By EW Staff
Updated December 24, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

If his voice were shot, okay. Ditto if he were washed up. But as a vocalist, Van Morrison remains the world’s eighth wonder. Which makes his shoddy show at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium on Dec. 7 all the more inexcusable and exasperating. It wasn’t one of the Irish Bard’s infamous grouch-outs; in fact, the normally cantankerous Morrison seemed in generous spirits. And his voice was as powerful and soulful as ever, darting between gruff exhortation and sweet melodiousness. Alas, it was nothing but a giant tease. Morrison barely broke a sweat vocally, spending half his time cuing a dizzying array of ”special” guests (including Junior Wells and Jimmy Witherspoon), or orchestrating the mushy big-band blues jams, all to no avail. Such classics as ”Stormy Monday” and ”Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” lacked melodic definition and rhythmic thrust. And a tepid version of ”Gloria” made glaring the band’s utter inability to rock. The grooveless rhythm section and smudgy sound could all have been forgiven, however, if Morrison, rather than his featured soloists, had hogged the mike during the two-hour, three-encore show. Especially annoying was Brian Kennedy, an Irish singer-songwriter who, inexplicably, was allowed to sing two Morrison masterpieces, ”Crazy Love” and ”Tupelo Honey”; his high, silky voice was even more saccharine than the band’s already lounge-like accompaniment. Twenty-four hours later, in the men’s room of Hollywood’s Viper Room, actor Pierce Brosnan was still incensed: ”What the hell was all that crap about?” he fumed. It’s hard to figure out why Morrison would present such a show. Indifference? Obliviousness? A genuine desire to share the spotlight and promote personal favorites? Whatever, it leaves one savoring Astral Weeks-era – Van: self-absorbed, self-respecting, and self-reliant. -Robert Seidenberg