Cumberland News - PAUL JOHNSON
Van-loads of blues, but where were the golden oldies?
Watch out! Cumbria is rapidly becoming a by-word for excellence on the live music and festival circuit.
Keswick Jazz Festival held earlier in the year has become an attractive proposition to internationally-renowned jazz artists; Brampton Live, held only a couple of weeks ago, is attracting big names such as Steve Earle; and Solfest is going to be massive – I just know it. Bands like the Proclaimers and The Levellers are paving the way for others to follow.
One of the first and original of these “weekenders” is the Maryport Blues Festival.
Now in its ninth year, the blues festival has attracted the biggest names yet to the realms of west Cumbria; the biggest of these so far being Van
Morrison, who last played in Cumbria at the Sands Centre in Carlisle in 2000.
It is almost unreal to be able to pop along to Maryport to watch one of the biggest names in music play a gig there. Winner of a Grammy award, with a career spanning five decades and over 20 albums, Belfast-born Van Morrison OBE, was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2003, and has a permanent place in the 100 greatest artists, musicians and singers of all time. He was also, at
one time, best buddies with the late, great Jim Morrison of The Doors.
Van Morrison appeared on stage in front of a capacity crowd in the main stage marquee of the blues festival; around 2,000 people, the largest crowd of the festival ever, were there to watch a 90-minute performance that was not a collection of Van the Man’s greatest hits, or most well known songs, but a connoisseur’s concert featuring some of Van’s vast repertoire of songs performed by a backing band that was very slick and professional,
containing excellent musicians and vocalists. Van Morrison’s voice was as powerful as ever, and his vocal range and delivery live are very impressive. The only thing he lacks is any kind of communication or repartee with the audience – he never spoke all night, and even turned his back to the crowd when he’d finished his singing parts.
The only recognisable songs to someone not familiar with his entire back catalogue were a cover of Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You and his final song of the night - which also got the loudest cheer, and had the most people dancing, which was Gloria from 1964.
As this was a Blues festival, it is understandable that Van the Man should play his more bluesy material.
However, they all tended to sound pretty much the same. For the popular music fan, paying upwards from £50 for a ticket, it was disappointing that he didn’t play his better-known songs, such as Brown Eyed Girl and Moondance – after all, they are what people expect to hear, and they do fit into the R&B genre.
This disappointment aside, it was a very enjoyable experience; but next time, even though he refuses to become what he calls a “nostalgia act”, I would rather see Van Morrison on a greatest hits tour.
Time & Star - TIM NICHOLLS AND TONY TERRY
THE Maryport Blues Festival was, in a word, outstanding!
A huge thank you is due to all of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ who organised the weekend, and to the rest of the people who made it run so well.
For us, the hidden gems of the event were Eric Bibb, Harper and Never the Bride, though there wasn’t a bad act anywhere in the marquee.
In our opinion, Gary Moore deserves the Eric Sardinas awards for gratuitous use of volume and self indulgence, as well as the Mike Sanchez award for quantity of perspiration. The iconic Van Morrison performed with an exceptionally gifted band, though he still has a few issues with
relating to his audience.
Finally, although some of the acts could be said to only have a passing connection with blues music, all of them produced very enjoyable and rewarding sets.
These performances will stay in the mind for a long while to come. Roll on 2008!