Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Newcastle City Hall 27th July 1973

Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Newcastle City Hall 27th July 1973
I coulnd’t let this section of my blogging pass without writing about Van Morrison again. I first saw Van Morrison at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. He had just created The Caledonia Soul Orchestra which is often considered to be “one of the tightest performing backup groups of the 1970s” (Wikipedia). This was, without any doubt, one of the greatest gigs I have ever witnessed. The concert was put on by local promoter Geoff Docherty and his Filmore North organisation, and it cost me all of 60p to sit at the back of the hall and witness one of the greatest singers and performers I have ever seen. Van sang with such passion and soul that night. I’ve seen him several times since this concert, but nothing has come close to matching that peformance. The tour was captured on the live lp: Its Too Late to Stop Now, some of which was recorded at a show at London’s Rainbow theatre, which took place just a couple of days before the Newcastle gig. The Rainbow Theatre gig was voted by Q Magazine readers as one of the top live performances of all time. Morrison was going through a divorce at the time and it is often said that his selection of material and impassioned performances were evidence of his inner turmoil. “I would say that that tour represented the height of his confidence as a performer,” band member John Platania remarked”, and the resultant double live album is considered as representing Van Morrison at his peak. I can picture him now, singing great versions of Here Comes the Night and Gloria. Everything about that show was perfect. The band was tight, the string section added a depth to the songs, Van was singing great, and more importantly he was clearly enjoying himself, and the crowd were up for it. We knew we were witnessing something special. If I had a time machine and could go back and relive a handful of gigs this would be one of them. I next saw Van at one or two festivals, including Knebworth, but didn’t catch up with him again at the City Hall until 1979. By then Morrison was moving in a more pop oriented direction, and although I still enjoyed the gig, the power and passion of that early 70s show was lacking.
ItsTooLateToStopNow John Collis comments that “with the magnificent Caledonia Soul Orchestra on song he [Morrison] came of age as a magnetic stage performer, culminating in the release of the double set It’s Too Late to Stop Now one of the most impressive of all attempts to squeeze the stage excitement of a rock performer on to vinyl.” (Collis, Inarticulate Speech on the Heart). So today I’ll think a little of that amazing 1973 concert, and look forward to the next time I have the chance to see Van Morrison, who for a couple of hours simply spellbound me in the City Hall all those years ago.
Setlist from the Van Morrison Rainbow Theatre London concert of July 24, 1973: Warm Love; Take your Hands Out Of My Pocket; Here Comes The Night; I Just Want To Make Love To You; Brown Eyed Girl; Moonshine Whiskey; Moondance; Help Me; Domino; Caravan; Cyprus Avenue; Wild Night; I Paid The Price; Saint Dominic’s Preview; Gloria.
The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Line Up: Van Morrison – vocals; John Platania – guitar; Jeff Labes – keyboards; Jack Schroer – saxophones; Bill Atwood – trumpet; David Hayes – bass; Dahaud Shaar – drums; Terry Adams – cello; Nancy Ellis – viola; Tom Halpin – violin; Tim Kovatch – violin; Nathan Rubin – violin.

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