I grew up with the same fondness for Van Morrison as most children of baby boomers seem to do. My parents went to a lot of his shows over the years; my dad estimates he’s seen him around two dozen times in various venues around the Bay Area. Not to mention, he once saw Van walking down the street in the Inner Richmond (my neighborhood!) in the early 80s. According to the story, my dad’s buddy called out to Van, who turned around, clearly not amused, and kept on walking (yep, sounds about right).
That story—along with the two records I own (Astral Weeks and Moondance, of course) and a few randomly downloaded songs from The Philosopher’s Stone—is the foundation for my knowledge of Van the Man. It’s not much, but I wouldn’t be my father’s daughter if I didn’t see him live at some point. So when word got out that he was coming to the Fox in Oakland, I snatched up tickets right away. Plus, the Fox is one of my all-time favorite venues!
So last Tuesday Alex and I ditched trivia and went down the street to the Fox, mingling with other concertgoers who were mostly my parents’ age. We sat way in the back of the balcony (tix are expensive, yo) so to my already-bad eyes, the man of the hour appeared as a dark suit topped with sunglasses and a black hat, with a saxophone hanging from his neck. I wasn’t even really sure it was him. But once he started singing, it was 100%, unmistakably Van.
The set was surprisingly spiritual—I had no idea! He played a lot of stuff from his 80s and 90s albums, the material I’m admittedly not familiar with. I *was* excited to hear two Them songs (“Here Comes the Night” and “Gloria”), and also enjoyed the bluesy medley of “Baby Please Don’t Go / Parchman Farm / Don’t Start Crying Now.” The band was great, and one of the highlights was when Shana Morrison (Van’s daughter) came out and joined them for two songs, “Sometimes We Cry” and “That Old Black Magic.” Awww.
As expected, it was a very no-nonsense show. I don’t think Van said a word to the crowd except to introduce Shana and an obligatory “Thank you, Oakland” at the end. Although apparently in LA a few days earlier he was busting out movie star impressions?! So unpredictable! But as long as he still sounds as good as he does, I suppose the Man can do whatever he wants.
I know Van’s not one for nostalgia, but I am. And since it’s my blog, here’s a super awkwardly-edited Them promo video to end with (wait for it):