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October 27, 2009

Checking in with Van Morrison

van morrisonFew singer/songwriters have had a greater impact on music than Van Morrison. 

Morrison has written some of the most important songs and albums of the 20th century. Ever the recluse, Morrison gives few interviews and rarely interacts with audiences at concerts. Instead, he lets the music speak for itself.

For Morrison, music isn't real unless it can be played live. He looks with disdain on some of his biggest hits, such as "Brown Eyed Girl," which he has called a "throwaway." Due to bad contracts, he didn't gain control of his career until the late '70s, he has said.

Tonight, the 64-year-old Irishman will perform at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (you can buy tickets here). Here is an e-mail interview with Morrison ...

Question: Van, You've said when you play live, everything hinges on your voice. The players follow your voice. Do you follow your voice too? Do you guide it? Does it guide you?

Answer: I GUIDE IT - THAT IS THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE DONE

What's it like to be in the moment, when you're performing and nothing's on your mind, and it's just you and the music? 

ITS ALL ABOUT FOCUS - NOT THINKING OR PRECONCEIVING -- BEING IN THE PRSENT TIME IS THE ONLY WAY TO DO WHAT I DO ... 

With time, has it become easier for you to get your feelings and emotions across in your singing? Or does the challenge remain the same?

ITS NEVER THE SAME - ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW - EACH DELIVERY IS DIFFERENT DEPENDING ON THE AUDIENCE THE SCENE ---  

You've said Leadbelly, Rory McEwan, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker were a few musicians who you got into right off the bat. These guys had soul, which is almost impossible to describe. But when you think of these artists and some of your other favorite singers, what qualities in their voices and performances drew you to them?

EACH HAS TO HAVE A QUALITY OF TRANSCNDENCE TO GET MY ATTENTION - THOSE THAT DO CAN HOLD MY ATTENTION...  

What goes through your mind when you hear one of your own albums, like "Into the Music?" Are you critical of yourself? Can you step back and enjoy it? Or do you ever go back into your own catalog at all, just to sit and listen?

BASICALLY I ONLY RE LISTEN IF I AM THINKING OF REWORKING MATERIAL  FOR A LIVE SETI AM NOT PARTICULARLY CRITICAL OF IT BECAUSE I PUT OUT WHAT I WANT THE WAY I WANT IT - AT *THAT TIME* - I MAY LISTEN TO REWORK SOMETHING OR TRY SOMETHING ELSE LIVE BUT THERE IS NO NEED TO BE CRITICAL OF A WORK THAT WAS PUT OUT THE WAY I PROBABLY WANTED IT AT THE TIME FOR WHATEVER REASON...

Do the saxophone, guitar and piano appeal to you in different ways? Can you discover things on one that you wouldn't have found on another?

EACH INSTRUMENT IS ITS OWN PERSONALITY WITH ITS OWN VOICE SO OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE DIFFERENT APPEALS - ONE DOES THINGS THE OTHER DOESN'T ONE CONVEYS AN EMOTION OR A MOOD THE OTHER MAY NOT DO IN THE SAME WAY- DEPENDS ON WHAT THE COMPOSITION IS

I'm sure it can be hard to answer a question like this objectively, but how have you grown as a songwriter and a singer in the past couple decades?

THE ANSWER TO THAT IS WITH THE BEHOLDER - WHAT DO YOU THINK ? 

(Publicity photo)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:50 AM | | Comments (13)
        

Comments

GLAD TO SEE HE OBSERVES CAPS LOCK DAY EVERY DAY.

Hahaha. I imagined Van Morrison's voice as a screaming robot the entire way through that interview.

What a rip off. Don’t go. I just spent a $1,000 on four tickets for the Baltimore show (10/27) and it was terrible. At $60 each, perhaps worthwhile.
Band was not tight. Van could not play the guitar at all; it is just a prop. Very sad for him, but not fair to an audience paying a fortune to not disclose what you are really getting. Not a word to the audience, no encore despite long requests. Individually band members very talented and delightful to hear. Much needed to cover Van’s many misses. Moondance, Brown Eye G, and Gloria were almost unrecognizable. Don’t spend money on this, you will be disappointed. Ric

$350 a ticket from the box office. Worst show I have ever seen. Music was unrecognizable and after 1:40, just walked off the stage. Criminal charges should be brought.

Van plays in the moment. He's a great song writer, but his performance varies with each audience. Had the hall been packed with devoted Van Fans who were willing to listen to his current interpretation of his music, I bet the performance would have been different. Van is also a very shy person. He has rarely spoken to the audience during the past 40 years I've followed him. I once heard him play to an audience of about 200. He interacted with us through the music without speaking a word to the audience. I'll accept that because he's a genius who continues to write prolifically and he moves me with his lyrics and his command of the band. You have to follow where Van goes in the music which means if he switches to skiffle playing or scat singing, the listener must keep up. He's not a carbon copy of himself every night, and I'll grateful for his willingness to evolve. There's no one who can touch him.

anyone have the set list for last night...every time I see Van the only time the crowd gets up is for Moondance, Brown Eye G, and Gloria ..seems to be the only bit of his entire body of work that anyone 1. comes to see 2. knows

Had tickets but could not get out of Boston for the show....see him somewhere else soon.

Hey folks, we'll post a review of Van's show in a little bit. Stay tuned. I'll make sure to put a link here when it goes up.

OK, here is the link to Evan Haga's review of last night's Van Morrison show:

http://bit.ly/37Pvpm

Ric and Jeff, totally agree. Add in the rude individuals who think it's cool to show up late and get seated DURING a song! Amazing, just amazing.

I've seen Van three times this year: Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in NYC, DAR Constitution Hall in DC, and The Meyerhoff in Baltimore. Van performed a fantastic show last night in Baltimore. It was a warm and cozy show that me and the folks around me enjoyed immensely. The deeper he went, the happier my entire section was. Patricia, your comments about Van indicate you had the right idea too. Anyone who didn't have a tingle through their spine when Van delved deep into Northern Muse, All In the Game, In the Garden, or Fair Play is lacking soul -- and I question your musical depth. Additionally, Van provided two very special treats last night: A rousing version of his gleefully funky "Help Me" and a lovely, R&B-blues-fusion rendition of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You." For those true fans out there, you may never see those two songs again. What's most troubling about most of these negative comments is that they're simply false. The mentality that you bring to the show is the exact reason Van sometimes gets fed up with the mainstream mindset. If you're not ready to hear an artist open up his music, air out the band, and play within an improvised musical space, you should stick to pressing repeat on the same old studio Van CD's that you have in your closet. He is a virtuoso that feeds off of a band, emotion, and whatever whim he's indulging on any given night. Is he temperamental at times? Yes. Was he temperamental last night? No. Did he do an encore? No. So what? Have you people ever read about this man? Did you not know what he was all about before you bought your tickets? If you had, you would know that he never pretends to be something he isn't and he varies from show-to-show. He is a continually evolving person, just like each of you. He doesn't cater to everyone's whims. Take it or leave it. All you haters should have left it--and spent your money elsewhere. Van has many superb live recordings available, including several Montreux Jazz festivals and "It's Too Late To Stop Now"--often cited as one of the best live albums of all time. Had you taken the time to explore his plethora of live music recordings, you might have known exactly what to expect last night: Van performing some of his deepest, most soulfully enchanting jams that lead into musical transcendence. Take some time to relax yourselves and feel the music that is presented, rather than rattling off about how angry you are at ticket prices and Van's failure to play his greatest hits in a "recognizable" fashion. He's not cookie-cutter--but the world is filled with cookies. If you're looking for formula, you won't find it at a Van show--thank God. "No guru, no method, no teacher," as Van sang last night. I do have great news for all you disenchanted attendees that are so angry that Van had the nerve to step outside the box and present a jazzy jam session: Britney Spears is now on tour.

You're kidding, right? Was the worst concert I have ever been to in my life and a complete waste of time and money. If you want that kind of a show, go to a jazz club and at least have a beer while watching an artist indulge himself. But when I pay well north of $100 for a show, it had better be good and this one was awful. IMP should be ashamed.

The words "jazz pop" instill the same reaction as the words "modern blues".

Thank you, Rebecca.

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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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