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last public update: Thursday, 12-Sep-2019 16:29:03 CEST
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The Tennessean
“Behind the ritual, you’ll find the spiritual,” Van Morrison sang to close his set at the Ryman on Wednesday, and that pretty much summed up his steady-rolling, 90-minute show. Just as he did at his last stop at the Mother Church, he didn’t run through a litany of his classic tracks but gave his audience a strong dose of where his soul is at now.
A good many of the numbers were from his forthcoming album, Keep It Simple, due on Lost Highway April 1. Backed by an 11-piece rhythm section, including banjo, fiddle, dobro and steel guitar, Morrison ran through country chestnuts like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and blues staples like Sonny Boy Williamson’s vamping harp workout “Help Me.”
Singing in a horn-like burr--and scatting and swinging through much of his set--Morrison dusted off his alto saxophone for a handful of numbers and even played some “Into the Mystic” style riffs on ukulele. He might not have given his fans what they wanted in terms of back catalog, but he and his band steadily rock body and soul. And from Into the Music’s “Bright Side of the Road” to the encore-closing “Gloria,” he at least gave the faithful a taste of his signature honey.
Mike S.
I'm watching as the firetrucks attempt hopelessly to put out a five alarm blaze in the aftermath of what could only be called a smoldering gig at the storied Ryman and if this Nashville crowd is any example, the new release goes Platinum.
Amazing to watch a crowd that may have come expecting some country and only got Playhouse, to be on its feet for an entirely new and likely not heard new release.
Van played it in its entirety along with a few from the previous setlist but no one seemed in the least disappointed and were thunderous in their acceptance particularly on Entrainment, Ritual, Poor Boy... And Van was rockin and scattin and completely into the gig...
This was one of those shows I wish I had everyone I knew in the auditorium and hopefully we'll see it repeated in Boston and NY
Also amazing to see Van introducing an entire new 11 song album seemingly flawlessly---a tribute to his genius.
Hollywood Reporter - Tom Roland
Van Morrison's new album "Keep It Simple," just released Tuesday, hinges on various roots music forms -- blues, folk, country and the occasional gospel -- and if you're going to limit your U.S. tour to three public shows and a South by Southwest showcase, then Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium is a strong symbolic location to underscore the premise.
Two years ago, touring behind his country album "Pay the Devil," Morrison gave a stellar, emotional performance at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, but on this evening, the emotions were much more subtle -- unfortunately, so nuanced that much of the night turned into a mellow, mildly satisfying affair.
Dressed in his typical black suit, black hat and sunglasses, Morrison led the band through a 90-minute rendition that set aside, with one exception, the most familiar elements of his catalog, devoting at least half of the performance to "Simple." He fueled every song with his trademark ad-libs: throaty slurred phrases, scat vamps and compulsively repeated words.
It worked at times, particularly when several songs faded to low volume and he punctuated the air with staccato shouts. But mostly, the lines felt like filler, less inspired than required.
The band fared much better, each player weaving lyrical solos on top of his or her predecessor's work with taste and fluidity. Their pass-around solos, tossed out by Morrison with small, undramatic gestures, were somewhat reminiscent of Bob Wills' Western swing shows, a particularly interesting comparison given an unexpected twist in the staging for the program.
Morrison called out the crew early to move the drums from the back of the stage to a more intimate location; Ryman legend has it that in Wills' 1944 debut on the Opry, which did not allow drums, he convinced management to allow drummer Monte Mountjoy to play behind a curtain, only to pull the kit onstage at the last minute.
Rather appropriately, Morrison's one truly inspired section came when he played tribute to the Opry, belting a unique version of late member Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You." His roller-coaster vocal slides and a shuddering fiddle solo brought deserved applause.
He picked up an even bigger response by closing the night with "Gloria." It was hardly a transcendent version, but garage rock at least stayed with the theme: It doesn't get much simpler than that.

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