Van Morrison - Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl

2009-07-24 07:52
Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl
The disappointment lies in realising how easily you let momentous albums of your past turn themselves into monuments set in stone, rather than the realistically mutable memories that would do the artist more justice.

All that is by rather ponderous way of saying - this 2008 recording is not nearly as good as the original 1968 studio version, but then neither is the original studio version. But both are still damn good.

It's kind of like having sex with an ex-girlfriend you haven't seen for many years. It can still be good, but it'll make you rethink the intensity of the initial relationship. Really, in music as well as life, there is no going back.

But Morrison and a stellar (not a cliché I would normally use, but it is Astral Weeks) cast of musicians come damn close to producing a classic. If there had been no original, this would be the classic. It's just disconcerting listening to an audience whistling and cheering songs that were designed to create the illusion that they were written for you, or at least for individuals huddled under headphones. We shouldn't let these dilatory musings put us off, though.

This is still a great album to listen to, and if it inspires you to go back to the original, even better. To refresh the memories of those of you who lived the 60s not wisely, but too well man, Astral Weeks was a revelatory amalgamation of jazz, bluesy rock, disjointedly beautiful lyrics and, well, Van Morrison.

The last element is a not inconsiderable addition to the mix. Nobody else has quite the laconic, wounded, amused delivery of Morrison. That's probably why I can't think of too many great covers of Van Morrison songs, except Patti Smith's "Gloria". On Astral Weeks Live, Morrison does himself justice, and his legend justice. It might not match many people's recollections of that first sharp, shocking discovery of the original, but it'll give a lot more people a similar awakening to the joys of intelligent songwriting.

A live performance of a seminal album, Astral Weeks Live is both a pleasant surprise and a slight disappointment. The surprise is how good it is, a powerful performance that carries you with the melodic and narrative swings of the songs.

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galamatias 2009/08/14 9:55 AM
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No this is not the holy grail, but as a record of a fine performance it stands amongst the best live albums ever. Sadly it also puts into perspective just how off the boil Van the Man has been for the last decade and a half. Sure nearly every album has had a sprinkling of tingle down the spine songs, but none has the ability of Astral Weeks to take you on a magical, mystical journey from beginning to end. One small fault: was it really necessary for Van to show case his crap side with a horrible version of Common One - right after the transcendent Listen to the Lion? A perfect spell broken by hokey show-off flsh. Nothing will ever touch the origional album though.
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