Dallas Morning News - THOR CHRISTENSEN
Van Morrison cuts loose at the Meyerson Symphony Center
CONCERT REVIEW: Aloof soul legend connects with Meyerson audience
There's only one way to enjoy a Van Morrison concert:
Check your expectations at the door and accept the show on his terms.
If you went to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on Saturday craving his hits, you probably left sulking. He played just one during the 95-minute show –"Moondance" – and he acted so bored during it he shouldn't have bothered.
But if you were willing to indulge his fancy, you got a thrilling journey through sock-hop country-soul, gritty funk-blues and wherever else he felt like taking you. Mr. Morrison has a rep for being a cold performer, but by the end of Saturday's show, he was clearly having a ball – taking requests and making up funny expletive-laced lyrics on the spot.
I'm not positive, but at one point, it almost appeared as if he cracked a smile.
Performing only his second North Texas show in 30 years, he took the stage looking awkward and aloof – his face obscured by a fedora, his body stuffed uncomfortably in a gray suit that seemed two sizes too small. Whenever he wasn't singing or playing sax, he disappeared into the shadows with his back to the crowd.
But slowly, song by song, the ice started to thaw.
He jolted "Magic Time" with a playful sax solo and scatted up a storm in "I Can't Stop Loving You." He reclaimed "Have I Told You Lately" from Rod Stewart (who had a hit with it) and transformed it into furious ska-jazz. By the time he lit into 1999's "Precious Time," he was bleating like a lamb and leading his band with an imaginary whip.
His 10-piece group was stellar – especially fiddler Tony Fitzgibbon and pedal steel player Sarah Jory, who made the stately Meyerson feel like a campfire hootenanny. During several tunes, the group swung hard like a '50s dance band. But since the Meyerson isn't built for dancing, none of the fans got the nerve to stand up and cut a rug.
As top-notch as the band was, Mr. Morrison was the unmistakable leader. At 62, his voice has grown lower and more nasal than in his "Tupelo Honey" prime. But when he started growling and scatting and ad-libbing through "Georgia on My Mind," he was still the greatest blue-eyed soul singer alive.
The unannounced show-opener, Bobby "Blue" Bland, was a welcome surprise. At 77, the blues legend is getting frail – he had to be helped onstage – and his once mighty voice has grown soft (a poor sound mix didn't help).
But he persevered, filling "Every Day I Have the Blues" with an unearthly falsetto and spicing up "Stormy Monday" with his famous guttural "love snort." Mr. Morrison has been known to emulate Mr. Bland's trademark sound, but his snort has nothing on the master's.
Stare Telegram - PRESTON JONES
Morrison cedes spotlight
DALLAS -- Most of music's old lions rightfully want their moment in the spotlight.
Saturday night at Dallas' majestic Meyerson Symphony Center, Irish iconoclast Van Morrison almost pathologically avoided it, frequently ceding the stage to his mesmerizing 10-piece band.
Content to function more as a bandleader than the main attraction, Morrison nevertheless captivated an appreciative crowd with his intoxicating baritone -- as smooth and well-aged as top-shelf bourbon.
Kicking off a two-night stand, the veteran troubadour nimbly evades a signature sound, instead relying on a pungent stew of musical flavors, ranging from lilting folk and dirt-smeared country to searing jazz and supple funk.
The career-defining hits were missing in action live (no Brown Eyed Girl or Domino to sing along with, sorry) but what was offered up (reimaginings of canonical works like Georgia on My Mind or his own Have I Told You Lately) dazzled with its interpretive grace.
The airtight 90-minute set left scant room for the singer songwriter to engage the audience verbally (he uttered perhaps three words all evening) but in letting his music do the talking, the 62-year-old Morrison spoke volumes.
As strong of voice as he's ever been, scatting and twisting verses with calculated abandon, "Van the Man" also hopped on his trademark tenor saxophone and harmonica, blending seamlessly with the polished professionals behind him.
"I don't fade away unless I choose," Morrison sang toward evening's end. He repeated the verse from 1995's Raincheck, and heedless of irony, slipped from the spotlight's soft glow and off the stage, as the audience rose to its feet and delivered a richly deserved ovation.
Frequent Morrison guest and one-time collaborator Bobby "Blue" Bland opened up, leaving a considerable impression despite his set's brevity (less than 30 minutes).
With a gripping voice that evokes the Neville Brothers, Bland provided a through line to some of Morrison's more sultry artistic impulses.
The 77-year-old Tennessee native knows his place in the pantheon: "We don't have much time, but we're gonna make Mr. Morrison wait until we do these blues," Bland said before ripping into a riveting, extended medley.