Van Morrison,

 

JUST a shade before the appointed hour, Georgie Fame led the band on stage to warm up the crowd with a little Matt Biancho ditty called I say yeah yeah. Everybody's attention suitably focused, the man they call "the man" then took centre stage and launched into a greatest hits package culled from one of the most respected back catalogues in the history of contemporary music.

With fans from across three generations and a career that started long before this particular reviewer was even born, Morrison's appeal as a headline act remains undiminished. The problem, however, is whether his actual appearances can continue to survive the burden of expectation created by his reputation as one of the greatest singer songwriters of the century.

For his own part, Van just stuck to the script. He opened with the laid back, smoky bar room jazz of Ain't Through Lovin' You and immediately it was obvious that his dynamic vocal phrasing was still intact and that his voice is as rich and resonant as ever. Brian Kennedy, who like Georgie Fame, seems to be a permanent fixture of Van's line ups these days, joined him for Days Like These, followed quickly by Raincheck and St. Dominick's Preview. The band proved tight, if sometimes a little overblown, as they attempted to reinterpret a set of work that is as deeply chiseled into popular consciousness as taxes and sliced bread.

Then, at the end of a jazzed up Moondance, and bang on the hour, Van promptly left the stage. Reappearing minutes later, he gave us the first of four encores that included a cover of James Brown's It's a Man's World. This was oddly appropriate as, for the next 50 minutes or so, we were treated to Morrison's own interpretation of Brown's Stage technique taken to its minimalist conclusion.

Unfortunately, he tried it once too often, and the surprisingly jaunty sing a long of Brown Eyed Girl was the last high point of a set that subsequently degenerated into a best of the rest medley with Van singing bits and pieces of other songs he hadn't managed to include in the main set.

He eventually left us, but as he peered through his omnipresent shades to pick his way off stage for the last time, what remained were some lovely memories and an odd sense of a performer who may be nothing more than a victim of his own success.