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Review: Van Morrison digs deeper than the hits during his Colosseum engagement

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Photo: Exile Production

Van Morrison January 30, Colosseum

three stars

At 73 years old, Van Morrison could honestly play whatever he wanted on stage and probably still get a standing ovation. And, not unlike Bob Dylan and other legendary singer songwriters, he kind of does. You don’t go see Van the Man expecting to him to perform Astral Weeks in full—although that would be amazing—you go to witness a living legend, for better or for worse.

 

Would we get a potpourri set Wednesday night at the Colosseum, or would he play all the hits? Turns out Morrison opted for both—though he went lighter on the latter—that made for a hell of a show.

 

The Belfast Cowboy and his indelible seven-piece band started with the jazz standard “I Get a Kick Out of You,” an old Cole Porter song later made famous by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. That soon gave way to bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a unified “Baby, Please Don’t Go” and “Got My Mojo Working,” fueled by an upright bass, electric and acoustic guitars, drums, percussion/marimba, piano, a phenomenal backup singer and Morrison himself on harmonica.

 

Morrison chose the low and slow 1995 track “Days Like This” for his first original cut of the night. In between his warm, often indiscernible vocals, Morrison still played all of his saxophone parts, trading off with the pianist/trumpet player underneath the spotlight.

 

The band set the stage ablaze during “Wild Night,” complete with trumpet, brazen backup vocals, tambourine and bass—and even though Morrison appeared to have a cough (he had his backup singer take over at one moment), he powered through each song like the legend that he is.

 

In December, Morrison released his 40th studio album, The Prophet Speaks. But despite that, Wednesday night's setlist only included “Ain’t Gonna Moan No More,” a bluesy track he snuck in toward the end of his set made complete with bongos, smooth electric guitar and an organ.

 

He saved his most popular songs for last, tying things together during the encore with “Brown Eyed Girl” and the garage-rock staple “Gloria,” the latter written during Morrison's time with the mid-sixties band Them. He could have plucked more songs from beloved albums like Moondance, Astral Weeks, Tupelo Honey or even Saint Dominic’s Preview and still missed some fan favorites—an inevitability when the artist can boast a 50-year catalog of music.

 

Given the 90-minute set allotment, Morrison made the best of his Colosseum engagement (additional shows take place Feb. 2 and 3), peppering his set with hits but also favoring material he’s come to love most as a performer. He shines nonetheless.

 

 

Set List

“I Get a Kick Out of You” (Cole Porter cover)

“Baby, Please Don't Go” / “Got My Mojo Working”

“Think Twice Before You Go” (John Lee Hooker cover)

“Days Like This”

“Have I Told You Lately”

“Sometimes We Cry”

“Wild Night”

“When God Shines His Light”

“Real Real Gone”

“Magic Time”

“Moondance”

“Broken Record”

“Crazy Love”

“Cleaning Windows” / “Be-Bop-A-Lula”

“Why Must I Always Explain”

“Vanlose Stairway”

“The Party's Over”

“It's All in the Game” (Tommy Edwards cover)

“Jackie Wilson Said”

“Ain't Gonna Moan No More”

“Did Ye Get Healed?”

 

Encore:

“Brown Eyed Girl”

“Gloria”

 

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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