Van speeds through set without stopping for a chat
A DAY after his 62nd birthday, and on his third visit to Edinburgh in as many years, Van Morrison delighted a sell-out crowd at The Playhouse on Saturday night.
One of Ireland's true songwriting geniuses, and for many one of the greatest blues singers of all time, 'Van the Man' as he's known, wasted little time in getting through as many songs as possible, strutting through a back catalogue of hit tunes during his 90 minutes on stage.
Latecomers, who were still pouring into the hall half an hour into the set, missed out on hearing slick versions of Have I Told You Lately? and Bright Side Of The Road. Not that Morrison cared. Dapper in his dark green suit, trademark hat and sunglasses, the Belfast Cowboy might as well have been playing to an empty hall, such is his scarce want to acknowledge his fans. Interaction between artist and audience just doesn't happen at a Van Morrison gig.
Backed by a nine-piece band that included backing singers, a fiddle player and a female lap-steel player (or "electric coffee table" as Billy Connolly would call it), the band are so tight they sounded as if they were controlled by one big volume control, the controller being Morrison himself: orchestrating the band with an array of hand signals, stares and occasional grunts.
Whether it was country, folk, rock or pop, rhythm and blues or Celtic soul, the crowd swayed along, though they never got up to dance like they had done at recent Morrison concerts in the capital.
There was also a clampdown on mobile phone photography, too, which, thankfully, allowed people to enjoy the gig with no distraction.
Morrison, though, can sing just about any song, even redneck hillbilly.
During Webb Pierce's country classic There Stands The Glass, you could almost sense the audience crying into imaginary pints of beer, as Morrison, almost literally, poured over the lyrics:
"There stands the glass
That will ease all my pain
Make me forget your name
It's my first one today."
Yet while there was no doubting the warmth fans have for Morrison's voice, it's the hits they all wanted to hear.
The scourge of covers bands and Morrison alike, he quickly dispensed with Brown Eyed Girl in the same way someone would hurl water from a sinking boat.
A few people stood up to dance along, the ushers keeping a watchful eye over anyone threatening to jig their way down the aisles.
But that was before Morrison took fans right back to the start of his career with a fantastic version of Gloria - a song Morrison wrote during his days with Them.
Finally a bit of fire started to erupt from his belly. The volume had increased - at last - and for once here was a song the audience could really get their teeth into. Unfortunately, that was about as chipper as things got.
Make no mistake, Morrison has a voice gifted by the Gods, he's enriched peoples' lives for over 40 years and given us some great songs.
But surely a bit more 'oomph' and a bit more interaction is the least he can give his paying public. Leaving the stage as nonchalantly as he'd arrived on it, there was no good-byes or any waves to the crowd. Van Morrison's work here was done.