ROCK Van Morrison

Edinburgh: Playhouse, Fri 2 Apr; Glasgow: Clyde Auditorium, Sat 3 Apr.

Frith Street, Soho, on a drizzly Tuesday evening. The List is preparing to get liggy with it in Ronnie Scott's where the artist perpetually known as The Man will showcase his new album Back On Top. Meanwhile, the rest of Soho seems oblivious to the thrill of seeing Van Morrison up close and personal.

Like other ’legendary jazz venues‘, Ronnie Scott's is more concerned with ambience than half-decent decor. Pictures of jazz legends cover every inch of wall space, an appropriate setting for an artist who always works within 'classic’ genre parameters. With its modest proportions packed out, and celebrity guests like Bob Geldof shoehorned into their seats, Morrison takes the stage to a modest fanfare.

Over the course of a straight-to-the-point half-hour set, an almost garrulous (almost . . . ) Morrison and band introduce a selection of new material ranging from the punchy to the ponderous, punctuated with chat and even say it ain’t so - jokes. The single 'Precious Time', which is to Radio 2 what Britney Spears and Boyzone are to Radio 1, is Van bubblegum with its

Belief system: Faithless

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Top cat: Van Morrison

dumbed-down ska swing. But the album's title track has a likeable jazzy lilt and an ’I Will Survive' lyric ironically for an indefatigable R8iB warhorse who seems unassailable in the eyes of his fans.

The last time Morrison toured Britain, it was with Bob Dylan. There were allegedly a few ego scenarios, unsurprisingly for rock's two most notorious grouches. Now Morrison gets to rule the roost and his persona on stage is that of benevolent dictator, simultaneously demonstrating his control over and rapport with his band.

Much of Morrison’s output in the 905 has been about collaboration or looking back. His last album, The Philosopher’s Stone, was a two-decade retrospective of previously unreleased material. Before that he worked with Georgie Fame on an album of jazz standards and reworked his most enduring song, 'Gloria’, with John Lee Hooker. So it is tempting to regard Back On Top, his first album for Virgin's Pointblank label, as a fresh page in the Van songbook.

After the gig, Morrison holds court in exclusive drinking den Soho House. Requests for autographs are handled through a member of his entourage while the man himself remains aloof. Some things don't change everywhere Van Morrison goes, someone wants to shake his hand. (Fiona Shepherd)

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Glasgow: Barrow-hand, Fri 9 Apr.

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moments, and the single, 'Ciod is a DJ' represents these most healthily Their most recent release, lion'vever, shows a more measured and teriipereu side to their musit 'Briiig My Family Batk' is a downbeat, almost introspective affair, bringing a dark and atmospheric edge to a dominated repertoire when performed ll‘.1‘

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preview MUSIC Personal Stereo

This issue: Keiron Mellott from Pilotcan

Last record you listened to before you left the house?

Secret Name, the new LP by Low the best record We heard in a long time. What is the last album you bought? Knock by Smog. Bill Callaghan is an intensely amusing songwriter. You get the impression he's laughing at you, but he still manages to deliver the goods

Name a new band you've discovered? My friends David and Stuart have a band called The Zephyrs. They've been around for a long time in various incarnations, but the current line up is the classic. Stuart has the kind of cracked voice that makes Will Oldham so compelling, and they’re fucking great live.

Who first made you want to make music?

Julian Cope singing on Top Of The Pops. Barefoot on a piano, resplendent in his leather trousers. I didn’t know if I wanted to kiss him or be him.

What song do you wish you'd written?

Everyday I find a song I wish I'd written, but if I had to narrow it down I’d say ’Carwash Hair’ by Mercury Rev, or ’Untitled' by The Cure. Both songs are just beyond compare.

As a teenager which popstar did you have on your wall?

Ithink i had a picture of Clare Grogan somewhere.

What’s your favourite own song? ’Anakin' off our first LP. | sat down to write the lyrics to a new piece of music we had but nothing came out. Then at rehearsal I just made it up. It's about a friend of ours who was abused, but I just tell everyone it's about Darth Vader. I’m very sentimental like that. Name a non-musical influence.

Star Wars I guess a lot of people probably say that.

What do you sing in the shower?

; sing lvlogwai songs in the shower. Who would you be on Stars In Their Eyes?

David from The Zephyrs. We’re both very good looking. It's a tall thing. Pi/otcan’s album The Boy Who Knew Maps is released on Evol, Mon 72 Apr.

l—lSApr i999 THE LIST41