Van Morrison has denounced the supposed “pseudoscience” around coronavirus and is attempting to rally musicians in a campaign to restore live music concerts with full capacity audiences.
The 74-year-old Northern Irish singer launched a campaign to “save live music” on his website, saying socially distanced gigs were not economically viable. “I call on my fellow singers, musicians, writers, producers, promoters and others in the industry to fight with me on this. Come forward, stand up, fight the pseudo-science and speak up,” he said.
Morrison is due to play socially distanced gigs in England next month, but he said this did not signify agreement with restrictions to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 800,000 lives worldwide.
“This is not a sign of compliance or acceptance of the current state of affairs, this is 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.”
The Brown Eyed Girl songwriter said Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared to be the only other person in the music business trying to get it back up and running.
Morrison, who was knighted in 2016, has won Grammys and a worldwide fanbase over a career that began in the 50s and mixed blues, rock, jazz, soul and other influences in landmark albums such as Moondance and Astral Weeks.
The Irish music magazine Hot Press enlisted Sinead O’Connor, Andrea Corr, Imelda May, Hozier and Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol in a series of tributes in advance of Morrison turning 75 on 31 August.
No prominent artists or musicians have publicly backed his call to lift restrictions on concerts, which he posted last Friday. The website administrators did not immediately respond on Monday to a Guardian request for more details. The Guardian has also contacted Morrison’s agent.
On the singer’s Facebook page, self-professed Morrison fans gave a largely scathing response to his appeal for full-capacity audiences. “This is madness. The science is real,” said one. “We love you, Van, but calling pandemic management protocols ‘pseudo-science’ is probably the dumbest and certainly the most dangerous idea you’ve ever put your name to,” wrote another.
Morrison expressed alarm at the pandemic’s impact on the music industry last month when he joined almost 150 artists in appealing to Northern Ireland’s department for communities for urgent financial support. Industry figures elsewhere in the UK have also pleaded for measures to cushion mass redundancies in the absence of major gigs and festivals, which have been on hold since March.
Until now, the most prominent Irish musician to challenge coronavirus rules was Jim Corr of the Corrs. He joined hundreds of people in a protest against lockdowns and masks in Dublin last Saturday. He became engaged in a social media spat with the Irish singing duo Jedward after they mocked him on Twitter as a “covidiot”.