Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Night I Met Van Morrison

I had a wonderful two days in Brighton seeing Van Morrison  for many reasons. Here is what happened. I caught the 11.04 train from Westbury on Monday, grateful that the trains were running after all the terrible floods and storms of the previous week. I changed trains at Southampton and arrived in Brighton about 2.00 and walked to my hotel the Hilton Metropole on the seafront. I had chosen this hotel because it was at this very hotel in the summer of 75 that I had the shortest job of my life. I had started work as a kitchen porter at 11.30 and walked out at 12.15. I bet they didn't think I would return in triumph 39 years later. After I got settled in I went for a bit of a stroll and had something to eat in Yates's and then took a slow walk to the Lord Nelson Pub in Trafalgar Street to meet my friends. It was great to see Othmar and Daria from Switzerland, Marion from The Netherlands, Julia from Marsailles, Miquel and Tony from sunny Spain, Especially great to see Simon and Sandra again  because it was Simon who started the pre-show meetings of the Van fans in the first place.  Nosey was there with his friend of 60 years Ted who I had never met before.
Over the two days I met Peter & Katherine, Brendan from Dublin, Alan Douglas was there and Alan Randall and his wife, Tom and Sandra, Dail and her friend Carol who I met in Peterborough. Jez and his mate Steve from Worthing, Amanda and Paul, and Sue from London and her husband.  I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. The Van fans are wonderful, i don't think I have ever met one that I don't like and they are so kind and generous. Julia gave me a really nice gift that I am playing right now and Nosey gave me some great  memorabilia from a friend Kenny from California who I have never met but I hope we meet up one day.  Van has created some amazing friendships without realising it.... Eventually it was time to make our way to the Dome. Kim and I came to this venue to see Van in 2004.and it was one of the lesser Van concerts I have been to but after the enjoyable Bristol gig a few weeks ago I was hoping for a great night.

          I took my seat in the circle and Van's daughter Shana came on first with the band minus the brass section to start the evening. She looked beautiful as always and sang three songs, God Must Love Me, Serve Me Right To Suffer and Higher And Higher  which I really enjoyed. Then it was time for the Celtic soul brother himself to walk on stage with the now familiar opening of Celtic Swing followed by Close Enough For Jazz. This was followed by Back On Top which I think I enjoyed more than at Bristol. Then it was one of the first highlights of the evening for me, So Quiet In Here. It was great and i liked Shana's backing vocals and the brass section of Chris and Alistair White were really good as well. This was followed by Rough God Goes Riding, which was also great but I was beginning to realise this was almost exactly the same set as in Bristol. I wanted to hear something different. Van ended the song by doing his Clint Eastwood impression again which was funny the first time I heard it. He is trying to get away from his grumpy image though. Following this was Keeping Mediocrity At Bay.I have seen a comment about him doing this song from somebody who wasn't there. I think performed live it isn't bad at all. Benediction, by Van's friend Mose Allison was next which was ok but the gig for me was getting a bit 'samey' now. Van sat on the stool next for Keep It Simple which is one of the best songs of recent years. Then it was the excellent Queen Of The Slipstream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Things took a nose-dive for me then. Van said, "Now I'd like to bring on my old china plate (Cockney rhyming slang for mate) Chris Farlowe". On walked Farlowe and he and Van sang Early In The Morning,Hoochie Coochie Man,and Stormy Monday which Farlowe had recorded under the name Little Joe Cook back in the 60's. I didn't hear all of it because when Chris Farlowe came on I had a sudden urge to go to the toilet. Dave Keary's guitar playing was good though. When I returned from the loo I didn't bother returning to my seat because I didn't want to disturb people again so I watched quietly from the back. Sometimes We Cry  with Shana was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light and Days Like This. Then the new arrangement of Brown Eyed Girl which is replacing Moondance as the song where all the band get to play a solo. Baby Please Don't Go was brilliant followed by the eternal Help Me. Then Farlowe returned for Gloria/Who Do You Love and finally Stand By Me. I was disappointed that apart from the Farlowe numbers there hadn't been a single different song to Bristol but I was determined to make tonight special one way or another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Before the band had finished playing I made a bee-line for the door and turned left and left again and made my way to the stage door. There was a Mercedes parked outside and a man holding an umbrella. I knew he was waiting for Van. I stood against the wall and waited ten minutes in the rain. Then the door opened and out came Van with his assistant. I stepped up and handed him my moleskine notebook and my pen that I had got in the bookies a few days ago and said, "Could I have a quick autograph please Van?". As he scrawled his name I said, "Thank you very much Van, I’ve been a fan for 40 years", "That long huh?", said Van and smiled at me and gave me back my book and sad little pen and got in the car. A couple who were standing there applauded and he was gone... It didn't matter about the bit of ink on a page, that was just the excuse. What mattered was that for just a few fleeting seconds I had connected with the genius whose music has meant so much to me for so long. I wish Kim had been there to witness it, she would have been thrilled. It was the highlight of my Van fan career. To quote Van himself I was 'Higher Than The World'. I'll never bother him again                                                                                                                                                                     I ran back to the front of the hall pumping with adrenaline to show my friends the autograph. I was so excited. A gang of us retired to a nearby pub for a drink and I tried to calm down. I'll tell you all about the rest of my visit to Brighton tomorrow..............

To be continued..............