Monday, June 10, 2013

Van Morrison 15: Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast

Van Morrison’s first album with his new label was an odd move—a live album, which would inevitably raise comparisons with the lauded It’s Too Late To Stop Now, recorded in the city of his birth, suggesting that it was a grand homecoming. It wasn’t.
Van always considered himself a performer in the tradition of his jazz and blues heroes, and Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast presents the latest incarnation of his show band and revue. It fades in on an instrumental overture of “Into The Mystic”, shifting abruptly into “Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart No. 2”, and then even more abruptly into “Dweller On The Threshold”, which is presumably where the star of the evening makes his entrance. The extrapolation of “It’s All The Game”, part of the grand finale of Into The Music, comes next, slowing things down right away, but feature some truly clumsy electric piano playing from the guy whose name is on the marquee. That contribution also colors “Vanlose Stairway”, which otherwise gets an excellent vocal. Luckily he sticks to the saxophone, to which he’s much better suited, in the middle of a nine-minute “Rave On John Donne”. The rest of the album is pretty faithful to the records, though “Full Force Gale” tones back the horns, and Chris Michie leans a little heavy on the whammy bar for “Beautiful Vision”.
As a representation of where he was at, it’s good. He was never about the hits, preferring to embrace the moment; therefore the set is heavy on recent songs. He does give plenty of solo time to the players in the band, and the backing vocals are well rehearsed. That said, whether Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast succeeds as a snapshot of that moment is up to the listener, whether or not he or she was there.

Van Morrison Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast (1984)—3

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