“YOU might think it’s nostalgia, I don’t mind” Van crooned early on in his set. In Kelvingrove Park, you could almost feel his audience’s collective heart throb with joy at the Belfast singer’s careless permission to luxuriate in rose-tinted memories of a career spanning almost six decades.
Van Morrison, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow ****
On stage, styled like Elvis Costello’s older, meaner, more solid brother in a spangly pinstripe suit, fedora and sunglasses, Morrison clearly meant business, briskly segueing from one song to the next.
There was no banter with the band, and the sold-out audience was barely acknowledged; Morrison’s long-standing rep for gruffness remains intact, as does his reputation as a maestro of whimsy. His set leaned heavily on the jazz-inflected work of the most recent of his 39 albums, plus some swing out versions of the hits, including Have I Told You Lately That I Love You and Moondance.
His tight, versatile backing band responded to and sometimes anticipated Van’s scattergun vocal delivery, but while the jazzed-up revisions had novelty, the cabaret treatments also ironed out some of his gutsy intensity, and it was striking that when Morrison barked out an unaltered Days Like This, the intimacy of the 23-year-old song pierced the falling dusk.
A closing run of Jackie Wilson Said, Brown-Eyed Girl and a rocked-out and raucous extended Gloria made it impossible to deny Morrison’s brilliance as an artist. He left the band to play out, and the audience yelling for more, but perhaps also hoping a bit less of that swing thing next time.