GENE STOUT (P-I POP MUSIC CRITIC)
WaMu Theater, Van Morrison are good fit
It was a marvelous night for a moondance, even if the full moon wasn't visible.
Van Morrison and his 10- member band of singers and instrumentalists enraptured concertgoers Saturday night with a sold-out show that spanned the Belfast-born singer's entire career. Among the favorites in the 19-long set at the new WaMu Theater were "Moondance," "Brown Eyed Girl" and "St. James Infirmary Blues."
Concertgoers quickly rose and danced and sang along to Morrison's classic songs and well-chosen cover tunes. It was a terrific show, among the best he has offered in the Seattle area in recent memory.
But why so short? Morrison's band took the stage promptly at 7:30 p.m., catching concertgoers off-guard and leaving them with little time to enjoy the abundant food and beverage service at the venue. The show concluded abruptly at about 9 p.m. without an encore. With tickets priced from $165 to $225, the show's brevity was a bit of a rub.
Nevertheless, many concertgoers left the building with satisfied grins.
Morrison's show was part of a festive inaugural weekend for the new concert venue, a joint venture between AEG Live and Paul Allen's First & Goal Inc. at Qwest Field Event Center.
The weekend included a Friday night concert by Grammy-winning soul singer Seal and Allen's band (minus the billionaire Seahawks owner), as well as an appearance by nearly 30 Seattle Seahawks, who stood shoulder to shoulder on the mammoth stage. Each show drew about 5,000.
The theater featured a small marquee, red carpets and, for Friday's opening, four spotlights. The spacious lobby included four bars, an array of artifacts from Allen's Experience Music Project and atmospheric lighting.
The WaMu Theater can be assembled and disassembled in less than a day, transforming the hangarlike exhibition hall into a functional concert venue using comfortable folding chairs, spacious risers, a portable stage, heavy acoustical curtains and state-of-the-art speakers.
For Morrison, WaMu's sound system worked beautifully. During Morrison's tender rendition of Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You," the singer's three background vocalists sang a cappella in tones so clear and warm that concertgoers cheered.
Before Morrison took the stage, his band warmed up with a rousing "Boogie Woogie Country Girl." Morrison arrived in his dark suit, fedora and sunglasses for "Back on Top," "Beautiful Vision" and Webb Pierce's "There Stands the Glass," from Morrison's current, country-influenced album, "Pay the Devil."
Often playing harmonica and saxophone, Morrison blended folk, blues, country and rockabilly with scat singing and Celtic influences.
Morrison took up his sax for "Moondance" and was greeted with handclaps. During "Precious Time," he took turns scatting with background vocalists. "Folks, this is what you call dynamics," he quipped.
During "Real Real Gone," a song that makes references to Sam Cooke, Morrison and his background vocalists earned a standing ovation when they crooned, "You-o-o, send me."
The show ended with spirited, hand-clapping versions of classics "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Gloria." Morrison's crew began packing up as soon as everyone left the stage. Morrison has been running a similarly tight ship in other cities.
Seattle Times - Patrick MacDonald
Classic Morrison changes little, and that's good
There's a timeless quality to Van Morrison that was reflected in his masterly performance Saturday night at the new WaMu Theater in Qwest Field Event Center.
Of all the great, still-active rock stars from the '60s, Morrison is the most unchanged. He doesn't look old, like the Stones, he doesn't sound different, like Dylan, and he hasn't gone slick and showy, like McCartney.
He's still got that monochromatic but somehow richly expressive singing voice, in the understated style of the Southern bluesmen he's always admired. He maintains a fascination with blues, folk and jazz idioms, just like he did growing up in Ireland. He still exudes the same quiet passion and dignity that have always been his trademarks.
The most dramatic proof of his timelessness, however, is the fact that almost all the songs from his long career — starting with the Irish group Them more than 40 years ago — are of a piece. The newer ones fit perfectly with the classics. Even the covers he does mesh naturally with his originals.
Fresh from opening for the Rolling Stones the night before in Vancouver, B.C., and backed by a talented 10-piece band that featured violin, pedal steel and organ, and three background singers, Morrison, wearing a black suit and matching fedora, performed a no-frills, no-nonsense kind of show that is all too rare these days.
The brisk, 90-minute set left some of the capacity crowd of 7,000 — many of whom paid the top ticket price of $225 (the cheapest were $95) — disappointed. But that was one more thing that hasn't changed, because Morrison never performs for very long and seldom does encores.
Not surprisingly, the crowd reacted most enthusiastically to the hits, including a jazzy, folky "Moondance," a smooth, cool "Crazy Love" and energetic recreations of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Wild Night," which had fans up and dancing.
A funky "Real Real Gone" was a highlight, as were covers of the blues classic "St. James Infirmary," with Morrison on sax; Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You"; and Paul Young's bluesy "Tear Your Playhouse Down." The closer was Them's "Gloria," with Morrison on harmonica.