Van Morrison's signature sound draws dedicated fans
Van Morrison’s destiny as a musician wasn’t a given. Had a teacher not told him at age 15 in his native Belfast that he was going to be a singer, he might have become something else entirely. Fortunately, for legions of music fans, and attendees of his extended engagements at the Colosseum inside Caesars Palace, specifically, Morrison made music his life. He remains as prolific a recording artist and performer as he was after he established himself as a solo act in the late ’60s.
What sets Morrison apart from any of his peers or Vegas headliners is he’s consistently acted as a musical conduit, both creatively and in concert. Where Bob Dylan was always re-creating himself, Morrison remains steadfastly driven by passion for the music he began soaking up as a boy growing up in a household with an ever-expanding record collection.
“My father had a collection of New Orleans jazz and Chicago blues, Lead Belly and country and western, crooners. He covered a lot of bases. It wasn’t difficult for me to hear,” says Morrison in an interview posted to his website after the October release of his latest album, Three Chords and the Truth. The young Morrison was taken to a local record shop every Saturday, where the owner’s recommendations led to discovering blues and jazz. Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, Mahalia Jackson and Hank Williams were among his formative influences.
Morrison became adept at guitar, saxophone and harmonica, joining the pre-rock skiffle scene before becoming the frontman for Them. Morrison was animated and dynamic onstage, expressing songs such as “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night” with rhythmic physicality. After his first solo hit “Brown-Eyed Girl” and groundbreaking 1968 album Astral Weeks he evolved into a near-mystical figure who literally connected to audiences with eyes closed, putting all of his energy and essence into his voice.
He hit a career zenith in the early ’70s with albums such as Moondance, Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview yielding radio hits that would prove eternal. After a bout of writer’s block in the mid-’70s he returned to recording and became an intrepid musical traveler, following his muse and exploring spiritual themes in album after album. “Have I Told You Lately” from 1989’s Avalon Sunset earned him a Grammy, and in 1993 Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At 74, Morrison is busier than ever. He’s released seven albums since 2015, the last being Three Chords and the Truth. He switches up his live sets rather than keeping to one precise running order of songs, leading his band through new songs, deep cuts, covers and alternate arrangements of well-known hits. While less animated, he still seems like a conduit as the music rocks his gypsy soul just like way back in the days of old, his eyes closed, his body moving rhythmically as he lets his soul and spirit fly into the mystic.
Caesars Palace, 8 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 5 & 7-8, starting at $64.50 plus tax and fee. 800.745.3000 Ticketmaster