Van Morrison still cuts a dash round the corner from where his music career began

Van Morrison at the Europa Hotel on Monday night – his late-period image is just as iconic as that of his early days
Picture: Richard Purden
Richard Purden


Van Morrison

Europa Hotel

Monday December 4

UNDER a bright December moon a mix of local and international Van fans arrive at the Europa Hotel. Line Of Duty actor Adrian Dunbar appears in front of the mic and suggests that we imagine ourselves in a San Fransisco cafe as he reads aloud the Belfast Cowboy’s lyrics in the style of a 1950s beat-poet.

The Fermanagh man has a fine timbre for the likes of On Hyndford Street.

Seeing Morrison in this location makes sense for those of us who have travelled far. Around the corner some have visited the former site of the Maritime Hotel where the living legend that is Van Morrison was born while performing with Them.

Undoubtedly the values he learned in those fledgling years about possessing some brio and work ethic remain. His 38th long-player Versatile was released just days ago, his third in just over a year.

The late-period image seems just as iconic as those early days when he walks on stage in a purple hat, shades and pinstripe suit. The starry lights backdrop is perfect for an atmospheric Moondance while Cleaning Windows captures the carefree days of a young working-class man living life in this city.

He sits down at the piano for fan favourite Vanlose Stairway while bathed in green light. It’s tracks such as these that the more serious Van aficionados are drawn to but those in the audience wishing to hear more popular hits such as Whenever God Shines His Light and Have I Told You Lately are equally charmed.

A highlight is when Shana Morrison joins her dad for a version of That Old Black Magic. The voices of father and daughter blending together create a magic all of its own and the chemistry of the band is tangible throughout as guitarist Dave Keary creates some sweet tones on his red Gibson 335.

Days Like This feels like an appropriate song in light of the Brexit chaos which unfolded earlier.

When Morrison returns to those heady days with Them for Baby Please Don’t Go it's like a shot of punk-fused adrenaline. He finishes with what else but Brown Eyed Girl and fans float out of the venue and on to the very streets Morrison has immortalised forever in song.

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