM in CT and so looked forward to seeing him. I was disappointed as were so many of his fans. I would have been very upset if I had to pay the prices some of the tickets were sold for ($350.00 and up ) as he was not worth it! I saw Stevie Wonder the week before and he was fabulous played all his hit songs and more for 3 hours. Sorry Van you really ought to wise up, because from all the reviews I have read and heard you might as well only record, as your concerts will surly be getting smaller and smaller in attendance. Such a shame, because your music WAS wonderfull!

Dudes- the reason i GO see him is for the "my music, my way" attitude. Like Van, I have no use for the tired, overplayed songs: i am a deeper fan, who wants to hears what Van is into at that minute. And the more obscure the better.
I especially get a kick out of the clock-watching, "youll get what you get" attitude - its very punk and very personal. I recall the time i saw him where he stepped into the spotlite evey time it was time to sing, and stepped robotlike back out of the lightshaft when the band took solos! Totally intense, and thats the part i like best about his live shows. The more pissed he gets at people yelling "moondance", the more i love it frankly...unless they dont get the message, and really piss him off. Theres something very appealing about the Van Morrison live-attitude that I once SO enjoyed with Costello and the Pistols - hes the last one left with the same take it or leave it / bite the hand that feeds him- attitude - and i totally love it...and his uncompromising artistry.

Dudes- the reason i GO see him is for the "my music, my way" attitude. Like Van, I have no use for the tired, overplayed songs: i am a deeper fan, who wants to hears what Van is into at that minute. And the more obscure the better.
I especially get a kick out of the clock-watching, "youll get what you get" attitude - its very punk and very personal. I recall the time i saw him where he stepped into the spotlite evey time it was time to sing, and stepped robotlike back out of the lightshaft when the band took solos! Totally intense, and thats the part i like best about his live shows. The more pissed he gets at people yelling "moondance", the more i love it frankly...unless they dont get the message, and really piss him off. Theres something very appealing about the Van Morrison live-attitude that I once SO enjoyed with Costello and the Pistols - hes the last one left with the same take it or leave it / bite the hand that feeds him- attitude - and i totally love it...and his uncompromising artistry.

Dudes- the reason i GO see him is for the "my music, my way" attitude. Like Van, I have no use for the tired, overplayed songs: i am a deeper fan, who wants to hears what Van is into at that minute. And the more obscure the better.
I especially get a kick out of the clock-watching, "youll get what you get" attitude - its very punk and very personal. I recall the time i saw him where he stepped into the spotlite evey time it was time to sing, and stepped robotlike back out of the lightshaft when the band took solos! Totally intense, and thats the part i like best about his live shows. The more pissed he gets at people yelling "moondance", the more i love it frankly...unless they dont get the message, and really piss him off. Theres something very appealing about the Van Morrison live-attitude that I once SO enjoyed with Costello and the Pistols - hes the last one left with the same take it or leave it / bite the hand that feeds him- attitude - and i totally love it...and his uncompromising artistry.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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