They've been stoking the star-maker machinery for more than 30 years, and at GM Place last night, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan had the creative synergy of veteran stars.
Individually, their talents wouldn't have held the same emotional weight, however. It was the sum of their talents that made the concert a success. Considering that it's been almost 20 years since Mitchell last played in Vancouver, it was highly disappointing that the folk legend almost exclusively devoted her set to the elliptical jazz sound she currently favours. Because of their stature in the annals of rock, they received respectful and frequent applause from an audience that was clearly filled with serious fans. The trio played before a crowd of 15,000 that spanned all ages, but averaged the mid 40's.
Morrison, the first on, kicked off his 75-minute set with his new song The Healing Game, but it wasn't until he launched into Domino that the crowd settled and the mood was set. Morrison, looking like a Blues Brother in black suit and fedora, fronted a slick and polished eight-piece band with horn section, two on percussion, guitar, bass, organ and an excellent back-up, singer. He played on a sparse stage, his primal voice was clear and strong as ever, and the sound superb.
In the climate of Lilith Fair, Mitchell, in particular, has become the godmother of the hippy ideal, long-haired, peasant skirted and sexually liberated - and not afraid to sing about it. All in all, it was a relatively sombre affair, particularly Mitchell's moody jazz set, which showcased her admirable innovation as a musician, but left fans craving something familiar. An hour into her set, people started calling out names of their favorites, to no avail. Mitchell continued with the same elliptical jazz numbers. A song or two later, she related an anecdote on how an acquaintance said she's such a friendly, happy person, how could she write such unhappy songs? He had a point.
By the time Mitchell left the stage, the crowd was on its feet and screaming for Free Man in Paris, Carey, The Circle Game, something. First encore. No such luck. With a shrug of the shoulders, Mitchell decided to play one last song, and there it was. Big Yellow Taxi, just Mitchell and her guitar. The crowd went appropriately nuts.
Dylan's late performance went beyond press time, but he'd already set the tone for a fine show the night before, at his club show at the Rage. He was amiable and relaxed, playing classics like a memorable Tangled Up in Blue, It Ain't Me, Babe, It's All Over Now, Baby, Blue, Silvio, Highway 61 Revisited, and he finished with a surprise - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.