Last year, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by going to see my favourite artist of all time – Van Morrison – in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. We had to book three seats for the two of us; I was beside myself.
It all came about in quite a romantic way. We were still living in Cape Town, and my husband had applied to several universities in London to do his doctorate. He was invited for a number of interviews, and the dates happened to coincide with our silver wedding anniversary. I understood the importance of the interviews, and thought he would go to London on his own and we’d celebrate our anniversary on his return. I was okay with that, I really was.
One evening my husband came home from work and said he had an early anniversary present for me: tickets to see Van Morrison at the Royal Albert Hall in London, two days before our actual anniversary. To say I leapt around the house like a crazed springbok, would be putting my enthusiasm mildly. This was really a dream come true for me. Yay yay yay yay yay!
So that was the beginning of our London adventure. We travelled here for a two week holiday, my husband got offered a place at each of the universities that interviewed him, we stayed with some special friends, spent time with our younger son who had recently arrived in London on his gap year, and SAW VAN MORRISON.
I can’t remember when I fell head over heels in love with Van Morrison’s music, but I’ve been pretty much a lifelong fan. Not of his personality, nor his stage “presence” but his music. In my opinion, it is quite sensational. Sublime.
The concert was awesome. We arrived at the beautiful and gracious Royal Albert Hall in good time, and took our seats. I discovered that our seats could swivel, to give you the best view of the stage, so I swivelled up a storm before the lights went down and a voice announced, “Ladies and gentleman, Mr Van Morrison!” I screamed, did the loud and ugly whistle my sister taught me, squeezed my husband’s arm till it bruised, said I couldn’t believe I was seeing Van live, and I almost cried. All in one second.
The all-too-familiar silhouette of small man in large wide-brimmed hat walked on to the stage, went to the piano and began the two-and-a-half-hour Astral Weeks Live concert. Backed by a full orchestra, he bumbled , swagged and groaned his way through familiar old favourites, Madame George my personal best. Exchanging piano for guitar, and guitar for guitar, he thrilled the hall filled with avid fans, who whistled, whooped and danced the evening away. And I was up there with the best of them – quite in awe of the talent at work in front of my eyes.
I mentioned that my love is of Van’s music, not his personality. He didn’t greet the audience, nor did he interact once. I expected a “HELLOOOOOO LOOOOONDON!” Nothing. About an hour into the concert, Van walked off the stage, microphone in hand. The lights went up and interval was announced. Likewise, an hour and a half into the second half, after a fleeting, arm-flinging “giveitupfortheband”, Van walked off the stage, singing. Despite the audience’s lengthy and vocal protests to the contrary, Van Morrison had left the building. The music didn’t disappoint.
Down on Cyprus Avenue
With a childlike vision leaping into view
Clicking, clacking of the high heeled shoe
Ford and Fitzroy, Madame George.
Marching with the soldier boy behind
He’s much older with hat on drinking wine
And that smell of sweet perfume comes drifting through
The cool night air like Shalimar
And outside they’re making all the stops
The kids out in the street collecting bottle-tops
Gone for cigarettes and matches in the shops
Happy taken Madame George.
Sunshine – with Sunshine beside herself – signing off for today!