The Arizona Republic - Michael Senft
Van Morrison makes first Valley visit in 28 years
It was a marvelous night for a Moondance on Wednesday when Van Morrison made his first Valley appearance in 28 years at Cricket Pavilion. And the legendary Irish singer made up for the wait with a passionate, if short, set to his adoring Valley fans.
Taking the stage at 7:30 without an opening act, many expected Morrison to play an extended set, however he only sang for about 90 minutes.
But what a 90 minutes they were.
After his backup band played the rollicking Boogie Woogie Country Girl with guitarist Ned Edwards handling the vocals, Morrison emerged in a sharp suit and fedora, taking the mike for Back on Top. He proceeded to wail, scat and growl his way through 20 stellar tunes ranging from his days with the garage band Them through his recent country CD, Pay the Devil.
The crowd was most receptive to the classics like Moondance and Cleaning Windows, but his ten-piece band seemed muted on those tunes. While they gave passionate performances, the music was overpowered by Morrison's soulful shouting.
It didn't slow the performance, however.
As the band kicked into the Them classic Here Comes the Night, the show catapulted to a new level of passion. A fiery reading of the R&B chestnut Baby Please Don't Go was another climax.
It also marked Morrison starting to have some sort of technical problem onstage. He was gesturing at his mike and monitors to the roadies during Precious Time, and growing visibly upset as the problems didn't get fixed.
But his anger only seemed to fuel his performance, driving his emotional singing to a new level on the classic Wild Night, which finally got the audience to its feet. And when he followed it with Brown-Eyed Girl they were dancing in the aisles.
A passionate Gloria closed out the evening and Morrison left without an encore.
But truly nothing could have topped the finale he'd already delivered.
Get Out - Chris Hansen Orf
Van Morrison plays no-frills show at Cricket
Rock stars are known for many things, but punctuality and a strict onstage demeanor are not among them. For instance, when it says "7:30 p.m." on a concert ticket, that usually means the show will start at 8 p.m. or so, after the crowd has all wandered through the gates and finished standing in the long beer lines.
Wednesday night, before rock legend Van Morrison took the stage to play his first Valley concert in 28 years, Cricket Pavilion staffers walked the parking lot announcing through booming megaphones that the show would "begin at 7:30 SHARP!"
Signs at the box office reminded concert-goers of the same thing, with strategically placed flyers, adding that there would be no opening act.
And they weren't kidding.
While the crowd was still filtering in to reserved seating and the lawn area was about half full, Morrison's 10 piece band (which included Asleep At The Wheel's famed pedal steel player Cindy Cashdollar) played "Boogie Woogie Country Girl," and then the legend himself, dressed in a black suit, white fedora and sunglasses, took the stage at just after 7:30 p.m., sending the late arrivals scrambling for their seats.
The Belfast, Northern Ireland-born Morrison kicked off his set with the title cut to his latest album, "Pay the Devil," which is largely a disc of classic country covers and a few self-penned tunes, and kept things rolling with the Webb Pierce honky tonk classic "There Stands the Glass."
If most of the fans were there to hear Morrison's 1967 Top 10 hit "Brown Eyed Girl," they had to wait a while, as the singer slowly added older tunes such as "Cleaning Windows" and "Days Like This" before donning a saxophone for the jazzy classic "Moondance," which had the crowd singing, clapping and snapping their fingers as Morrison showed some impressive sax chops during the solo section.
The artist, whose stage presense when not singing, consists of standing in one spot and pointing to band members when it's their turn to solo, revved things up with the Them (Morrison's mid-'60s band) classic "Here Comes the Night," then closed the tight 90-minute set with his hits “Wild Night,” “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Gloria.”
While Morrison barely spoke to the crowd, save for a "thank you" after a few selections, he did audibly tell his guitarist to "play rhythm" on a song the guy was playing lead on, and brought a stage hand over to chide, "There's too much echo in the mics."
"It sounds like he's shaking the dust out of the closet," said Patrick Whalen, 49, of Scottsdale. "He's rough on his band -- he should loosen up and let it flow from the soul. He's a great musician, though -- he's written some of the best music ever."
It was not a grandiose stage production, however, that brought fans out, it was Morrison's timeless R&B-laced rock 'n' roll.
Tony Duran, 59, of Phoenix said Van Morrison was much better on Wednesday than the previous time he saw him perform.
"The last time I saw him, 28 years ago at the Celebrity Theatre, a drunken guest threw a beer can on stage and he walked off and didn't come back," Duran says. "This time there was no jive, he just played. It was like watching a jazz band."