Daily Tribune: - GARY GRAFF
Van Morrison keeps it simple at the Fox
DETROIT -- Van Morrison doesn't make it easy to see him in concert.
Besides the fact he doesn't come around all that often -- although he's played Detroit two of the past three years after a 20-year gap -- the Irish rock icon's shows come with strictures fit for a Broadway production:
Showtime at 7:30 sharp with latecomers "accommodated at specific intervals." The usual prohibitions against cell phones or cameras, although in this case you get the sense Morrison himself will storm off the stage and smack you upside the head if they're violated. No smoking, even in the usual designated outside areas, and no alcohol served; you have to sing along to "Gloria" completely sober.
All that puts the onus on Morrison to deliver something special, and he did just that on Wednesday night at the Fox Theatre, with a playful and emotional performance that was so engaging the 90 minutes (Morrison's standard length, to the minute) seemed to breeze by.
Morrison is often a buyer-beware prospect, known for leaving the hits from his nearly 45-year recording career on the sidelines. On Tuesday, however, he came to please, kicking off with "Wild Night" and then rolling into "Tupelo Honey," which incorporated a bit of "Why Must I Always Explain?," and "Saint Dominic's Preview." A shimmering "Wavelength" and "Domino," that latter featuring Morrison on saxophone, also made appearances during the set.
There is a recent album, to promote, "Keep It Simple," and Morrison and his nine-member band offered up the title track, the energetic "That's Entertainment" -- during which multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jory "played" an intricate hand-clapping pattern -- and the rolling groove of "Behind the Ritual," all of which fit in nicely with his older material.
All of those would have been enough high points for any given show, but Morrison, singing in a brisk, lyric-swallowing cadence similar to Bob Dylan, had his eye on some proverbial higher ground. A rendition of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," showcasing backup singer Katie Kissoon, was as moving as it was surprising. A long meditation on "In the Afternoon," which allowed the band's soloists to pass the musical ball between them, referenced "Ancient Highway" and "Raincheck." Morrison vamped up a storm and even let loose with a curse during "The Burning Ground," hinting at some politically-based anger before grounding things with a sublime take on "And the Healing Has Begun."
And then there was "Gloria," which brought things to a close on a high note but also nodded to absent friends with a quick vocal lick from the late Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" Diddley, of course, was one of rock's master showmen, and on this night at the Fox Morrison carried that torch proudly.
Van Morrison's show at The Fox in Detroit was an emotional one, not only for him, but the crowd as well.
Starting right at 7:30pm the night ranged from rockin', to spiritually touching, then laughs among Van and the band along with crowd..Things also ended as expected 90 minutes later.
Both In the Afternoon > Ancient Highway >Raincheck and the closing moments of The Burning Ground with Van and Katie Kissoon brought tears to even a lot grown men's eyes. Van came off sounding a little angry and highly passionate during some songs and added something like "and with the Joot, we'll take the ------------ to the burning ground."
I've always said, if angel's do exist they have to look and sound like Katie Kissoon.
The only down side for me was that Van did not introduce or mention any of the band members name's to the crowd. As he walked off he just said the usual "thank you. big hand for the band." Sarah Jory is a woman of many musical talents and she is already a star the way she came off.
Van is on a roll! The Detroit audience (very enthusiastic) made me proud one more time and I'll bet Detroit will be on Van's wavelength in the coming years... This particular setlist which has now been reported on, is definitely a crowd pleaser and that is likely driving Van to trot out some long missed classics. We heard St. Dominic's Preview and Domino along with much of the recent new additions previously mentioned in the past two nights. I'm sure many in our group will report more detail, but suffice to say, Van did not disappoint the sold out Fox Theater crowd and seemed to be enjoying the charged atmosphere with some comments about Clint Eastwood and "Plum Fine Day" -- "whatever that means.... and a few more light moments with a very upbeat band that just seems to be so comfortable -- which brings up another great version of "Comfortably Numb".... Absolutely lovely!