It had been four long months since I last saw Van at the Eden Sessions down in Cornwall but finally the big day had arrived. Having heard glowing reports of recent shows, especially Liverpool I was looking forward to a great night. I caught the 12.52 train from Westbury and arrived in Bristol by 2.00. I was way too early as usual, so I walked to the Colston Hall. Strolling through Queens Square it seemed very Van-like with the autumn leaves a tumblin’ down which put me in a good mood for the day ahead. When I arrived, it was good to spot Bent from Denmark and we had a bit of a chat. Then my friend Cav from Bristol turned up and we went for a wander around the harbour and ended up in Wetherspoons for an hour or so. Eventually, I made my way back to the Colston to see if any more Van fans had turned up. There was no-one around, so I amused myself by getting a passer-by to take my photo standing by a Van poster. They are celebrating 150 years of the Colston Hall at the moment and there is a memory board where people are encouraged to fill out a card with their favourite memories of concerts and stick it on the board. I got a card and wrote, ‘My first ever Van Morrison gig, here in 1979. Now back in 2017. Rave On, Van The Man!’.
|Is this the place called Memory Lane?|
Finally, I spotted Hugh in the bar area and before long other fans started arriving. It is always good to see Yves-Michel, the Frenchman from Denmark, and John from Bristol, Jane & Charlie from Oxford. I hadn’t met Mark from Northern Ireland before, so it was great to say hello to him. Brendan from Dublin was there as well and later I saw Miquel from Spain and his friend Thomas and his wife. After the show I bumped into Tom who I hadn’t seen since Brighton about four years ago. There were a couple of other people as well, but I can’t remember their names now. Precious time was slipping away and before long it was time to take our seats for the show.
|Mark, Charlie, Jane, John, Me.|
There is one change to the band since the last time I saw Van. Teena Lyle has returned after a long absence. I don’t think I have seen Teena since Salisbury City Hall about eleven years ago. Teena plays vibraphone and various other percussion instruments. She gives the sound a more jazzy feel. It’s great to see her but It’s a bit of a shame that Sumudu has departed because I like her as well. The first song was Wait A minute Baby which I hadn’t heard before and Teena made her presence felt straight away. The ubiquitous Moondance was next which I have heard far too many times although it did go into Look Beyond The Hill. I wish that Van would perform more songs from his Keep Me Singing album. This audience loved Moondance, so who am I to complain. The first highlight of the evening for me was Warm Love. I can’t remember the last time I saw this great song performed live. The return of Teena seems to have shaken up the setlist a bit because Back On Top has returned. This was followed by Magic Time which Van always seems to enjoy singing. Then it was the medley of Baby Please Don’t Go/Parchman Farm/Don’t Start Crying Now/ Custard Pie, this has been in his repertoire for a few years now. Maybe it’s time for a change. The audience seemed to love Ride On Josephine from Van’s most recent album. It gives Dave Keary a chance to show what a good guitarist he is. Van sat at the keyboards for Vanlose Stairway which has made a welcome return. It was really good, and Teena & Dana excelled themselves on backing vocals. My only complaint is that I’m not too keen on the yodelling bits that Van has added to it. Another classic song followed which was Someone Like You which is tailor made for Dana to sing a duet with Van.
|An Irishman, A Dane & A Frenchman.|
Van said to the band, “Let’s change the pace”, and Symphony Sid followed which isn’t a favourite of mine and the Las Vegas arrangement of Have I Told You Lately isn’t either. Then Days Like This began. I thought I would film this song so I could show it to my friends on Facebook. I know they ask you not to film and you shouldn’t do it, but I can’t resist. I have been filming songs at gigs for years and never had a complaint before, well, not from the audience anyway. No sooner had I started filming then I got poked quite hard in the back by a man sitting behind me. That put a stop to my filming for the evening! I can’t complain because he was absolutely in the right. I hope I didn’t ruin his evening. Maybe I was holding the camera in his eye-line. Anyway, I tried not to dwell on the incident because In The Afternoon/ Joe Turner/Ancient Highway/Raincheck was a highlight with Van stretching it out and sitting pretty. Automobile Blues was another chance for Dave Keary to shine. Then Van reached for his electric guitar as well for Why Must I Always Explain which is always enjoyable. Broken Record is a song I hadn’t heard before and I can’t say I’m all that impressed with it. I am impressed with Did Ye Get Healed? though. It is another song that seems to have returned with the re-emergence of Teena Lyle. There was even a little bit of Yeah Yeah at the end of the song. St James Infirmary followed, and I know a lot of the fans love it, so it would be churlish of me to say I don’t like it, especially when he says, ‘Standing Pat’ twice. The evening was brought to a conclusion with the usual Brown Eyed Girl & Gloria.
|France meets Spain.|
Back on the street again I said to the others that I thought the show was good without being brilliant. They all disagreed and said it was great. Maybe the incident with the finger in my back had affected my mood. I’m glad I went, it was a good night and wonderful to see all the other Van fans. I hailed a taxi to the station and we got in a traffic jam and I missed my train. I had to wait an hour for the last train so I went in the bar of the Holiday Inn. I fell asleep on the train home but luckily, I woke up just before Westbury or I might have ended up in Portsmouth Harbour or somewhere. There were no taxis at Westbury so I had a 20 minute walk home and that was the end of my adventure seeing Van in Bristol. I’m seeing him again on Saturday in Plymouth so I’ll tell you all about that on Sunday. Don’t be expecting any exclusive filmed footage though!
PS, Thank you very much to Yves-Michel Balin for the great black and white photo.