You come away from Van Morrison at the Virgin Money Unity Arena feeling that music may be the food of love, but it’s more than that… it’s the stuff of life
Virgin Money Unity Arena Newcastle Racecourse
When we think of a pop concert, we probably picture a packed club, a heaving moshpit or a mud-strewn festival. But pop is a broad church and every summer there are also genteel gatherings of older music-lovers, from Kenwood House to Kelvingrove Park.
Had it not been for the pandemic, pop veterans like Tom Jones and Diana Ross would have been on tour in 2020. As it is, they’ve all had a year off – all bar one. This week Van Morrison took his band on a mini-tour culminating in two nights at the Electric Ballroom in London, restricted to one-third capacity – the first socially distanced indoor gigs from a big name.
He would deserve a knighthood, if he didn’t have one already.
This week Van Morrison (above) took his band on a mini-tour culminating in two nights at the Electric Ballroom in London, restricted to one-third capacity
Van has little time for lockdown, which he says was led by ‘pseudo-science’, but you don’t have to agree with him to admire his dedication. At 75 he has been performing for 62 years, ever since he started a skiffle band called The Sputniks.
To warm up for the London dates, he joined the series of socially distanced outdoor gigs at Newcastle Racecourse (which continue until September 19). Warm wasn’t quite the word: with an icy wind blowing, it was not a marvellous night for a Moondance.
Where Sam Fender sold out two shows last month, Van only half-filled the arena. Of the 500 cattle pens, each seating five, about 400 were occupied, and mostly by couples. Still, it made the queue for the portaloos manageable.
Van appeared wearing an overcoat and kept it on all evening. He rattled through his 90-minute set: even the slow songs were fast. But he wasn’t grumpy, and he played the hits, from Brown Eyed Girl to Jackie Wilson Said.
Every track comes steeped in a love of jazz, blues and soul that grew out of his father’s record collection. While there are many expert solos, the instrument that means most is Van’s voice, casual yet piercing.
You come away feeling that music may be the food of love, but it’s more than that: it’s the stuff of life.
Van Morrison plays the London Palladium September 23-4 and November 17-21