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Van Morrison - New Theatre, Oxford, 27/10/2019

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 8 / 11 / 2019

Van Morrison - New Theatre, Oxford, 27/10/2019


Nick Dent-Robinson enjoys a diverse, career-spanning set of blues/rock from Van Morrison at the New Theatre in Oxford.

I was fortunate enough to see Van Morrison live at Oxford's New Theatre in late October. I have seen him perform several times since I first enjoyed his blues-oriented appearance as vocalist and harmonica player with the Northern Irish showband known as Them, back in his native Belfast when I was a student there some five decades ago. Van was impressive even then - but watching him again now I reflected on how broad his range of talents are. He's still a skilled bluesman, supremely proficient on harmonica and as a strong vocalist; he's a capable jazz player on sax and occasionally trumpet and can scat with the best of them; he's an ace rocker too...his version of Bo Diddley's 'Ride on Josephine' is phenomenal and with musical director Paul Moran pounding the ivories, Van's 'Great Balls of Fire' is up there with the Jerry Lee Lewis original. And then, as a poet and songwriter Van is again hugely impressive - as Van's fellow countryman and poet Seamus Heaney once commented to me when discussing Van's 'Astral Weeks'. On this occasion at Oxford, Van's set included over twenty songs in ninety minutes including 'Foreign Window' from 1986, 'Carrying a Torch' from 1991, 'Cleaning Windows' (which Van once did for a living) from 1982, 'Moondance' from 1970 and 'Brown Eyed Girl' from 1967. The theatre was packed to the rafters and Van's reception right from the first note of the opening number was rapturous. Curmudgeon that he always has been, Van's excellent female backing singer and his band - all superb musicians on trumpet, vibraphone, electric and double bass plus drums - were never introduced by their frontman. But, at the end of his performance, when Van finally exited the stage with a cursory wave and desultory muttered thanks to his cheering, stomping and hugely happy audience, there was a reprise of the final number 'Gloria' when each musician took a deserved solo turn in the spotlight. This was a fitting end to a great evening. It had been a tremendous show by one of the most talented remaining icons of the 1960s blues/rock scene!

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Van Morrison - New Theatre, Oxford, 27/10/2019

Van Morrison - New Theatre, Oxford, 27/10/2019

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