His sister denied he was a recluse or that he was vague about his past: "Roger may have been a bit selfish—or rather self-absorbed—but when people called him a recluse they were really only projecting their own disappointment. He knew what they wanted, but he wasn't willing to give it to them."A few weeks ago, there was a thread on Slugger about Van Morrison and how his relationship with his audiences can often be abrupt and uncooperative. If you turn up to one of his gigs expecting a particular approach to his back catalogue, and that's not the one he's prepared for you .... well, tough luck.
The thing is, no-one would expect to go to see - say - Captain Beefheart (below) - and know what they're getting beforehand.
Van's (or, rather, his audience's) problem is that his recordings are, for the most part, serious attempts to do something interesting as well as sell-able. Unlike most musicians who have the capacity to do this, almost of Van's stuff has a large mainstream appeal. Some bits may disappoint the more critical fans, but none (I suspect) irks the larger less discriminating audience. It's the ease-on-the-ear of the recordings that creates the tensions with the audience, if you get my drift?
I saw him recently at the Hop Farm festival and it was almost heart-stoppingly good and memorable. It was quite a 'band-leader' experience in an odd way - he went around getting different musicians doing different things - pointing at them and conducting them and directing the show - I really think a lot of it was improvised.
There was one great bit in 'Baby Please Don't Go' where he pointed to the guitarist (who looked like he may not have known the song!) played the middle-8 riff to get him to pick it up (see almost at the end of the video I've found - below - 5 mins in), and then he pulled the harmonica out and played that part himself. He then took it into Mose Allison's Parchman Farm and the band looked like they were keeping up with him a bit - in a good way.
It was quite blissed out stuff a lot of time and he finished on 'In the Garden' with that 'no Guru, no method....' built up to a chant.
No encore or anything and as soon as he finished his vocal he was off the stage leaving the band to finish the set for a few minutes. I had friends who were working backstage and they said that as soon as he was off, he was into the waiting car and heading for the airport - probably on the motorway as his band played the last note.
Oh, one final thing: I was going to use this John Martyn video to make another point in this post but I've decided that the post (unlike the video) isn't worth showing to you (though you'll have to excuse the racial slur on the Irish at the end):