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Van Morrison Revisits “Astral Weeks” at Hollywood Bowl

11/10/08, 11:30 am EST

Photo: Kelly A. Swift/Retna

After four decades, Astral Weeks is still the sweetest slice of mystery in Van Morrison’s catalog, but until this past weekend, Morrison had never performed the album live. (Speaking recently with David Wild in Rolling Stone, he blamed Warner Bros. for not providing sufficient promotion back in 1968.) So when he played Astral Weeks in its entirety for two shows at the Hollywood Bowl, everybody present seemed to know they were witnessing history (except for the two teenagers in line for hot dogs who expected they would be seeing Van Halen). Tickets ranged from $75 to $350, and a full camera crew captured the performance for a future DVD. The dozen backing musicians even included the original Astral Weeks guitarist Jay Berliner (Richard Davis, whose elegant work on stand-up bass provided the album’s spine, had a family emergency and backed out at the last minute).

After an opening set (generally strong, although Morrison, obviously bored with “Brown-Eyed Girl,” now barely bothers with its consonants), Morrison strapped on an acoustic guitar and tackled Astral Weeks. Sometimes he evoked the fragility of the original material, but more often he took charge the music with the authority that comes with four decades of performing, even shuffling the original playing order for no obvious reason. Morrison extended the album to a full hour, leaving lots of room for solos and for his own scatting. It seemed that once he breathed in the perfume of these eight songs, he didn’t want them to end — and looking at the enraptured crowd, he wasn’t the only one.

Set List:
“Saint Dominic’s Preview”
“Heavy Connection”
“Here Comes the Night”
“And the Healing Has Begun”
“Summertime in England”
“Brown-Eyed Girl”
“Gloria” (incorporating “Who Do You Love”)

Astral Weeks:
“Astral Weeks”
“Beside You”
“Slim Slow Slider”
“Sweet Thing”
“The Way Young Lovers Do”
“Cyprus Avenue”
“Madame George”

“Listen to the Lion”

Related Stories:

Q&A: Van Morrison Returns to Astral Weeks

Van Morrison at SXSW

The Immortals: Van Morrison

Classic Interview: Van Morrison in 1972

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tommy towne | 12/24/2008, 7:33 pm EST

I was there wuith my wife SATurday night, sitting in the bleacher seats, brown bag dinner, snuggling to stay warm. Van was purely transcendental performing Astral Weeks. Magical. No one will be disappointed. I am writing at this later date as I found this blog while reseARCHING THE RELEASE OF THE NEW RECORDING, NOT BEING ABLE TO WAIT, AS THE ‘PERFORMANCE’, EXPERIENCE, MOVED ME AND I CAN’T SHAKE IT. WANT TO LIVE IT AGAIN AND AGAIN ON CD. CAN’T WAIT.

Stevie Dal , Scotland | 12/20/2008, 9:18 am EST

The Greatest Album of All Time !
Can’t wait for the DVD , hope the man does his masterpiece justice !

5zeroPop | 11/25/2008, 9:55 pm EST

Glad I caught Friday. Van included Moondance in his opening set. Sappy? maybe. With the rich 2nd act coming, it was cool to loosen up on those classics first.

Mary in MI | 11/19/2008, 2:44 pm EST

Thanks for the set list. I was unable to be there so can only imagine. and the encore… my my.

J Thomas from Alabama | 11/14/2008, 9:30 pm EST

Love the Man Van. The greatest of our time. He continues to sail us “into the mystic”.

Jellyroll kid | 11/13/2008, 10:14 pm EST

I have read in alledged interviews that Van Morrison has said one of his disappointments with the album was the sequencing of the songs by Warner Brothers, that it was not sequenced the way he would have done it. Possibly,he sequenced the songs the way he would have had he sequenced the tracks himself..or maybe he just felt like giving the talking heads something to gab about. blahblahblahblahblahblahblah

tom from texas | 11/10/2008, 11:57 pm EST

I’m not sure what “Heavy Connection” is. I was at the concert and I remember him playing “All In the Game -> You Know What They’re Writing About” at that point in the concert. The night before he preceded it with “When The Healing Has Begun”. On Saturday he played all three - but not in the same sequence as on the “Into the Music” album

Ryan | 11/10/2008, 11:56 pm EST

Its a big disappointment that Richard Davis couldn’t be there, but I still can’t wait for the DVD, top 5 albums of all time

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