There was an almost surreal feeling at Belfast’s Harp Bar on New Year’s Eve as the tiny stage area was set for the arrival of a music legend.
Only 180 lucky ticket holders were there to see Van Morrison play the most intimate of venues and he looked perfectly at ease supported by accomplished local jazz outfit the Linley Hamilton Sextet.
With the ever-impressive Dana Masters on vocals, the sextet performed a short set of jazz classics before being joined on stage by Morrison himself to a rousing reception.
From the opening Only a Dream to what became a sing-along Brown Eyed Girl finale, the appreciative crowd loved every minute of the unique occasion – the closest thing I can image to having a world-renowned music icon playing at your own house party.
Unpredictable as ever, the repertoire included several traditional jazz and blues standards sandwiched between a few of his crowd pleasing favourites.
Morrison was backed on vocals throughout his own 45-minute set by daughter Shana and the sextet’s Dana Masters, performing at what must have been the smallest venue he’s played in many years.
Allowing the band to showcase their talents, the set list included Close Enough For Jazz, Centrepiece and Tear Your Playhouse Down, as well as the hugely popular live version of Whenever God Shines His Light.
A sign of his mood on the night, the singer/songwriter took time to engage briefly in a bit of banter with a member of the audience.
Despite the relatively short set, the £60 ticket price was great value for money with Linley Hamilton on top form on trumpet, Dave Howell sublime on saxophone throughout – as was the ever-reliable Dana Masters who got the show rolling ahead of Morrison’s arrival on stage.
A special mention has to go to the closing act, The Big Kahuna, who ended the year on a memorable high with a lively set of covers.
If Tuesday night is anything to go by, the local music scene is in rude health going into 2014.