Van Morrison

New Theatre Oxford

Saturday, November 6

After missing out on numerous cancelled concerts due to the pandemic, I’m keen to see as many bands as I can right now.

So I was delighted when Van Morrison included New Theatre Oxford on his tour dates.

I have been listening to the legendary singer since I arrived at Bangor University in 1985 and a guy in my hall of residence persuaded me that the Moondance and Hard Nose the Highway albums were an inspired lifestyle choice, and I have been enjoying his records ever since.

What could go wrong? Nothing really, unless the star – who has a reputation for being slightly grumpy – used the stage as a soapbox to start ranting about coronavirus or anything else bugging him.

That wasn’t the case at all, and he arrived on stage with seven other talented musicians including two keyboard players and two female backing singers.

With guitars, saxophone and a double bass it was a full, rich accompaniment to Van’s soulful voice, which still sounds very strong at the age of 76.

With just a short introduction from a member of the band, Van Morrison, looking smart in shades, hat and blue suit, embarked on an energetic 90-minute set.

The first five songs all came from his new album, Latest Record Project Vol 1, and although I hadn’t heard them before, they were all strong, fairly up-tempo melodies I could get along with. Deadbeat Saturday Night has a lovely swing to it and Up County Down is catchy too.

Oxford Mail:

Pausing for breath – but not to talk to the audience – Van took his foot off the gas with crowd pleaser Days Like This was followed by other favourites including Precious Time (from Back on Top), Foreign Window (No Guru, No Method, No Teacher) and Sometimes We Cry from The Healing Game.

With such an extensive back catalogue the slight worry for anyone going to a Van concert is that he will pick too many songs you are unfamiliar with.

But luckily I didn’t experience that problem – I recognised more tunes than I thought I was going to and Baby Please Don’t Go, an R&B number Van first performed with his band Them in the sixties, was a feisty reminder of his longevity.

‘I’ve got my mojo working,’ he reminded us and by this point in the show no one was going to argue.

Think Twice Before You Go was followed by Broken Record and then Van launched into Moondance, signalling to the crowd that we were more than half way through the evening.

The delivery of Moondance was a little too jazzy for my taste but he delivered a more traditional take of Whenever God Shines His Light, which won plenty of applause.

In the Midnight from Back on Top concluded the main set before Van Morrison left the stage, only to return shortly after a few minutes for the encores, Brown Eyed Girl and Gloria, a 20-minute rock ‘n’ roll finale to showcase his band of musicians and their undoubted talents.

Afterwards, I realised that only a few people in the section of the theatre where I was sitting were wearing masks.

But venue staff were meticulous as usual in checking everyone’s Covid passes on entry so it didn’t stop me from enjoying such an enthusiastic performance.