Progress Report #8: The Second Coming of Astral Weeks

When I was in my early twenties, I was a member of a cult—the cult of Astral Weeks. (For those who don’t know it, it’s a recording by Van Morrison.) That record had a big influence on the direction my life took. It gave me a big push toward the street. It’s interesting to me that just as I’ve started working on the section of the book that deals with my encounter with the record, Astral Weeks, and its creator are in the news almost every day. Late last year, Van did a live performance of the entire album at the Hollywood Bowl and included one of the musicians from the original recording, guitarist Jay Berliner. The recording of the concert is out now, and Morrison is promoting it heavily. I stopped following Van years ago, but I was curious to hear how the concert turned out. I know what he’s capable of doing in concert, and I’d been hearing that he really pulled it off, that it was a remarkably inspired performance. I’ve heard it now, and I don’t think so—not at all. It has bursts of energy, but not much else. He’s lost so much of his voice. That happens with age, and I’m not judging the record on that account. My biggest problem with his performance is that there’s so little conviction in his singing. His conviction, his resolute connection to the lyrics, was the quality that made the original recording so astonishing. The general enthusiasm for the Hollywood Bowl performance puzzles me. For me, the star of the show is Berliner.

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One Response to “Progress Report #8: The Second Coming of Astral Weeks”

  1. embee Says:

    I know what you’re saying, but Van is not a fiery young guy anymore; he’s older, and as I see it he’s giving what he can. I’m grateful for what his music meant. I still occasionally play those records and just thank the great spirit or whoever’s up there. And I still think he did the best version of “She Moves Through The Fair” and some other traditional songs, pretty incredible given how innovative he was in his own songs.

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