on 09MAY2009 from Art
Excellent show.. especially the Astral Weeks set, which might be the best I've heard.
The show didn't take off for me until Help Me, but then it really soared. Surprising segue into "Aryan Mist" during "Astral Weeks". "Georgia" was a surprise.
To me, the AW set last night was the "purest", most in tune with the spirit of the original. So, fewer song extensions, but more focus on the core of the song.
on 09MAY2009 from Matt
It was truly spectacular. He opened on piano again with Solid Ground and the crowd quickly got into it. It was a nice little venue, only about 2,000 seats. I was sixth row, right center, seated next to Tom Quinn, who has attended every show on the AW tour. Highlights of the opening set included Georgia, Help Me and And The Healing Has Begun. I thought Caravan was only average but he really ramped it up with Help Me and And The Healing Has Begun. Through the night he played piano, sax and harmonica on several songs, and guitar on nearly all of them. It was a full two hours of music, maybe a little more. As has been the case with most of the opening sets on this tour, Van closed on a high note with Common One. It's always a crowd-pleaser because of the interaction between Van and Richie Buckley, who again did a great job keeping up with Van.
I thought the second set -- Astral Weeks -- was definitely better than the Astral Weeks set in November at the Hollywood Bowl, which I thought at the time was outstanding. You can see that he and the band are more in sync, each band member more confident with his(her) role in the shows. Van was interacting with the other musicians a lot more than he had been six months earlier, especially with Berliner, and it obviously is having a positive effect on all the players. But most notable to me last night was Van's voice, as Boom pointed out. I am amazed at how strong his voice is right now, especially since he's been on the road for six months. But his voice was better last night than it was six months ago at the Bowl, holding notes longer, hitting higher notes and really expanding his range in many instances.
Slim Slow Slider was magical. Van was beating on his guitar and firing up the entire band. Sweet Thing was far better than the version played in the Hollywood Bowl show(s). Both Sweet Thing and Madame George were closer to the original album versions, very focused and intense. And Ballerina was especially good last night, very passionate and personal. But, again, Madame George may have been the real highlight of the evening for me. It didn't go on as long as the version he played in November, but Van was really into it and seemed to demand the same from the band and the crowd -- just awesome. And even though they have become regular fare on this tour, Listen to the Lion and Gloria still come off as fresh and inspired, both outstanding last night. The band was really feeling it by then and came through with lively performances in those final two songs. I think I have seen Van about 12 times over the last 23 years (I know, that's nothing compared to most listers) and this was the best. Last night's was just a stellar show.
Here's to another night of beautiful music...