Seppeltsfield Winery, Sat 14 Nov
Joe Camilleri and friends playing the music of Van Morrison under the stars at a winery in the Barossa – sounds like a perfect recipe for a beautiful evening. And it was. A few more degrees Celsius would have been nice, but Here Comes The Night delivered what Van’s aging Boomer audience wanted. Lead vocals were shared between Camilleri, Vince Jones and Christine Anu.
Camilleri imbibed part of Van Morrison’s soul a long time ago. On some songs I closed my eyes and just heard Van – the vocal likeness is remarkable; that same soulful meandering over the melody line twisting the notes and extracting every ounce of emotion – good for your own soul. Joe has lost little of his energy for live performance over the years and strides and bounces around the stage with infectious enthusiasm.
Getting the balance right between faithful renditions of classics that audiences know and love and mixing things up a little with new arrangements is always a challenge. Most of Camilleri’s versions stayed pretty close to the originals, but Here Comes The Night and Tupelo Honey were two that had you wondering if you liked them that way.
Trumpeter and singer Vince Jones offered the most contemporary treatment of Morrison material on the songs he sang. He also opted to do more obscure numbers from the Van Morrison canon. Together this made his parts of the show the least accessible to traditional Morrison fans. His treatment of Ballerina was fascinating. Those who like jazz improvisations of melodies would have really enjoyed him.
Christine Anu was simply wonderful. From the moment she launched Into The Mystic the show went up a level. As good as the others were she had an extra presence that made you feel that you were at a rock concert and not just some laid back, safe journey down memory lane. Her version of Days Like This similarly had an extra spark.
Musically the whole performance was without fault. Complementing the standard rock line-up was a full brass section, a string quartet (The Silo String Quartet), and back-up female vocalists. The brass and back-up vocals reminds us that the young Van Morrison growing up in Belfast was steeped in the tradition of blues and jazz, primarily black music, from the other side of the Atlantic. And I really enjoyed the curious and unusual choice to feature many lead guitar breaks on acoustic guitar.
This was a great night of great music – make no mistake. But there was something just a bit too comfortable and predictable about it. I hear Van Morrison music as I stroll down the aisles of my local supermarket these days – he has become muzak. And at Here Comes The Night in the Barossa there was a safe predictability about it all. The band would be great. They’ll play all the old sings we love and we will enjoy it. We will applaud politely as we have to but neither the band nor the audience are going to go that extra mile to convince the other that we need them. That pact was made a long time ago.