Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Festival Theatre

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Graeme Thomson

SARTORIALLY, Van Morrison seems to be modelling himself on Al Capone these days. Squeezed into a black suit, his face obscured by shades and a fedora, the marquee name at this year's Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival looked like a man wanted by the FBI.

Musically, however, there was no identity crisis. Although nowadays its idiosyncrasies can grate as well as astound, Morrison's voice remains an hugely powerful and versatile instrument, and after hitting his stride with a glorious Queen of the Slipstream there was simply no stopping him.

Aided by a superb six-piece band augmented with Morrison's daughter Shana on backing vocals, even relative obscurities such as the bad-mood blues of Too Many Myths sounded fierce and fresh.

In fact, the notoriously taciturn 68-year-old seemed perilously close to enjoying himself, bantering about Billy Connolly and offering a bizarre impression of Clint Eastwood during a rousing Rough God Goes Riding. As he became lost in the music he jerked his right arm up and down, like a man ringing an invisible bell.

Moondance was long, liquid and mostly instrumental, Morrison setting up some lovely interplay between his sax and Paul Moran's muted trumpet.

He jazzed up Brown Eyed Girl and tore through the old Them hit Baby Please Don't Go with such ferocity the decades simply melted away.

No matter what it said on the stage backdrop, eventually all genre distinctions dissolved.

To finish his two-hour set Morrison conjured up extended versions of In the Garden, Ballerina and Into the Mystic which were simply breath-taking, the final triumph of an artist still finding new ways to transport and be transported.