by Michaela Garstin/Special to the Langley Advance
It’s not every day that “Van the Man” performs Brown Eyed Girl, Domino and Gloria at a pub in Langley.
But these rock and roll hits will be heard late into the night when The Morrison Project, a Van Morrison tribute band, makes its debut performance this Friday and Saturday at Newlands Bar & Grill.
“Our shows are always spontaneous. We might do an extended solo; we see how the audience is feeling and go with that,” said Langley drummer Brad Dirks, who is excited to perform in his hometown. “No two shows are ever the same. There’s always something new to see.”
Since forming late last year, The Morrison Project has played sets for drop-ins and half hour gigs but this is their first time performing the entire night.
“Our lead singer is a great Van Morrison impersonator. He looks and sounds just like him,” says Dirks proudly.
“We looked at which other artists have tribute bands and couldn’t find many for Van Morrison, especially not locally.”
Morrison, whose quintessential growl is a mix of folk, blues, soul, jazz, gospel and celtic influences, is well deserving of a tribute band, says Dirks. The Grammy award-winning rock-and-roll icon has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was knighted for his achievements earlier this year.
“We wanted to take it one step further than a cover band. We wanted to really get into it, so we decided to do a tribute band.”
The band’s “captivating” and “feel-good” shows this week are sure to live up to Van Morrison’s epic performances, he adds.
“We’ve really perfected our show. It’s been tested it in front of a smaller audience and now we’re ready to go.”
Before Morrison was on their minds, the original trio – Trevor Saunders on guitar, lead singer James Minchau and Dirks – formed a band 15 years ago and wrote their own songs, with a loyal following in Langley quickly forming. But busy lives led the friends to turn their separate ways until last year when they got together again after more than a decade apart.
With the addition of Randy Morrison on horns and father-son team Dave Cole, on keyboard, and base player Mark Cole, The Morrison Project was born.
“It’s our passion,” says Dirks, who works as a web designer. Other members of the band also have day jobs: Minchau is in sales, Saunders owns an inflatable boat repair shop, Morrison is a music teacher and the younger Cole is a safety officer, while his dad is a professional musician.
Soon after forming, they put a call out for possible names for the band. Fans got to vote on monikers such as Van the Band, Cypress Avenue, Wild Night and The Van Band but, in the end, The Morrison Band won with 35 per cent of the votes.
With a casino tour in the near future, the group is appreciative of the devoted local audience that launched their band.
“This will be our first all-night show. We’re ready to show everyone what we are about,” says Dirks, excited to finally perform his favourite Morrison songs in front of a large audience.
The Morrison Project is performing at Newlands Bar and Grill this Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show lasts until 1 a.m.