West Marin, Ca
HQ Audience Recording
01. Did Ye Get Healed
02. Magic Time
03. Have I Told Your Lately
05. Tore Down A La Rimbaud
06. My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It
07. There Stands The Glas
08. Big Blue Diamonds
09. Things Have Gone to Pieces
11. In The Midnight
12. Pay The Devil
13. This Has Got To Stop
14. More and More (with Shana Morrison)
16. Your Cheatin’ Heart
17. Don’t Make Me Laugh
18. Stop Drinking
19. All Work And No Play
20. Brown Eyed Girl
21. Celtic New Year > The Healing Game
22. Help Me
VAN MORRISON, once one of Marin’s most celebrated rock star residents, returned to his old home turf Thursday, playing an unadvertised concert at Rancho Nicasio, West Marin’s storied roadhouse.
“There has been a lot of history at Rancho Nicasio,” owner Bob Brown said, “and we just added to it.”
The unusually early show began at 4 p.m. on a golden Marin afternoon for an audience of a couple hundred fans lucky enough to score tickets.
It was the 60-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s first date on a sold-out American tour promoting his new country/western album “Pay the Devil.”
The rustic Rancho, with its animal heads on the walls and its Old West ambiance, was the perfect setting for Morrison to introduce songs by the likes of Hank Williams, Conway Twitty and Emmylou Harris from the new CD, set for release on Monday.
Wearing a black cowboy hat, his fireplug body packed into a gray suit, the notoriously prickly Irish superstar was in fine voice and even finer spirits, fronting a 13-piece band, packing a 90-minute set with songs spanning his 40-year career.
After a rollicking rendition of his 1967 classic, “Brown Eyed Girl,” he spoke to the audience, a rarity for him, jokingly saying, “Thank you for the 38 years of money that song gave me.”
He also brought nostalgic smiles to his appreciative listeners when he launched into a punchy, horn-driven R&B take on 1970’s celebratory “Moondance.”
That song was a radio staple at about the time that Morrison moved to Marin County. His bucolic lifestyle in Fairfax with his then-wife, Janet Planet, and their young daughter, Shana, inspired the pastoral 1971 LP “Tupelo Honey,” considered one of his greatest albums.
Shana Morrison, who grew up to become one of Marin’s most popular singers in her own right, joined her dad on stage for a powerful duet on the country rocker “More and More,” a song on the new album.
Morrison, who now lives in his native Belfast, has kept close ties to Marin over the years and visits often, maintaining a home and office in Mill Valley.
Rumored for months, the Nicasio show was Marin’s worst-kept secret, the hottest ticket in memory. The few tickets available for the concert, only one of seven dates in the country, were offered to Rancho regulars via e-mail and by word-of-mouth for $150. Days before the concert, a desperate Van fan bid $1,500 for a pair!
Before Thursday’s show, Pat Dugan of Lucas Valley and his teenage son, Connor, stood in front of the Rancho, holding a sign pleading, “Father son/2 tickets.”
“I told Connor that Van Morrison is one of the greatest entertainers of all time,” Dugan said, joking that he would give his son’s college money for a couple of tickets.
Morrison last played Rancho Nicasio in 1979, when his opening act was a little-known band called Huey Lewis and American Express, soon to be renamed Huey Lewis and the News. Their manager was then, and remains, Bob Brown, who ended up buying Rancho Nicasio seven years ago.
“After the show in 1979, Van came back and said, ‘Hey, you guys are really good,'” Brown recalled. “Because this was Van Morrison talking, it was the first night we looked at each other and said, ‘We may have something going here.'”
A year and a half ago, Morrison just happened to drop by the Rancho during an afternoon barbecue concert by Asleep at the Wheel. He took a liking to the 65-year-old country landmark, and contacted Brown in mid-January, saying he wanted to open his tour there.
“It was entirely his idea,” Brown said. “I had nothing to do with it.”
He chose the odd 4 p.m. start time so that his band and crew, most of them just arriving from England and Ireland, could better adjust to the time difference and recover from jet lag.
“Before the show, Van asked me if people had any problems with the concert starting at 4 o’clock,” Brown said. “I told him, ‘Van, these people would have come at four in the morning to see you.'”