I flew over to catch the two Manchester shows to see where Van's at these days. I had last seen Van at the Dec 2007 Prov RI show which was a typical US show - no workouts, no meditation, no creative singing. After 27+ years of live Van, I really don't care what material he does or who's in the band; I ONLY care that he's into the music and that his improvisable vocalizing takes me to a place that no other singer can. The voice remains strong but not the fire in the belly.
For the past 10 years, I could always depend on some vocal magic at UK Europe shows where audiences are more accepting of Van's mood. I had the pleasure of sitting in the front row center and could watch Van closely the entire show. He truly seemed as bored as I was.
Unfortunately, Van isn't singing with passion anymore. The new songs were done methodically (learn the damn lyrics already - they're your own songs!), the older songs done perfunctory, and the classic hits done begrudingly.
There were no magic vocal moments or even attempts. "Help Me" and "Behind the Ritual" went nowhere before they were shut down. No "Game" or "Burning Ground". The only improvisation was via instrument: sax, elegant one-handed piano on "I Can't Stop", and tasty electric guitar with scat during "Back on Top". Alas, no vocal magic. Or even attempted.