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.
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.
Archive for the ‘Van Morrison’ Category
Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra Newcastle City Hall 27th July 1973
Bob Dylan Newcastle Telewest Arena 20 June 1998
Support from Van Morrison
This was a standing gig, with support from Van Morrison. The arena was far from full, as I recall. From a newspaper of the time: “Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, two genuine legends of rock, kick off a short national tour today. As they’re so moody and unpredictable, this pair can often disappoint, but when they rise to the occasion, it can be one of those all-time great nights. Well worth a risk, if only to say that you’ve seen them.” On the night Van was quite moody, as the newspaper suggested; however Dylan seemed in better spirits. The set included quite a few acoustic songs, and several tracks that were unfamiliar to me. The highlight for me was the last encore of Rainy Day Women, during which Dylan and the crowd really lit up. Setlist: Gotta Serve Somebody; If Not for You; Cold Irons Bound; Simple Twist of Fate; Silvio; To Ramona; Masters of War; Love Minus Zero/No Limit; Tangled Up in Blue; Forever Young; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Highway 61 Revisited. Encore:Love Sick’ Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
The Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, The Mahavishnu Orhcestra, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Tim Buckley.
Knebworth Park 1974 The Bucolic Frolic
This was the first of the great 1970s one day festivals to be held at Knebworth Park. I went along with my mates John and Gillie, catching a bus to Stevenage and them making our way to the site on the Saturday morning. We arrived just in time for Tim Buckley, who came on early in the day just as the crowds were entering the site. I remember his deep booming voice echoing around the field, but little else about his set. Next up was the Sensational Alex Harvey band, who were already a favourite of ours, and a great festival crowd pleaser. We made our way to the front to get a good view of Alex, Zal and the others who started with Faith Healer, which was still quite a new song at the time. Alex was an amazing front man, had no fear at all and was also a bit of a philosopher: “Don’t pish in the water. Don’t buy any bullets , don’t make any bullets and don’t shoot any bullets”. You couldn’t get more of a contrast than Alex Harvey followed by John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orhcestra, but such a rich mix of music was quite commonplace at 70s events. John was dressed entirely in white and he and his band took us through a wonderful blend of jazz, rock and classical music which swept through the field. The Mahavishnu Orhcestra was a big band, featuring Jean Luc Ponty, who had recently made his name playing with Frank Zappa. Van Morrison was just amazing, and at his peak, in the early 70s, and his set at Knebworth was great. His band on the day was a three piece, which was very small for Van, and a contrast to the Caledonia Soul Orchestra who I saw him with a few weeks later. I was never a big fan of the Doobie Brothers, they were a bit too funky for me, however John recalls them as the highlight of the day. They went down ok with the crowd, but by then everyone was waiting for the headliners. Jessica and Ramblin’ Man were real favourites that summer, played at all the festivals, and The Allman Brothers Band had a reputation for being THE Jamming band, renowned for playing long sets and mega versions of their songs, particularly Whipping Post. They didn’t let the crowd down. Gillie, John and I spent some time wandering around the site that day, and Jessica was constantly playing in the background. The Allmans came on late and played until well after midnight. Greg Alllman said at some point during the set “We are going to play every damn song we know” after continued shouts for Whipping Post. We slept the night on the site and got the bus back home the next morning, running into some of John’s school friends on the bus. Allman Brothers setlist: Wasted Words; Done Somebody Wrong; One Way Out; Stormy Monday; Midnight Rider; Blue Sky; In Memory of Elizabeth Reed; Statesboro Blues; Come and Go Blues; Ramblin’ Man. Encore: Trouble No More; Jessica; You Don’t Love Me / Les Brers In A Minor. Second Encore: Whipping Post. Thanks to John for the scan of the flyer. John comments that is was overall a very exciting day, with a diverse, even eclectic, line up which happened a lot a the time and gave everyone a chance to appreciate lots of different styles of music.
Van Morrison The Sage Gateshead 11 Feb 2012
“No cameras. If anyone takes a photograph he says he will walk straight off stage” the lady at the door told me as I entered the concert last night. Welcome to a gig by the enigma that is Van Morrison. I was seated in a box to the left of the stage, just a few feet away from where the great man would stand. The gig had been sold out for weeks; Van’s legend is as strong as ever, and he is filling halls out again, as it should be. Spot on at 8pm as advertised the band took the stage, followed by Van who walked on from stage left playing a saxophone. They were straight into Brown Eyed Girl; a version with a jazzier feel than the original. Morrison was singing well and you don’t get much tighter than this band. So far so good, I thought. I’ve enjoyed the last couple of Van gigs that I’ve seen, and expected this to be similar. But it was so much better. Last night, I could sense that Van was getting more into the performance as the night went on. Maybe it was because I was close to the stage and could clearly see the expression on Van’s face, but I think it was more than that. I swear I saw him smile a few times, and by the last few songs he was singing with a commitment and passion that I haven’t seen for many years. Between songs he was having some little chats with members of band, particularly the bass player; obviously giving them some instructions as to the next song and the arrangement. I’d love to be able to hear what he was saying. Van himself played sax and harp on several numbers and on Haunts Of Ancient Peace he sat and played at a keyboard, something I can’t recall seeing recently. He even introduced one of the songs and asked us to thank the band several times. The band, by the way, are excellent; switching from jazz to blues to soul, with some great solos, whether it be by the sax player, guitarist or the pianist. By the last song, the old Them classic, Gloria, they were really rocking, and Van was belting out the lyrics. He just gets better. Setlist: Brown Eyed Girl; Higher Than The World; Not Feeling It Anymore/Hurting Game; These Dreams Of You; Enlightenment; All In The Game/No Plan B/No Safety Net; Real Real Gone/You Send Me; Crazy love; Moondance; Into The Mystic; Precious Time; Haunts Of Ancient Peace; In The Garden/Holy Guardian Angel; Fair Play; Ballerina; Help Me; Gloria. I told a guy at work, who used to go and see Van a lot, that I was going to the gig. He told me that he had been disappointed by Van’s performances in the past, and wouldn’t go again. He missed a treat. Wish I had tickets for York tonight, but I checked and its sold out, which is as it should be. Come back soon Van.
Van Morrison in concert 1973 – 2007
I’m going to see Van Morrison at The Sage Gateshead on Saturday, so I thought I would spend a little time reflecting on my previous concert experiences of the great man.
I first saw Van Morrison at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. He was performing with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, and it was without doubt one of the greatest gigs I have seen. The passion and soul that Van showed that night was astounding. I’ve seen him several times since, but nothing has matched how he was that night. I’ve written separately on that great concert. 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.
I was back at the City Hall for a Van gig in 1983, and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. It was as if he was going through the motions, and didn’t really want to be there. I talked to other fans who saw him around the same time, and they felt the same. He was back in Newcastle at the Arena as special guest for Bob Dylan in the 1990s once, maybe twice, I don’t remember. I’d lost faith in him by then, and shamefully admit I stayed in the bar during his set. I thought I’d seen the last of the Van I’d seen at that gig in 1973. However, in recent years I’ve been playing Moondance, Astral Weeks and the live album now and then, and have realised just how great his music is. So it was in that frame of mind that I went to see Van again at Middlesbrough Town Hall in 2005. I saw glimpses of the old Van again at that gig. The set was short, and Van didn’t acknowledge the audience at all, but he sang well, and it looked like he cared again. The set included some of his well known songs such as Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl, and a bunch of stuff that I didn’t recognise, and I am pleased to say that I enjoyed it. I was sold out again. So it was in that frame of mind that I took Laura to see Van at the Sage in 2007. We had cheap seats looking down on the stage from above and once again, he delivered. The set included more classics than in 2005. I think we got Here Comes the Night and Gloria, certainly one of them if not both. Even Laura enjoyed it, and she has become quite hard to please. Those last couple of gigs have convinced me to catch Van each time he comes to the North East. So I’ll be at The Sage on Saturday to see Van again, and I’m really looking forward to it. I know what to expect, and it should be good. I’ll report back on Sunday and write a review of the gig. I’ll dream a little of that gig in 1973, and be thankful I have the chance to hear some of those songs again, performed by the master who wrote them, and who spellbound me in the City Hall all those years ago.