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CityFolk 2015, Concert Photography, Music

Concert Review/Photos: CityFolk 2015 – Van Morrison, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Elle King

Review by: Laura Beaulne-Stuebing | Photos by: Mark Horton & Marc DesRosiers –

Van Morrison performing at CityFolk Festival 2015 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, ON on Sept. 18, 2015. (Photo: Mark Horton)

Van Morrison performing at CityFolk Festival 2015 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, ON on Sept. 18, 2015. (Photo: Mark Horton)

About one hour into Van Morrison’s set at Ottawa’s City Folk festival Friday night, the Northern Irish singer pulled out the biggest of the big guns, the song everyone was waiting for. And although his rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl” was a departure from the original that his fans everywhere know, taking on a jazzy feel as he gives life to older tunes with a Hammond organ and an upright bass, there wasn’t a single person in the massive crowd who wasn’t either dancing, singing or a combination of the two.

The third night of the renamed City Folk festival, originally titled the Ottawa Folk Fest, brought couples, families and longtime fans to see the veteran singer’s hour and a half set.

Morrison, 70, eased the Ottawa crowd in with the instrumental “Celtic Swing” to begin the night, then moved to “Close Enough for Jazz,” a sort of definition of the set ahead. Donning his typical outfit for live performances these days — black suit, fedora and dark sunglasses — he said little between songs, rarely engaging the audience and revealing little of what was going on behind those Irish eyes.

For those raised on the Morrison of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when he blended rock and country and celtic and folk and blues, the set Friday may have bordered on disappointing. He leaned heavily on jazz and blues-styled re-worked versions of songs, eschewing the impossible dream of anything from Astral Weeks and only hitting the title track of the great 1970’s album Moondance, and chose optimism and alto sax solos over moving songs of pain and heartbreak.

But with a catalogue like the one Morrison has — spanning decades and decades — he has almost no end to options for creating an exhaustive set list. Hits like “Days Like This” from 1995 and 1970’s “Domino,” that both moved the crowd to sway and sing, are proof of the power of his songwriting and hit-making skills over the past 50 years.

The set was made for couples with their arms around each other, swaying and remembering the first time they slow danced to “Carrying a Torch” or who remember “Crazy Love” as a Van Morrison song and not a Michael Buble cover. And even with a jazz organ and saxophone solos, it was so easy to get caught up in Morrison’s lyrics, more than easy for the words to help cast your mind back to youth and wonder about old love, and remember how you used to sing and how all those possibilities felt.   

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Van Morrison
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St. Paul and the Broken Bones
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Elle King
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Jenn Grant
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Patrick Watson
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