Wednesday 13 December 2017


When an artist hasn't played in either the city where he was born or has lived for just over a decade one would imagine that anticipation rather than trepidation would be the order of the day among fans. Not, however, when the artist happens to be Van Morrison.

This weekend Belfast's Odyssey Arena and Dublin's O2 play host to Morrison and even among several Van fans of my acquaintance there's a hint of nervousness as the gig approaches. Basically, they're bricking it about just which Van Morrison will turn up and what mood he'll be in on the night. And they've every right to feel jittery.

Over the years, Morrison's live shows have veered from the ecstatic to the perfunctory, much in keeping with his recorded output. With Them he was a snarling, belligerent Belfast proto-punk before going solo and gifting the world with Brown Eyed Girl, a pop masterpiece full of the joys and regrets of a youthful summer.

Moving past the 'Astral Weeks -- genius or gobbledegook?' minefield Morrison came into a great streak with Moondance, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic's Preview and Hard Nose the Highway and captured this period with one of the great live albums, It's Too Late to Stop Now in 1974.

His output has been only intermittently engaging since then, 1982's Beautiful Vision being the only one which would stand with his early '70s run, and the same goes for his live performances.

For every night when the magic happened there were too many where it was obvious that Morrison was merely going through the motions. So, tomorrow I'll be staying on safe ground: cracking open a nice bottle of red and sticking on It's Too Late to Stop Now.

>George Byrne

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