Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Van Morrison is decrying the health restrictions that have devastated the concert industry, while he also helps pioneer a new form of socially distanced outdoor arena.
"As you know, we are doing socially distanced gigs at Newcastle Upon Tyne's Gosforth Park, Electric Ballroom and The London Palladium," the singer-songwriter, who turns 75 on Monday, wrote on his official website. "This is not a sign of compliance or acceptance of the current state of affairs," he noted, but rather "to get my band up and running and out of the doldrums. This is also not the answer going forward. We need to be playing to full capacity audiences going forward."
Calling some unspecified part of health authorities' pandemic safeguards "pseudo-science," Morrison asked "my fellow singers, musicians, writers, producers, promoters and others in the industry to fight with me on this," adding, "It's not economically viable to do socially distanced gigs."
Morrison, whose classic work includes the singles "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Moondance" and such albums as "Astral Weeks" (1968), is set to play the Virgin Money Unity Arena at Gosforth Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, in northern England, on Sept. 3. The newly constructed outdoor stage is a modification of the park's horse racing track, with 500 viewing platforms for generally two to four people each, spaced roughly 6 feet apart, with a maximum attendance of 2,500. It already has hosted some shows.
London's Electric Ballroom, where he is set to perform Sept. 5-6, and The London Palladium, where he's scheduled Sept. 21-26, are indoor venues operating at reduced capacity and with COVID-19 sanitation protocols in place.
Morrison's Instagram and Facebook accounts said on Monday, "The past 6 months have been devastating for the live music industry, and for the people who work hard to put on the shows we all enjoy, many of whom have not been supported by government aid. Van Morrison will be performing at the Virgin Money Unity Arena on Tuesday 3rd September. This is a lifeline for those working in the industry. If you are able, please show your support by attending a Virgin Money Unity Arena gig to help highlight the vital role live music plays."
The Northern Ireland native's website additionally stated, "Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and myself appear to be the only people in the music business trying to get it back up and running again.”
Theater legend Webber, 72, who in addition to being a composer owns seven West End venues, told the BBC in July that theaters and concert halls "can't run with social distancing. … It's just not economically possible." He did not appear to share Morrison's view of health authorities' recommendations as "pseudo-science," saying his London Palladium has "the most stringent measures backstage to check on the health of everybody," adding, "My view is that everybody should be tested daily."