No matter how much success a musician has found or how many sold out shows that person has played over the years, he or she should never forget what got them to the top of the mountain: the fans. The hard-working, 9 am – 5 pm fans who pay good money to attend shows, buy merchandise and, at least before the digital revolution, buy albums.
On Saturday night, my wife and I trekked up to the United Palace Theater in New York City to see Van Morrison, an icon and legend in the music world. The man has put out enough albums to fill a CD rack and has played the best venues around the world for the last 30 years. He knows what he is and the fans know too. He’s a musical genius. A guy with a voice so smooth and silky, it can hypnotize you. He’s funky and jazzy and has one of the most distinct voices in all of music. He is almost mystical. But he’s also clueless.
Fans, including my wife and I, shelled out anywhere from $80 to $350 for tickets and fees to see Morrison perform for a mere 92 minutes on Saturday night. The set was mind-blowing. A fusion of jazz, funk and rock with just enough lullaby to melt you into your seat, Morrison crafted a setlist of mostly newer material and selections from his forth-coming album filled with life and eclectic punch. It was a wonderful set of music. But it wasn’t enough. With a ticket time of 7:30 SHARP (The word SHARP actually appeared on the ticket), Morrison was off the stage and probably on his way to a nice steak dinner before most New York City concerts even get started. It was 9:02 pm and he was already giving a half-hearted bow to the crowd. Read on to find out why Luke thinks Van isn’t the Man…
Now granted, the formula of Set I > 30 minute break > Set II is probably more of a Jamband standard than something that should be considered usual procedure. Van Morrison isn’t going to come out and play a Phish-like marathon or wail into the wee hours like Umphrey’s McGee might. But he certainly could play over two hours the way Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder or the Police did on their tours last year. Phil Lesh is nearly four years older than Morrison and can play all night. So clearly, it’s not an age thing. It’s an attitude thing. And it seems to cause problems for Morrison away from the stage too.
Morrison, who was reportedly kicked out of an Austin, Texas hotel for a run-in with staff during his SXSW appearance last week, could have given his New York City fans, who showed up on time and lined up in around the block on a cold winter’s night, a chance to enter and get seated before stepping on stage to start the show.
But he didn’t. He got up there when he felt like it and got off stage when he felt like it and paid no mind to the fans. He couldn’t even be bothered with an encore despite the fact that his next scheduled concert date is March 21. This wasn’t a guy giving his road crew a break with a 15-minute head start. This was a guy so impressed with his own accomplishments, he forget how he reached them in the first place. When the house lights came on and the stunned crowd began slipping on warm coats and heading out into the frigid night, a woman behind me said out loud to no one in particular, “No encore? Something must be wrong.” She hit the nail right on the head.