Concert Review: Van Morrison at Hard Rock Live
Disclosure: I was invited to attend Van Morrison’s concert in exchange for this post. All opinions here are my own.
Veteran music legend Van Morrison graced the stage of Hollywood’s Hard Rock Live on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24. At 31 years old, I was one of the youngest attendees Saturday night, but had quite some history with his music. I was named after “Natalia” on the Wavelength album and was very familiar with his songs, thanks to my father being a stan.
Morrison started right on time, looking snazzy in a pastel blue suit, sunglasses, and fedora adorned with a blue ribbon. Accompanied by a full band, Morrison played the sax for “Deadbeat Saturday Night”. With his smooth voice (like tupelo honey, if you will), Morrison launched right into “Days Like This” from his 1995 album of the same name. His band, comprised of a xylophone, sax, guitarist, and myriad of other players, provided that signature Van Morrison sound.
“Someone Like You” showcased the backup singer’s powerful vocals, to which an audience member commented “You go girl!” Another whistled, seemingly echoing his statement. The singer, adorned in a curve hugging black dress, jammed out to the beat.
Morrison was a man of little words, playing song right after song. “Stoned Me” and “These Dreams of You” followed with a brief “thank you” from Morrison before he crooned the jazzy and relaxed “Raincheck”. There is something to be said about a musician without the theatrics, without the corny “Is everyone having a good time?” Morrison is about the music, plain and simple. In fact, when closing my eyes, he sounded just like the young man on the Wavelength album cover — not aging a bit.
Showcasing even more of his talent, Morrison played the harmonica for the bluesy “Baby, Please Don’t Go / Parchman Farm / Got My Mojo Working”. A fun portion of the song was that every time he pointed at the band, a stage light would flash. The backup singer played tambourine during this long number, which was filled with jam sessions.
He covered the toe tapper “Ride On Josephine”, the harmonious “Laughin’ and Clownin’” (originally by Sam Cooke), and sang the energetic “The New Symphony Sid”. Things finally slowed down with the melancholy “Carrying a Torch”. Morrison showed emotion by moving his arm up and down during the latter part of the song.
The vibe soon picked up again with the jovial “Precious Time” and the upbeat “Playhouse”. As the cameras panned to the tambourine-playing backup singer, an audience member remarked, “I want to hang out with her”. And rightfully so — she complimented Morrison but won hearts with her remarkable vocals.
Morrison’s skills continued to show with the soulful “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and New Orleans-style “Cleaning Windows”. The sensually sweet “Into the Mystic” earned audience cheers as soon as he sang the first line, which Morrison played sax for. Towards the end of the song, he walked offstage and let the band play. He emerged with a different sax instrument for the classic “Brown Eyed Girl”, to which the audience enthusiastically sang and stood up for.
“Gloria” (a Them song) was the perfect closer, to which Morrison played harmonica for. This sassy number had the audience clapping along and belting out lyrics, which brought big smiles to the backup singer and drummer. Morrison made an Irish exit, letting the band jam for a bit.
Each member had their own solo, including the sax, bass, backup singer, xylophone, and drummer. They resumed playing together and while Morrison never came back out, it was evidentially his presence that brought everyone under one roof for an unforgettable night.