Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Van Morrison at Bluesfest

I headed down to Lebreton Flats in Ottawa today for the opening of Bluesfest, the capital’s largest music festival. While it hardly counts as a “blues” festival in any purist’s mind (INXS anyone?), it did kick off this year with Van Morrison, a notable blues aficionado.

Yes, you read that right, Van Morrison doesn’t just play mellow pop ballads from the ‘70s, for example, everyone’s favourite campfire song, Brown-eyed Girl, and such hits as Gloria and Moondance. Both of those girls did make an appearance, I think I may have known one beforehand, but Van Morrison and his accomplished band pulled out a strong blues-inflected set that didn’t disappoint his many adoring fans, perhaps over 30,000 in total.

Not surprisingly, many of these baby boomers rocked slowly back and forth throughout, giving one a sense of being at a slow-moving dance party. Fittingly, this matched the music’s tempo to a tee, and everyone was happy when it all came to an end after nearly 90 minutes.

On the down side, Morrison, renowned for his petulant personality, didn’t say a word to the crowd. I’m not even sure I saw him smile through my 300mm lens. This type of energy was reserved for his band, who put on a great performance. If it wasn’t for the smoky-smoothness of Morrison’s voice, I’d say that his keyboard player might’ve stolen the show. Close, but not quite on this night.

On the strength of this performance, I don’t think I’d go see him perform again. But one time was just about right.