Salisbury City Hall
4 November 2005
Originally published in Wavelength magazine
I Will Be There
This Love Of Mine
They Sold Me Out
Don’t Worry About A Thing
In The Midnight
Days Like This
Back On Top
Mule Skinner Blues
Georgia On My Mind
Whinin’ Boy Moan
Have I Told You Lately
Jackie Wilson Said
Stop Drinking Wine
Who Can I Turn To?
Brown Eyed Girl
The Van Morrison Band : Robin Aspland, Ned Edwards, David Hayes, Matt Holland, Teena Lyle, Ralph Salmins, Martin Winning
Ten to eight in the lobby and they announce that Mr. Morrison will be starting in two minutes. My wife is stuck in the long queue for the Ladies and emerges with the usual complaint that they don’t have enough ladies loos, and we grab our seats at four minutes to eight, just before Van and the band march right on and launch straight in, three minutes ahead of time.
Just time to scan the line-up. Great, David Hayes is there on bass plus Teena Lyle on xylophone, congas and backing vocals. At twenty past eight, after a run through chunks of Magic Time I’m convinced that this is by far the best show of the last several I’ve seen. The new material seemed to inspire one and all to greater heights. I gave up hoping for my old favourites years ago. I was hoping for Celtic New Year and Little Village among the newer ones, but they were conspicuously absent.
After Days Like This it dipped a little in intensity, around the point where Van strode off stage in the usual abrupt manner in Moondance to let everyone solo at length. It was probably due to the procession of similarly paced songs, and the old toss a coin over whether the trumpet solo precedes the saxophone solo or vice versa. I’d consider Muleskinner Blues, Whining Boy Moan, Stop Drinking Wine worthy but dull compared to the back catalogue stuff and new stuff we didn’t hear. I’ve never been fond of Have I Told You Lately? and if you’re really into reviving songs like Who Can I Turn To? it’s maybe best left to Rod Stewart’s Great American Song Book series with its lush and lavish arrangements. I got quite distracted for two numbers as the roadie was crawling under the piano pushing jack plugs in and out, and it was right in front of us, but whatever the problem was, he eventually found it. Teena’s xylophone gives every song a major lift, and the drumming is superb, the drums and bass mesh seamlessly all evening.
But for a Band and Richard Manuel fan, a great American songbook song, Georgia on My Mind is the highlight of the evening. I’d seen Zoot Money do it (also brilliantly) just a week before in his Tribute to Ray Charles show. Zoot and Van should get together, especially as Ronnie Johnson is playing guitar with Zoot’s band now. A third backing vocalist has improved things overall, but there’s still the lack of a first rate additional vocalist that Zoot would remedy. Certainly Philosopher’s Stone and Georgia were the gems in this section.
When Precious Time started before we were an hour in, I thought we were into the closing medley of three and in for a very short show indeed, but I was wrong. It got a full version. Though the show marked time through the next few songs. Brown Eyed-Girl was released from its medley slot, and the new arrangement, starting with Ned on acoustic guitar with just Teena on congas and David on bass, worked. I’m always wary of radical rearrangements since Van started murdering Cleaning Windows a few years ago, but this one is fine.
When Van came on for encores and started Help Me (which as I’ve said before he does everytime I see him, though setlists prove this is coincidence), I thought we were in for the 11 minute version. No, it’s taken on the ‘timer’ role that Sack o’Woe had last time I saw him. He brought it to an early conclusion, no doubt watching the clock to time his exact 90 minutes (he missed, they ran to 93), and launched into the usual magnificent Gloria with its long ‘Van has left the building’ instrumental playout.
The band are sounding tighter and better than ever, with the xylophone pushing things up a notch. The drumming was first rate all night. Ned is contributing effective and economical guitar solos, and it’s fascinating to try to tell who’s leading. Usually Van is conducting proceedings, but I noticed that the duties also fell on Matt Holland and David Hayes, and that responsibilities switched effortlessly between people. Salisbury’s a smaller hall then normal, but made up for it with a more enthusiastic audience.