Van Morrison has found a home in the Queens hamlet of Forest Hills. He’s performed at the former site of the U.S. Tennis Open three out of the past four years, ever since the 2015 release of Duets: Reworking the Catalog revitalized him and his music. Morrison’s catalog is among the finest and deepest in rock, but his live shows until recently could be disappointing for fans who came to hear their FM radio favorites. Instead of “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Moondance,” Van sometimes veered into Celtic folk music, romantic poetry, religious mysticism or whatever he happened to be into at the time. He can still be unpredictable as an artist of his stature is entitled to be, but his shows are now more fan-friendly, blending updated takes on standards along with deeper and more recent cuts.

It had been raining in New York for the better part of a week when Willie Nelson took the stage to open the evening last night (9/12). There were cowboy hats scattered among the early arrivals and some Texas two-stepping during “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Light rain lingered as Van and his superb band of musicians followed, the lush sounds of strings and brass filling the night air. Opening with “The Way Young Lovers Do” and “Sweet Thing” more or less the way he’s been doing them since performing Astral Weeks live a decade ago, things began to move in different directions from there. “Have I Told You Lately” was at first barely recognizable as a jazzy cover of a romantic ballad, and “Wonderful Remark” took on some country overtones. Although Van’s primary instrument is his voice, he demonstrated his chops on saxophone for a swinging “Moondance” and on guitar for “Why Must I Always Explain.” “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Wild Night” remain among his hardest rocking tunes, with Van on harmonica for the former.

Morrison has not one but three new albums released in the past year, and he sampled tracks such as “Broken Record” from Versatile and Mose Allison’s “Benediction” from Roll With the Punches. Returning to the stage for an energetic encore, “Gloria” sent fans home a little soggy but fully sated. Morrison is continuing to tour with Willie Nelson, and this weekend the pair will be appearing at the “Outlaw Festival” shows in Pennsylvania and New Jersey along with Sturgill Simpson, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Lukas Nelson and Particle Kid.

Pictures of Wednesday night's Forest Hills Stadium show are in the gallery above. Videos and setlists below.

In related news, Willie Nelson is performing at a rally for Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke on September 29 at Auditorium Shores in Austin and Beto will speak at it too. Beto (who played in the band Foss with At the Drive In's Cedric Bixler-Zavala in the '90s) previously joined Willie on stage for two songs at Willie's annual 4th of July Picnic earlier this year. Beto is also appearing at Dallas music festival Buffalo Tree Fest on October 7 with Spoon, Sparta, The Polyvinyl Spree, and more.

Van Morrison Setlist (via)
The Way Young Lovers Do
Sweet Thing
Magic Time
Have I Told You Lately
Baby Please Don't Go
Here Comes the Night (Lulu cover)
Benediction (Mose Allison cover)
Wonderful Remark
Beside You
Brown Eyed Girl
Wild Night
Symphony Sid
Why Must I Always Explain
In The Afternoon/Ancient Highway/Joe Turner Sings/Raincheck/Burning Ground/Don't You Make Me High/e
Broken Record
Gloria (Them song)

Willie Nelson Setlist (via)
Whiskey River
Still Is Still Moving to Me
Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (Ed Bruce cover)
Always on My Mind (Brenda Lee cover)
Georgia on My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael cover)
I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train (Billy Joe Shaver cover)
Jambalaya (On the Bayou) / Hey Good Lookin' / Move It On Over (Hank Williams cover)
Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings cover)
Twelfth Street Rag (Euday L. Bowman cover)
It's All Going to Pot (Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard song)
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
Still Not Dead
Will the Circle Be Unbroken (W/ Norah Jones)


photos & review by Lou Montesano

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