As far as tribute shows go, “Here Comes The Night: Songs From The Van Morrison Songbook”, an addition to this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival schedule, is up there with the best of them.
Van Morrison’s catalogue alone is legendary; throw in three of Australia’s leading performers paying homage to the revered Northern Irish veteran of music, and you are in for an evening of sensory delights to the mind, body and soul.
The fact that the Silo String Quartet, the Voodoo Sheiks Orchestra and the mastermind that is Music Director John McAll, share the stage in order to delve into the mysterious depths of Morrison is a testament to his diversity.
For the rock component of the show, the audience is treated to the high energy provided by Joe Camilleri of Black Sorrows fame.
Vince Jones, a regular headliner of the MIJF, fills the jazz quota of the set list with his striking silken tones and ear for interpretation.
And Vika Bull, recently tearing up the stage in “At Last: The Etta James Story”, lends her big voice for the numbers that need a little added soul.
The stage of the Palais Theatre in Melbourne never seemed overcrowded despite there being eighteen performers on stage in total. Each artist plays an integral part to the sounds being produced; each artist a vital ingredient to the atmosphere being created. The big band element was definitely in full swing.
“Here Comes The Night” is an eclectic mix of the best of Morrison, sung by the performer who could best interpret Van the Man’s stories behind each song.
Jones’ did exactly that in his take on “The Way Young Lovers Do” and “And It Stoned Me”.
Standing left of centre stage, hands behind his back, the white-haired jazz performer unravelled Morrison’s complexities until they were just as hauntingly beautiful with his particular brand of jazz.
Delving into “Cleaning Windows” and the eternally romantic “I’ll Be Your Lover Too”, the audience witnesses the smooth and rich quality of Jones’ unique voice.
Bull, clad in a stunning red dress and a white flower weaved into her hair, took to the stage to sing popular tune “Into The Mystic”, amid whistles and applause from the audience.
Bull’s rendition of the ethereal lyrics that include “I want to rock your gypsy soul/Just like way back in the days of old/Then magnificently we will float into the mystic” is simply spellbinding.
The crowd can almost see her reaching a place far within herself as she croons “Crazy Love” and later on delivers the wise and ever-so-true “Days Like This”.
Camilleri, not one to shy away from an energetic jaunt or an endearing dance across the stage, got the mostly mature-aged crowd to their feet with rocking number “Gloria” as he smiled into the microphone and said “We’re going to bring the house down!”
The energy was still rolling high in the second act as Joe gave himself over to Morrison’s tribute to Rn”B, “Domino”, and a personal favourite of his “Bright Side of The Road” (Where he confides that it makes him happy every time he hears it on the jukebox).
Two stand-out songs of the night really cement why it was these three artists on stage paying their respects to the man who can easily traverse soul, blues, jazz, pop and Celtic rock genres.
The first was an obvious crowd favourite, “Moondance”, where the trio shared singing duties and each brought a little something of their own flavour to the mix.
Joe, ever-cheeky, asked the crowd “Was it on your list?” as the opening bars played. The answer being a resounding ‘Yes!’ He continues, “Can I tell you a little secret? It wasn’t on mine! But… I’ve added a little something to it.”
The last song of the set and another stand out performance is also a group effort, the spectacular bluesy number “Baby, Please Don’t Go” which had the crowd back on their feet dancing again.
Camilleri encompasses a certain freedom when he performs. He gets lost in the moment, and the audience happily gets swept up in his river of emotion.
Jones and Bull are a good fit to counterbalance Camilleri’s out-there enthusiasm, with the former using depth, understanding, and subtlety to his advantage and the latter adopting integrity and soul to tell her side of the Van Morrison story.
Together, they take the audience on a lovely passage full of musical and emotional twists and turns; revisiting old beloved songs, while introducing a new way of hearing them through an irresistible blend of rock, soul and all that jazz.
Here Comes The Night: Songs From The Van Morrison Songbook Tour Dates 2013
8 Nov Adelaide – Festival Theatre
9 Nov – Perth Concert Hall
22 Nov – QPAC Brisbane
28 Nov – State Theatre. Sydney
29 Nov – Palais Theatre, Melbourne