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REVIEW: Van Morrison at Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2018


Van Morrison Preferred use 4  ® Exile Productions 2017 X5


Let no one say Van Morrison didn’t give us our money’s worth when he performed at Cheltenham Jazz Festival last night. There may have been little or no interaction with the audience, but the songs were like waves – they just kept on coming.

As soon as the Big Top’s lights faded, there he was, on stage with his band and belting out the first number. And he barely paused until, 90 minutes later, he wandered off stage still singing the final bars of Ballerina.

When Van was last here three years ago, he was on sparkling form. Uncharacteristically playful, he laughed and joked with the audience and even did a few impressions.

This year it was back to the usual dour Van, who kept to the job in hand – performing some of his big hits, older back numbers and covers of jazz and blues classics, without breaking a smile and without a single conversational word to the auditorium.

Moondance got an outing, as did Did Ye Get Healed and Broken Record. He sang Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You, and the ravishing deep blues sound of St James’ Infirmary Blues, first made famous by Louis Armstrong back in 1928.

Van showed off his considerable musical gifts with some great sax and harmonica solos, brilliantly backed up by his band, who showcased their talents on trumpet, double bass, guitar and keyboards.

The Big Top was packed as Van filled the tent with a wall of sound that never faltered. Dressed in his signature fedora and dark glasses, he powered his way through the songs with a voice that’s as formidable now at 72 as it ever was.

Jazz, blues, soul – he’s the master of them all and, despite having a reputation for being a bit of a grumpy old bloke, usually comes up trumps when he plays Cheltenham.

Maybe he prefers the smaller venue, maybe we’re just lucky to catch him on his good days. He’s known for either being awesome or average, but he rarely fails to deliver here and for that we applaud him.

When the end came, the band played on and no one was sure whether Van would come back on to the stage for an encore. To be fair, it doesn’t often happen. Once he’s gone, he’s gone, but you always hold out hope.

No guru, no method, no teacher. No encore either but no matter, Van is still the Man.

Review by Helen Gadd



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