Monday, May 27, 2013

"That means I have you by the balls!"

Yet another post referencing my entry on the wonderful One Week // One Band blog:
Thanks to his pre-Them residencies with various Belfast showbands, the Irishman developed a keen sense of what's required to properly lead a backing band: knowing when to praise or chastise musicians (sometimes even on stage); getting a feel for what the audience is fancying or disliking; enforcing the attitude that every show is a singular experience. Morrison also perfected the ability to conduct his band via hand signals, flashing them behind his back while at the microphone. This is from a piece written by Hot Press journalist Jack Lynch:

"The call came at short notice, rehearsals were rushed and he had little time to become au fait with The Man's way of directing the band with hand signals. Come the first gig, everything went well until Van started them on 'Summertime in England,' a long-time highlight of the show and one where, if moved, he takes it WAY DOWN and plays with the dynamics of silence. [Irish drummer] Dave [Early] on his drum-riser is looking down on Van's back. The latter with a chopping movement signals the horns to drop out. Dave, with his eyes peeled, adjusts his stickwork. Another cryptic hand movement and now we're down to bass, Van's warbling and Dave, who has switched to brushes. The audience are rapt. There's the odd yelp and audible sigh. Another sign from Van: palm down as if gently bouncing a balloon. The bass has slowed to an intermittent pulse, Dave is now whispering with the brushes. Van has hitched his Zen caravan to THE MOMENT. Dave is bug-eyed, sweating. Van reaches his right hand behind his back to signal to him. The hand is upturned, claw-like and clenching open and closed. 'What the!' thinks Dave, 'if I take it down any more it won't be there at all.' SUDDENLY another handchop and the brass are back in and the band are in full flight down the final straight. Chatting with Van after the gig, Early mentions that he couldn't quite understand the 'clenched claw' signal. 'Oh that,' says Van, repeating the gesture. 'That means I have you by the balls!'"

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