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Van Morrison revisits perhaps his finest hour, forty years later

"I believe I've transcended," Van Morrison repeatedly incanted toward the end of the title track from his 1968 album, Astral Weeks, during the second night of a brief November stint at the Hollywood Bowl. Indeed, frequently over the course of those two nights, the famously mercurial, 63-year-old Irish singer-songwriter seemed to transcend age, time, and whatever other ballasts turn some veteran performers into wan caricatures of themselves better suited to halls of fame than halls of music. All the more remarkably, he was, for the first time in his five-decade career, doing what could be loosely termed an "oldies show," performing Astral Weeks in its entirety, with a band that included Charles Mingus guitarist Jay Berliner, who played on the record itself.

For the man who once sang that "my job is turning lead into gold," his own celebrity and its attendant pressures seem as much a double-edged sword as ever. "I never bargained on fame; it's just something I've had to deal with that came along with doing the music," he says. "It's like I've got these scars," he adds, pointing at his back, "and why do I have to keep showing people the scars all the time? You know what I mean? It's in the songs somewhere there. I still have to turn myself inside out to do this. It's still got a price; it's not free. Doing these gigs -- that's got a price. I have to act. I have to perform."

But he still loves it, right?

"The only thing I love is the music," he says, without hesitation. "The rest of it is pure shit. The kind of shit that fame attracts is very dark. It's very dark. I like the music, but that's it."


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