Gregory Porter and Van Morrison – Nocturne in the Great Court of Blenheim Palace
(Woodstock, Oxfordshire. 26th June 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
What a great location. The organizers of next weekend’s third Love Supreme Festival – at Glynde in Sussex – were doing a warm-up act for their festival, bringing a double bill of Gregory Porter and Van Morrison to Oxfordsire for this happy one-off event in the great court of Blenheim Palace, the first concert in this location for over a decade. The folk of Oxfordshire responded to this first invitation in great quantities. It wasn’t sold out, but the numbers for a first event looked very healthy indeed.
Gregory Porter‘s band did a one-hour set. His voice and personality carry such warmth, he makes the transition from more intimate spaces to these larger stages with ease. It was a well-chosen set, establishing the tone with There Will Be No Love Dying Here, through tunes like Hey Laura and culminating in the edgier 1960 What? The band carries with it a real feelgood vibe wherever it goes, with some really creative piano work from Chip Crawford, and saxophonist Yousuke Soto suggesting that his headphone listening on tour these days may go all the way from Dave Koz to Evan Parker
Experienced Van Morrison watchers with an eye for his crabbiness level were telling me that the relaxed Woodstock (Oxfordshire) vibe had got through to him too. As the well-worked 90 minute set progressed, the 1960s, the Van hits and the 2010s with a few numbers from the recent Duets album coalesced happily, and more and more people – it was the older audience members who led the way – got up and danced. And the jazz quotient of Moondance, as it morphed in to So What and My Funny Valentine, kept this jazz-nut very happy.
Fortune has definitely been smiling on Van Morrison’s band since Dana Masters from South Carolina made her home in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. She brings a great powerful gospelly voice, ideally suited to the Van Morrison songbook, to this band. She had a chance to shine on Sometimes We Cry, but it was all too brief.
The organizers did seem to have thought of everything, with good sound, places to stroll beforehand and in the interval, the vibe overall was particularly relaxed. Careful thought had stretched to ensuring the logistics of speedily getting cars off the site afterwards. They had also planned the essential for an outdoor location in Southern England: good weather.