Get ready to “Moondance.” Grand Rapids singer Mark VandenBerge will unleash his most ambitious tribute to the legendary Van Morrison on Friday at 20 Monroe Live. Get a preview in the Local Spins podcast.
Last weekend, the colors, sounds and tastes of Ireland overflowed during a bevy of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this weekend.
This weekend, the timeless soundtrack of one of Ireland’s most well-known artists will take over Grand Rapids’ newest music venue.
Boasting mega-hits such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Moondance” and “Domino,” Morrison’s music is known worldwide and consists of some of the most-played songs in radio, film and television.
With an all-star band that includes Ed Clifford on saxophone, Roberta Lee on vocals and Scott Bell on piano, as well as a small orchestra, the show — VandenBerge’s most ambitious tribute to Morrison yet — will take a journey through the iconic 71-year-old singer’s sprawling catalog. Housed in a pristine venue with a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, VandenBerge is confident it will be a night to remember.
“This is just a beautiful way to hear this music,” said VandenBerge, a classically trained singer who’s presented Morrison tributes in various forms over the years.
“It’s not just a bar band. We really treat this as if it was the way Van would want it. It’s a magical room. It’s built for sound-lovers and concert-lovers; there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
On Friday, doors open at 7 p.m. with singer Roberta Lee opening the show at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $30-$40, with only a few mezzanine seats left. But there’s also a four-pack of general admission floor tickets for only $40. (Click on the floor seats and the “special ticket offer.”) Get tickets and information online at 20monroelive.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office at 11 Ottawa Ave. NW.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE with Mark VandenBerge
VandenBerge, Lee, Clifford and Bell previewed a small piece of the show during the most recent edition of Local Spins on WYCE, performing “Moondance” and “Into the Mystic” in the radio station’s Studio X. Listen to the full podcast here, with a video snippet below.
Friday evening’s first set will be comprised of an eight-piece orchestra (string and horn quartet) in addition to a full band. The second set will feature “more of a funk set” with “a lot of kicking stuff and horns cooking up the jump blues.”
‘UNBELIEVABLE TREASURE TROVE’ OF VAN MORRISON SONGS
“It’s a very multi-sound show,” VandenBerge said. “He (Morrison) brings a lot of genres in and we want all those textures coming out in the sound. He’s gone through blues, a pop phase, a spiritual phase. There’s an unbelievable treasure trove of a library to explore.”
For VandenBerge, Morrison’s music is a fascination and a lifestyle – one that all started in the early 1990s.
“The story goes back to driving on the loop one day in Chicago,” he said. “I heard the song ‘Have I told you lately?’ and it was a beautiful day in Chicago and I said, ‘What is this song?’
“It was like I knew it in my soul but it was the first time I had heard it. From that moment on I developed a love of Van Morrison’s music.”
As his admiration of Morrison’s extensive catalog grew, so did his desire to perform it. With a background in classical singing and a striking resemblance to Morrison himself (often sporting a classic fedora atop his head), VandenBerge was the perfect man for the job when it came to putting together a tribute show.
“I started having dreams about singing. … I wanted to get into the swing of things,” VandenBerge recalled.
“So much was happening, like Artprize and so many beautiful things that people were doing. I started dreaming and talking to Ed Clifford from the symphony and he became a collaborator.”
Since, VandenBerge and Clifford have scored about twenty Van Morrison tunes to orchestra and put on tribute shows at St. Cecilia Music Center, Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center and Habitat for Humanity’s 30-year anniversary concert.
With the relocation of VandenBerge’s act to a larger stage and addition to the Live Nation roster, he sees the sky as the limit, and hopes to continue the growth and production of the show.
“It’s a high-energy show; it’s designed for the house of blues,” VandenBerge said. “They’ve mentioned that if they like it here and it does well, they might stick me in the rotation in Chicago or Detroit, or Indianapolis.
“They’ve been great partners to work with. I love the opportunity that I’ve gotten.”
Musicians taking part in Friday’s show include Pete Bardolph, Matt Young, Michael Van Houten, Chris Moberly, Jay Round and Clifford’s Gumbo Horns, featuring Walter White, Frank Silva and Donelle Snyder. Members of the Grand Rapids Symphony also comprise the string quartet that will perform during the first half of the concert.
Get more information and music samples online at VandenBerge’s website.
VIDEO: Mark VandenBerge, “Moondance” (A Preview)
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC