Morrison charms Boston faithful with Astral Weeks

A review of Van Morrison at the Citi Wang Theatre on August 5, 2009

, Managing Editor

If you came to hear mainstream hits like "Moondance" and "Brown Eyed Girl" you came to the wrong place. But, if you came expecting Van Morrison’s best you were happily satisfied. And satisfied one should be with tickets going for several hundred dollars, but apparently Van Morrison shows are recession-proof as the legendary Irish star packed them in for a performance of his 1968 classic Astral Weeks along with some other choice numbers. Morrison is notorious for being off as much as he is on. Luckily, the Boston fans caught him on a night where Van the Man certianly lived up to his knickname.

Morrison started off the show on the piano for "Northern Muse (Solid Ground)" starting the show off on solid ground itself as he quickly exhibited his many vocal abilities from his rambling to his held notes born way down in his powerful frame.

For the rest of the show Morrison, dressed in his usual black coat, hat, and shades, took center stage with his white acoustic guitar belting out tune after tune while running his nine-piece band like a Jazz general as he kept to his improvisation tradition, pointing out band members whom he whished to solo. Violinist Tony Fitzgibbon often got the nod, as he did on "The Mystery" before bassist Dave Hayes took his bassline for a walk at the song’s conclusion.

Morrison was animated using his hands to invoke a quick saxophone solo from Richie Buckley before he pumped his arms in anticipation of the drum fills on "Hard Nose The Highway". "Streets of Arklow" then segued into "You Don’t Pull No Punches" where Morrison built up the energy with calls for several improvisations from his band before taking the song down to a whisper, getting so he quiet that he was amused enough to chuckle to end the song.

Ready to get to Astral Weeks after "In The Garden", Morrison slightly changed the original track order of the album by playing "Slim Slow Slider" , the last song on the album, after the title track opener. Fitzgibbon played a soft solo in "Slider" but got quite lively soon after during "Sweet Thing". Morrison played his harmonica for the first time during the song before taking it down for another delicate ending. He then did some pickin’ along with guitarist Jay Berliner in "Ballerina" which provided one of the best jam sessions of the night.

"Madame George" finished off the Astral Weeks performance as Morrison joked, "Gimme Five!" before many fans rose to their feet in awe. The Man took off after the spoken word "On Hyndford Street" only to return a moment later for a short encore that included portions of both "Mystic Eyes" and "Gloria". The encore was appreciated but definitely felt like an afterthought. However, after Morrison exited for the evening during "Gloria" it did give the fans the chance to show their admiration for his stellar band who each individually answered every call Morrison made while sounding so sonically smooth and effortless as an ensemble.

With ticket prices costing a few Bejamins and a classic, yet commcercially unsuccessful album scheduled to be performed, this Van Morrison show surely was aimed towards the diehard fan. Those diehards who know Van Morrison knew he brought the good stuff and it’s performances like this that will make fans feel like it was money well spent.

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