Van is The Man. The End.

I knew it was going to be a great Sunday. I woke to see three swans gliding on the glass water of our dock, in the weak autumn sun of a chilly blue sky. It was a majestic start to a day that ended with a Van Morrison concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

If you have read any of my blog posts, you will know I am crazy about Van Morrison’s music. Like silly crazy. So when my husband got this new job, we celebrated by buying tickets for this one-night-only Classic Van concert at the Royal Albert Hall. He knew it was a big treat for me, as I had eyed this show since it was first announced back in June. I think we got the last two tickets in the house. We didn’t even sit together. And our seats were in the “choir” section, above and behind the stage. We had a fabulous view of the band, and – knowing Van and his propensity to turn to face his band – I was pretty confident we’d see more of his face that way. And we did.

We had to brave the cold London evening and cross the city on unreliable weekend public transport, but we arrived a good hour early. The Royal Albert Hall is a beautiful, regal venue in South Kensington, built as part of Prince Albert’s vision for the promotion of the arts and science. It was completed after Prince Albert’s death from typhoid, and opened in 1871. Directly opposite it, in Hyde Park, is the famous golden memorial to the Prince Consort, described as one of the grandest, high-Victorian gothic extravaganzas anywhere. At night it stands in grand, spot-lit splendour against a dark sky.

We went into the Hall as soon as the doors opened, bought some coffee and hung around the foyer and the corridors. We looked at brochures and framed photographs of stars on the hall’s hallowed stages, reckoning we’d take our seats about 15 minutes before the show was due to start. I was so excited I couldn’t stand still … classic Van, man! Does it get better than that? Seriously? I don’t think so.

Our seats were not too bad, one row and about five seats apart. Enough for me to keep looking at my husband and smiling and waving and winking and smiling and waving and, did I say smiling? There was not much leg room between the rows, and I was glad not to be long-legged, nor to have shoes one size bigger. The seat was big enough for me to boogy in, though, and boogy I did!

I sat next to a stiff-lipped English couple, and a cheerful Dutch chappy in a checked shirt. Turns out he was as much of a Van fan as I am – sheesh, he’d flown in from the Netherlands for the concert – and we soon became new best friends.

The band started to arrive on the stage, the lights went down and that big voice said, “Ladies and gentleman, MR VAN MORRISON!” I like that voice. And that’s when I began to scream. And whistle.

Van, in trademark dark suit, dark glasses and black fedora, walked on to the stage, microphone in hand, harmonica in mouth, and opened his show with a medley of Baby, Please Don’t Go and Here Comes the Night. I felt like crying. He went on to sing his well-known favourites like Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Have I told You Lately, Into the Mystic, Ballerina, Bright Side of the Road. My personal favourite was All in the Game, which he teased out into the most incredible arrangement with solos from each of his band members: trombonist, pianist, saxophonist, drummer, double bass player, lead guitarist and acoustic guitarist. The double bass player doubled as a bass guitarist, and Van doubled as a saxophonist and harmonica player. I can’t even describe the music they made – just sublime.

I loved watching Van control his musicians with the flick of his hand and a trilling of his fingers. He did what he does so well – brings the music to a stomping crescendo and then right back down to a whisper. I was with him on his every word, every note and I didn’t want to miss a thing. He closed with a rousing version of Gloria, which brought the entire audience to its feet. It was indescribable to experience a packed Royal Albert Hall, filled to the rafters, with Van-loving punters clapping and screaming and whistling for his music never to end. We couldn’t take photographs, but that sight – and feeling – overwhelmed me as it etched itself in my mind.

I made a note of Van’s playlist, lest I forget, and my Dutch neighbour chipped in when he thought I might not know the title – which, believe me, wasn’t often! If I couldn’t sit with my husband, it was wonderful to sit beside another fellow Van fan. After the show finished, we agreed we had just experienced a very very special concert. I told him I had felt like crying, and he said, “Yes, I had some of those moments too.”

One thing about Van’s music is that it is so difficult to categorise. When I look for his music in a music shop, I never know whether to look in the soul section, R & B, jazz, blues, folk. His music could be in any or all of those. But last night, I was reminded that he is in a category all of his own: awesome. Totally awesome.

Sunshine signing off for today!

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26 thoughts on “Van is The Man. The End.

    1. It was, Renee! Wow, what do you enjoy? The London Jazz Festival – at various venues – is on from 12 – 21 November; the Little Noise Sessions at the Union Chapel (feat. Tom Jones and friends, or Paolo Nutini and friends, and others) is on from 12 – 20 November; Michael Bolton, Rufus Wainwright, Ian Shaw are all on at the Royal Albert Hall… And then there are the Station Sessions (free) at St Pancras Station every Thursday evening, and regular free concerts at the National Theatre on the South Bank…

  1. Sounds like it was an awesome show, Sunshine! Wish I’d been there to boogie along with you! I always find it strange when people just sit motionless in their seats at a concert…I have to MOVE, even if it’s just dancing in my seat!

    Hugs,
    Wendy

  2. Sounds like an experience of a lifetime! I’m so happy you got to see your man in concert. Lucky you! I went to see Van Morrison in 1973 at Davis University in California. The opening act showed up and played. Mr. Morrison’s band showed up and played. Then both bands jammed together for a while, killing time while waiting for Mr. Van Morrison to show up. He never showed! Rumor has it he was too bombed to set foot on the stage and just blew the show off. You were lucky to get a more mature Van Morrison. At any rate, I’m really happy for you and I have to echo one of your other readers “thanks for taking us to the concert, too!” I’m going with you the next time!

  3. How wonderful!
    There is not much better than an evening with your favorite musician, enjoying a live show…
    glad you could have a night on the town!
    jane

  4. How cool, Sunshine! So glad Van put on a great show for you guys, and that you had nice seats. His voice is so spectacular, I guess you could really sit anywhere and have a great show, but even better that you had the up-close-and-personal experience.

    It’s always nice to talk to another Van Morrison fan. I’m such a sucker for Into the Mystic. And? It absolutely kills me when people change the lyrics of “Brown Eyed Girl” to “Blue Eyed Girl.” I want to turn around and say, “Listen. It is NOT Blue Eyed Girl. It is BROWN eyed girl. Leave the classics alone.”

    1. I LOVE Into the Mystic! And I have Michael McDonald’s version of that too, which is pretty sweet! I’m so glad to hear you’re a Van fan too – his voice is spectacular, I agree. And I’m with you on leaving the lyrics as they should be, totally! xx

  5. Sunshine, Reading your evocative post was like being there. I happen to love Van Morrison and I could hear the music in my head. You have a gift in bringing your reader right into the center of your world. Keep on writing.

  6. Sounds like another awesome time at the Royal Albert. SO many happy memories you are piling into your memory bank Sunshine. Thanks for sharing. I was expecting the update and was thrilled to see that was the topic of todays blogeroo!
    Lotsa love x

  7. It is hard to be jealous or envious of you! You are just to darn nice! I adore Van. He IS the MAN!. He was here in Edmonton this summer for the Edmonton Folk Fest. It sold out in about 32 seconds. Clearly we are not the only two who think he is the MAN! I am so happy you enjoyed it. 🙂

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