It's strange to imagine a Van Morrison concert without "Brown Eyed Girl," but that was exactly what happened last November, when the Irish-born singer-songwriter played two concerts dedicated to the music of his iconic (and often misunderstood) magnum opus, Astral Weeks. It was the first time Morrison played all that album's songs live since its release four decades ago. Backed by a full orchestra and some musicians who played on the original sessions, Morrison tore through the list with gusto, stretching the songs to give the musicians an opportunity to express their individuality — just like he did in the studio in 1968. That approach is specially noticeable in tunes like "Besides You," when Morrison keeps pounding his acoustic guitar as the song reaches its end, claiming "I can't stop this thing" while signaling his band to carry on playing. He also stretches "Cyprus Avenue," which appears as a medley with "You Came Walking." According to published reports, Morrison only held one rehearsal prior to the concerts, and did not allow engineers to tweak the material during post-production — a risk few musicians are willing to take these days. With the exception of a concert presenter repeatedly screaming Morrison's name at the end of "Madam George" and "Common One," Astral Weeks Live is a treat both for Morrison's fans and newcomers yet to discover Van the Man's canon.
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