My first live encounter with the legendary Van Morrison, at Oxford’s rammed-to-the-rafters New Theatre on Sunday, left me awestruck in admiration. It was the same heart-stopping sensation I had felt here in the past in the presence of Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner and Roy Orbison, likewise icons in their field.

Visited in its extremities, as it was on this occasion, the field of ‘Van the Man’ is a wide and varied domain. At one corner is Morrison the bluesman, as we first got to know him in the early 1960s as the vocalist and harmonica player with Them; at another there’s the dedicated exponent of jazz, blowing his sax and scatting with the best of them.

Rock and roll? He’s got it over there, giving us tonight a rip-roaring account of Bo Diddley’s Ride On Josephine, while his musical director Paul Moran pounded the ivories with the punishing vigour of the great Jerry Lee Lewis – another icon I’ve seen, alas on an off night (Tunes of Glory, not Balls of Fire).

And then there is – occupying the greatest area of all – the songwriter as poet, with as potent a pull – particularly where a sense of place and the past are concerned – as his mighty countrymen Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats.

Astral Weeks, in which that rare quality was first lavishly revealed, is nowhere referenced on this occasion; perhaps it’s out of Van’s ‘system’ following 50th anniversary live performances last year.

Still, from his vast and ever-growing repertoire, there is much else in its nostalgic, often plangent, style.

Among this set’s 20 songs in 90 minutes are 2005’s Magic Time (“You can call it nostalgia, I don’t mind/Standing on that windswept hillside/Listenin’ to the church bells chime”), the yearning beauty of Foreign Window from 1986; and Carrying a Torch from 1991, which occupies a sound world reminiscent of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry.

A touching part of his own past is explored in Cleaning Windows from 1982, where his daytime occupation at the dawn of the 1960s is celebrated, together with the nights of listening to the blues (Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry) that followed.

Along the way are favourites – beautifully delivered in a still powerful tenor voice – that need no introduction (nor get one). Curmudgeon though he is considered to be, Morrison does not grudge his fans the chance to wallow in a personal nostalgia. So we are given Saint Dominic’s Preview (1982), Days Like This (1995), Moondance (1970) and Brown Eyed Girl (1967) ­— if, in the case of the last two, in a distinctly jazzier tone than that of the originals.

Van the jazzman is much on parade, with the gleaming saxophone displayed on many numbers, trading solos with no less virtuosic players of trumpet (Moran again) guitar, vibraphone, bass (double and electric) and drums.

As usual, these (and the superb female singer) remain unintroduced by the ever-taciturn Van, a discourtesy to them and to the audience. But following a cursory wave and desultory muttered thanks from a departing Van, during the final Gloria, they each take a deserved solo turn in the limelight. 5/5