Van Morrison: A return to Professionalism 2007

Van Morrison

Masonic Auditorium

San Francisco, CA

December 28, 2007

Closing out the anemic 2007 concert series in fine form is the same artist that closed out the 2006 concert series in equally fine fashion. Cheers for Van Morrison’s fondness for San Francisco! On the other hand, jeers for Van Morrison’s nepotism. Oh, and BTW, also Big Jeers for inflated ticket prices. Can there be any other excuse besides greed for a $200 price tag? I can only lament the exclusion of large numbers of fans due to economic disparity. Perhaps artists are trying to compensate for lost royalties due to Internet downloading but I hate sitting in an audience and thinking we’re there only because we possess expendable resources. Are the best concerts going to be limited to only the wealthy? The only market in more disarray than the recording industry is the health care industry. Creative problem-solving is long, long overdue.

With out doubt, the best of Van Morrison’s albums is the double CD, “A Night in San Francisco” which was partly recorded at the Masonic in December 1993. Now, fourteen years later, Van Morrison returns to the scene of the crime and very nearly duplicates that stunning triumph by going back to the basics: great song-writing and great musicians means a great show. Despite evidence of a cold, Van Morrison’s voice sounded strong and he was in very good spirits even dropping his hyper-serious Artist Persona to smile twice. Even his Irish scatting and improvisation was minimal and right on target. I’d also like to know when did Van Morrison become such a tremendous saxophonist? He was quite able to hold his own amongst a stellar group of true professionals.

Adhering to the Concert Rules set forth for last year’s show, Van once again picked a great venue. The Masonic Auditorium’s horseshoe seating layout allows almost everyone to feel like they have front-row seats. And like last year, Van continues to surround himself with a stellar gaggle of musicians. And I do mean a gaggle; there were 11 people on stage, 12 when Van’s daughter, Shauna Morrison, joined the Old Man on stage for a splendid “Beautiful Vision” (and Shauna is a Beautiful Vision – quite the eye candy).

However, while we’re speaking of Shauna Morrison who also opened the show: she seems to be laboring under the delusion that she is Etta James when she is more like Jewel. Imagine Britney Spears trying to sing old-time Gospel. While she is not a bad singer, her voice can be unnecessarily nasally and is better suited for country or pop not the jazz and blues-flavored arrangements that her father favors. At least, she has the good sense to follow her father’s lead by populating her band with accomplished musicians. Nevertheless, it does seem apparent that Van is all too willing to allow his fame and success to be used for her benefit. After having just tolerated seven years of Bush Junior and the prospect of Hillary trading on Bill’s success to prime her own political fortunes, this was a disappointment. There’s a reason it’s called nepotism.

As for Van Morrison’s performance, I cannot offer a single complaint. His singing was direct with purpose, the band was superb, passing solos from one player to the next at Van’s direction and the sound mix was perfect, except for the last 30 seconds of the concert when the volume was raised to the point of distortion for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, and despite my earlier complaints, if I were going to pay $200 for a show, this would be it. Not only is he a cultural icon, he has been performing for 40 years. Van Morrison is an old pro and knows what he is doing.

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