Van the Man just did one of his Astral Weeks shows here in Boston last week. Somehow, after seeing him probably five times, I just didn’t make a huge effort to get tickets. There was a lot going on. I went to go see Paul McCartney at Fenway, e.g. That was a first. And while there were some sublime moments — the realization that this is the Macca, doing “Blackbird” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” e.g. — I was just too far away to feel like I wasn’t just watching on T.V. We were put up in a private suite, which is hard to complain about. But it almost seems pointless to go to these shows when you are going to be so distanced, which is why I more or less gave up on most of the big outdoor shows decades ago; I am just too conditioned to being in and of music shows in smaller and contained spaces and feeling more of a visceral experience.
And, frankly, though it sounds like some old guy dragging out a lame excuse, I was never a fan of much post-Beatles Paul. I never even felt compelled toward much of the peak stuff from his solo career. I am sure there are some songs I don’t know about, and there I do know there are some great ones, like “Here Today,” which was pretty emotional live. But “Jet,” “Band on the Run,” “Live and Let Die,” ho hum. Nice fluff, I guess. It reminds me of being a kid and hearing Wings on the radio a lot. It has very little emotional resonance for me, however, after his purely solo “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Of course, Sir Paul doing “Yesterday,” “Something,” and other classics is in and of itself something one must do while the opportunity still presents itself. There still seems to be time, at least on Paul’s end of the deal; he looks great and has not lost any discernible parts of his strong voice. At 67 he played 2.5 hours with such energetic highs as “I’m Down” and “I Saw Her Standing There” that it makes one consider swearing off the BBQ and becoming a vegetarian (and smoking more of the marijuana).
Van Morrison seems to be relishing playing live almost as much as Dylan does. He is on the road constantly, it seems. And though I can not say I have seen one of those disastrous Van shows you hear about, I have seen plenty of mediocre shows and one truly great one. When Solomon Burke opened for Van, it seemed to spur him to some higher peaks that I had ever seen.
Like so many other fans, Astral Weeks is one of my all-time favorite records. But like that 1969-72 period of the Stones, Van had a great run of records. One of the least known is one of his best, and probably my favorite of his, Veedon Fleece. But I am not sure why I did not do everything in my power to go see the Astral Weeks concert. I would be eager to hear the comments of those who did see him do this in any of the various venues.
This song, “Cul de Sac” (here is a song review I wrote many years back), is from Veedon Fleece. The album is definitely autumnal in tone, though this one is one of his gospel-soul-folk tunes. It still has that but of melancholy even though you might not have any idea what he is singing about or even the very words he’s singing. It’s all about capturing the vibe, the spirit, the mystic.