Music review: Van Morrison, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow

At times during this Summer Nights show, Van Morrison resembled the all-time great responsible for Astral Weeks, but performing his classic songs in a cheesy swing style does them no favours, writes Malcolm Jack

Van Morrison PIC: Bradley Quinn
Van Morrison PIC: Bradley Quinn

Van Morrison, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow **

Shuffling on stage honking his harmonica dressed in dark shades and a fedora, gruffly business-like veteran soul man Van Morrison didn’t waste time reminding everyone of the very unedifying persona he has been loudly projecting the last few years.

The 76-year-old Belfast-born singer, saxophonist, anti-lockdown campaigner and conspiracy theorist’s opening number Dangerous appeared to reference his ongoing feud with Robin Swann, Northern Ireland’s Minister Of Health, whom Morrison branded “very dangerous” during a bizarre rant last year, prompting legal action from the politician. “Talkin’ ‘bout callin’ ‘em out, all their lies,” ran one typical line among eight minutes of bitter rambling over bland trad dad blues, played by a well-drilled eight-piece band. Morrison’s fedora might as well have been made of tinfoil.

Luckily, that was the only tune we had to endure from his 43rd and latest album What’s It Gonna Take?, which elsewhere finds Morrison bluntly expressing his contempt for taxes, the media and government overreach among other things. Across a set spanning six decades, it was even possible in spells to remember that we were in the company of the same all-time great responsible for Astral Weeks.

A back-to-basics medley of Baby, Please Don’t Go and Got My Mojo Working hauled the first handful of audience members to their feet for a dance. A breezy Full Force Gale would barely have registered on the Beaufort Scale, but it was pleasing to hear all the same. Likewise Moondance, despite falling victim to Morrison’s annoying habit of doing classic songs in a cheesy swing style.

Never exactly the loquacious type on stage, Morrison’s first words to the crowd came before the encore as he asked that everyone “give a big hand for the band”. He returned almost as soon as he’d left for a swing-ified, if nonetheless ecstatically received Brown Eyed Girl. Gloria was rocking gloriously when Morrison mumbled a thank-you and swiftly shuffled off again, leaving the band to jam out the remainder of the song for so interminably long it got kind of embarrassing.