In 1985 Van toured Australia for 7 concerts. The experience apparently left him vowing never to do concerts outside North America and Europe. Legend has it that Van wanted to pull out of the Australian tour but was unable to. Generally any commentators have called the tour lacklustre at best. In Wavelength 17 (September, 1998), Simon Gee wrote, "the tapes from this tour, most of which have rather awful sound quality, reveal that Van was not at his most inspirational."
Interestingly, there is very little on the internet about the tour. The tour support, Ross Ryan, proudly includes the tour on the CV on his website. Ross Ryan is a relatively minor Australian artist who had fame with several hits, particularly My Name is Pegasus. Combine that with America's Horse With No Name and the Rolling Stones' Wild Horses and you have an outbreak of equine hits in the early 70s. But Ryan is an honest muso still plying his trade. His 1985 backing band comprised Roy Zedras, Gus McNeil (sax; ex-Nomads), Alex Pertout (percussion) and Marcus Holden (fiddle).
One interesting story from the internet involves the false memory of Jason Durbin. The Western Australian fan recalled the (non-existent) show in Perth. Jason Durbin wrote on a website that he was 17 years old at the time.
"It was November 1984 at the Perth Entertainment Centre. 1984 had been a stellar year for me as a concert goer. That year I had seen Howard Jones, Elton John, David Bowie, Dire Straits, U2 and a whole lot more. Van Morrison as the music legend he 'is' was to cap off a great year. I had just finished school and as a way of a thank you I also bought a ticket for one of my tutors who was a huge Morrison fan and it was his birthday. Anyway the show had gone on sedately for about 30 minutes or so and Van 'The Man' got to one of his old standards, Bright Side Of The Road. A boppy little number which encouraged the first couple of rows in the lounge area to get off their feet and dance. The only problem was Van didn't want to dance. He immediately threw his hands in the air and shouted 'STOP'!!! The band stopped and he stepped up to the microphone and angrily announced that there would be 'NO DANCING AT A VAN MORRISON CONCERT'. For the first minute the crowd was stunned and silent. Morrison had already stormed off stage and his rather bemused band followed soon after. Then the 8000 odd crowd then broke out into boos and choruses of 'Morrison's a Wanker'. The lights came on soon after and as soon as it became obvious the 'The Man' was not coming back people filed out of the venue. When I got outside I saw this surreal scene of thousands of angry punters arguing with security staff, doormen and merchandise vendors about getting their money back." Great story but Van was only in Australia in February and March in 1985, not November, 1984.
Another Australian fan named Daniel Robertson told me about two shows he saw - the Adelaide show and one of the Melbourne ones.
"My memory of the two shows I saw is how much Van directed everything going on, on stage".
For Robertson the memory of those shows probably prolonged his interest in Van's music. He's also a talented multi-instrumentalist who has even performed an audience participation Van show at the world-famous Woodford Folk Festival sometime in the mid-1990s.
But it clearly wasn't the absolutely hopeless tour that some would portray it as. Van's performance of Tore Down a la Rimbaud from the March 7, 1985 gig at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was released on Van's official site until he stripped all content a few years back around the time of what could be called the "baby scandal".
Van’s 1985 Australian Tour - Summary
Musicians: Richie Buckley (saxophone), Kenny Craddick (keyboards), Martin Dover (trumpet), Artie McGlynn (guitar) and Jerome Rimson (bass).
Sports and Entertainment Centre - Melbourne, VictoriaFebruary 25, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 21 min)(complete recording exists)
February 26, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 27 min)(complete recording)
February 27, 1985 (21 songs – 1 hour 24 min)(incomplete recording)
Thebarton Hall - Adelaide, South AustraliaMarch 2, 1985 (17 songs – 1 hour 13 min)(not yet verified recording)
Festival Hall - Brisbane, QueenslandMarch 5, 1985 ???
March 7, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 10 min)(complete recording, DVD, download)
March 8, 1985 ???
The information in this summary section comes from the wonderful Vanomatic database site created by Gunter Becker. I've mentioned it before and is an absolute must for the Van fan or Vanatic. Among other things, he has lists of how long Van played every song he has performed in every concert. An incredible achievement.
Finally, does anyone have any more information about the Australian tour. Please email me.