on 08MAY2009 from Art
Many wonderful things about the first night's show. Van definitely came to play.
Fantastic first set.. From Caravan forward, he hit it out of the park.
AW set was fine.. overshadowed by the great first set.
on 08MAY2009 from Boom
the sound was stellar...the Orpheum is a great old theatre...from what I could tell not a bad seat in the house unless you are far left facing the stage due to 15 musicians on stage...they are spread from one end to the other in the stage.
Highlights last night were Help Me...great jazzy-blues intro plus Van signing with the harmonica mic...at time playing and growling at the same time. Also a beautiful Sweet Thing with the transition into Burning Ground..he threw the MF down.
There were a few times I thought the band would burst into flames they were playing with such intensity. It was a great long-long-long-long-long-rise ride to a town called Paradise along the ancient highway last night.
on 08MAY2009 from Michael
So it's come to this... Perhaps the closing ceremonies on one of the most meaningful Van tours in Van fan history. Starting out just months ago right here in the great LA where an electrified crowd bore witness to the mystical and revered Astral Weeks cover to cover live like never before.
On the road to NY and London for shows that built show after show rolling back to Vans fav of San Francisco this past weekend and now here we are back where it all started for a trio of perported closing ceremonies.
IF that's the case... How sad for us all and for legions of fans everywhere that haven't been able to transcend ...
I believe we've transcended... In fact I know we have and what a journey that really shouldn't end.
Van, we know you read these so consider the greater part of the US and many European countries that haven't borne witness yet and even though the soon to be released video will share that magical November night--- put us all on railway carriage charms and continue this adventure into the mystic. Please.
if you are near an airport get a ticket and be on this train before it pulls out of the station for what may be the last time...
on 08MAY2009 from wkoon68
The first set was pure dynamite, as good as I have heard Van ever do, equal at least to the last Wiltern show. The band (can a "band" have two cellos?) was outstanding, truly outstanding. The second part of the evening Astral Weeks was to my ears very flabby and flat. No encore.
on 09MAY2009 from Live Daily (Phil Gallo)
Rather than taking a victory lap to celebrate his reclamation of his earliest masterpiece, "Astral Weeks," Van Morrison [ tickets ] is digging deeper into the 40-year-old album's maze of openings, lush walkways and scenic vistas. His performance Thursday on the first of three nights at the Orpheum Theater, about eight miles from where he recorded "Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl" in November, found the Belfast Cowboy engaged and caring, not just about the material, but the dynamics of the presentation as well.
Veteran acts have found anniversaries provide an excellent marketing hook to revisit classic works that, for a multitude of reasons, never were heard live. Most notably, Brian Wilson did it with "Pet Sounds" and The Zombies with "Odessey & Oracle," but in Morrison's case it's a return to his earliest solo experiment. "Astral Weeks" is a gateway for him to reconnect with a portion of his past that has not been rehashed over and over. The concert is an exploration of his open-ended melange of jazz, blues, folk and beat poetry in the manner in which it was created.
The openness of "Astral Weeks," released in 1968 but never followed up with a tour, would influence "Moondance" and some future albums, but the expansiveness of the material, the lyrics presented as incantations and the striking interplay between acoustic rhythm guitar and upright bass would never be repeated so thoroughly.
For the Hollywood Bowl shows, Morrison went for a nearly identical re-creation of the album, and the resulting live album, released on Listen to the Lion Records, confirms the reports that Morrison put on a show for the ages on those nights.
The second go-round opens the doors for Morrison to expand a bit, find spots to growl, repeat a few more phrases or let the music linger while the violist or one of the guitarists stretches out for a few bars. "Slim Slow Slider," with the previously unrecorded "I Start Breaking Down" added as a coda, was the third song in the set and the first one Morrison attacked with vigor. The band followed his signals impeccably, rising and dropping out when he thrust his arm through the air, allowing the song to unfold rather than drape, his mumbles, whispers and shouts marrying perfectly with the ambling melody. He followed with a deliciously emphatic "Sweet Thing" and an elegant "Cyprus Avenue," complete with harpsichord.
"Astral Weeks" was performed with the same 10-member band that appears on the new album, with the guitarist from the initial session, Jay Berliner, seated up front alongside Morrison.
The group expands to 14 in the first half of the show and on the finale, "Listen to the Lion." While it's only three extra musicians, it ensures that "Listen to the Lion" has a climatic push; the music swells and informs the audience that this has been a journey, not one that makes a whole lot of sense lyrically, but one that concludes on a peak with majestic views. It's visceral and enthralling.
The finale provides a contrast to the rest of "Astral Weeks" as well, enhancing the perception that Morrison is relishing the depth of field being explored. We've all felt bands driving through their material; this is rare instance of an act burrowing underground. The layering of instruments, the counterpoint and contrasts--Morrison's jazz sensibilities are intact. He has ensured that there is an airiness to the music, that Miles Davis quality wherein the notes not played can be just as significant as the ones that are.
The performance's 12-song first half, which had its pluses and minuses, shared many of the qualities of the last several Morrison tours, in which he brings together instruments from his jazz band (assembled in 2003 for "What's Wrong With this Picture?") country unit ("Pay the Devil" in 2006) and R&B-and-then-some act (last year's "Keep It Simple").
The larger ensemble dipped into a bag of obscurities--"Northern Muse (Solid Ground)" from 1982's "Beautiful Vision," "Troubadours" from 1979s' "Into the Music" and "Queen of the Slipstream" from 1987's "Poetic Champions Compose"--in addition to several of his classics. "Caravan" received a "Last Waltz"-inspired treatment; "Moondance" continues to be performed in a swing band style; and despite "Wild Night" and "And It Stoned Me" making it into the set, both were given half-baked performances.
Morrison was prodding his band in the early-going, and it paid off with a passionate reading of the 50-year-old pop classic "It's All in the Game." Evening closed with the inevitable "Gloria," but he shook things up a bit by having the band play another gem from his days in Them, "Mystic Eyes," during the intro.
on 08MAY2009 from Hollywood Reporter (Erik Pedersen)
There is no shortage of Van Morrison songs on classic rock radio, but they don't come from "Astral Weeks." His landmark 1968 album slung meandering melodies over iconoclastic music while thumbing a nose at traditional structure.
So when he and a 14-piece band re-created it during the first of three nights at the sadly underused Orpheum in downtown Los Angeles, the song cycle was allowed to drift, breathe and evolve. And Morrison -- notorious for his occasional indifference onstage -- appeared to be relishing it.
A rock veteran playing a classic album live in its entirety remains a welcome trend in the iPod Age, and "Astral Weeks" is a prime candidate for the treatment. Recorded in two days with a handful of jazzy session players, its songs have a deliberate randomness; some end abruptly, as if Morrison had been making them up as he went along and just decided he was done.
The album was never a hit with the public -- a fact reflected by plenty of empty seats (a $350 top ticket price didn't help). And he had played it in full during a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl in November that spawned a live album and DVD, the latter of which streets May 19.
But "Astral Weeks" is revered by its faithful, and the live setting allowed Morrison to look back on it with the wisdom of years. He tinkered with not only its sound but also the track list. It was as if he felt he was perfecting what he'd started as a 22-year-old four decades earlier.
The show began with a career-spanning hour of songs that ranged from pleasant to stirring but was light on radio hits; even "Moondance" was given an extra-jazzy arrangement. Morrison alternated on piano, sax, guitar and harmonica as the band conjured swing, country, Irish folk, '40s and '50s pop and any number of other genres.
All rumpled cool in his shades, hat and leather jacket, the 63-year-old Belfast native unleashed that singular voice that melds so many musical styles. His calculated mumble,slur and trademark phrasing -- has he sung any song exactly the same way twice? -- frayed into a scat here and a soulful shout there. All the while he quarterbacked the sprawling, ultratight band that encompassed too many instruments to name, including many generally dissociated from rock.
After a break, an offstage voice announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, 'Astral Weeks.' " As it began, several in the audience were heard shushing talkers.
The pliable songs were written for embellishment and experimentation, and the band -- including a four-piece string section and two percussionists -- went with Morrison's stream-of-consciousness vocal vibe. The breezy beauty of "Beside You" fairly oozed from the stage. "Sweet Thing" was simply riveting, with flute, fiddle and upright bass making it shimmer as the star sang about the one with the champagne eyes and saint-like smile.
As he readied to wrap the hourlong "Astral Weeks" set with the cherished epic "Madame George," Morrison broke the fourth wall. He said cryptically and without explanation, "I didn't really look at this from the point of view of a comedy album before, but ... ."
And he trailed off.
It was simply more mystery about "Astral Weeks" and its creator.