During a year that we’ve suffered the loss of so many of music’s all-time greats, BBC Radio 2 In Concert offered a rare chance to see a maestro at the top of his game this week, as the recently-knighted Sir Van Morrison performed at The BBC Radio Theatre on Thursday night.
It must only be the BBC that can play host to artists of Morrison’s calibre in such uniquely tiny venues. The Radio Theatre, nestled inside New Broadcasting House, was recast with the transporting ambience of a New Orleans jazz club as, Morrison sang and played for just over an hour, with a few hundred lucky winners of the ticket lottery standing mesmerised.
Morrison, now 71, took command of the stage in his signature hat, sunglasses and suit, and with barely a pause for breath, wound through nearly twenty songs spanning a career over fifty years. Classics like the joyous Wild Night, gospel-tinged Whenever God Shines His Light, piercing ballad Carrying a Torch and singalong favourite Brown Eyed Girl were interspersed with tracks from his newly-released 36th studio album, the bluesy, melancholic Keep Me Singing.
Traces of Morrison’s famously mercurial, grumpy temperament were absent – though there was barely a word uttered between songs, in a set this short, it may have been a blessing to simply indulge in the music. Supported by his sublime band and velvety supporting vocals, Van the Man, his own voice oaky with age, and still marvellously supple, seemed as engrossed in the power of song as the blessed group of delighted, head-bobbing fans just a few feet away.
The full set is available to watch on BBC iPlayer here