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VAN MORRISON, Liverpool Empire, 3 September 2011

Van Morrison, photo by Steve Goudie

Van Morrison is certainly not one of the happiest performers around. Given what I've heard about his showmanship, I fully expected him to come on stage, insult the audience, and then sit with his back to us and play a set of songs off that dreaded 'new album' for 10 minutes and then walk off.

But no, except for the odd pointing at his fellow band members Van the Man, was actually on relatively good form for his Empire gig on Saturday night.

Granted, he hardly spoke, but at least he knew what everyone had come for and didn't disappoint, playing some of the more famous of his songs from his 40-odd year career.

'Here Comes the Night', one of his earliest hits with Them, opened up the action, with its anthemic, Rolling Stones-esque chorus. So far, so good - and he hadn't walked off in a huff yet.

The band were stunning, a wonderful seven piece ensemble with piano, guitar, double bass, drums and brass section, as well as Morrison himself chipping in on sax and mouth organ.

The mood was laid back, and nearly every song took on a loungey, jazzy tone, including the wonderful 'Crazy Love', which moved along slowly, gently.  Similarly, 'Into The Mystic' washed over the 1,300-strong crowd like an incoming tide.

As someone who has only heard a small selection of Van's music I was impressed, and what a sax player too!

All in all a good time was had by all...including, I suspect, Van the Man.

Review and photos by Steve Goudie

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