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VAN MORRISON - LIVE - THE PERFORMANCES



2018-09-04

last public update: Saturday, 15-Dec-2018 16:37:00 CET
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The Church Recording Studio in Overbrook doesn’t get many requests for studio sessions from people in Belfast, Ireland, so the team was quizzical when the call came in a few months ago for a three-day booking in early September.

“We didn’t take it too seriously at first, but after pushing them for some details, they revealed it was for Van Morrison,” says studio producer Dave Hidek. “We actually believed them less at that point, so we asked for the standard deposit, and sure enough a check arrived the next day, and we knew they were for real.” But that was only half the story. “A little later on, we got a call from Willie Nelson’s management to let us know that he’d be attending as well, which was an unbelievable thought, having those two guys collaborating in our space. Having either one walk through our doors would in itself be a treat, to put it lightly, but both of them together would certainly be a historic experience.”

The two legends, of course, were the headliners of the Outlaw Music Festival, which played KeyBank Pavilion on Friday.. It was the first of four dates on the tour for Mr. Morrison, who hadn’t played or set foot in Pittsburgh since 1973, when he did the Syria Mosque.

In the buildup to the Outlaw show, they were holed up in Overbook for three days at the studio owned by Dana Cannone, working on a future Morrison project.

“The first day was mostly getting sounds and getting the players situated with tones and headphones and the general lay of the land,” Mr. Hidek says. “The second day was tracking live with Van and the band, with Mickey Raphael on harmonica and Willie’s son Lukas sitting in on electric. Willie overdubbed his parts and solos after Van had accomplished what he needed. The last day was spent on leftover overdubs and mixing.”

Those familiar with the two masters can guess what they’d be like to work with, and they’d be right.

“Van is intense,” Mr. Hidek says. “He knows exactly what he likes down to what guitar is being used or where the treble is set on the amp. He’s got an incredible ear for production and arranging, which on one hand is surprising given how hard it can be for artists to be objective about their art, but on the other hand unsurprising in that he has been so successful for so long for a reason. He doesn’t linger on things, and his level of execution was impressive.

“Willie takes the opposite approach in many ways, but that’s what makes this collaboration so special. For being 85, he’s still got that vocal magic, and his performance holds you hostage from the first note to the last note. Hearing Trigger [his guitar] in person made it abundantly clear as to why Willie refuses to let it go. In all it was a very special experience, like something that you’ve appreciated all your life, but in an intangible way, now suddenly standing right in front of you and wanting to know what you think. Definitely something that I’ll remember for a long time.”

Mr. Nelson has been one of the most collaborative artists in the industry, but this will be his first with the venerable Irish troubadour.

Fans have something historic to look forward to, made in Overbrook.

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