Sunday, 6 April 2014

Van in Glastonbury 2007

Below are some of Voiceover Bob's recollections of Van's 2007 appearance at Glastonbury Abbey .....

Glastonbury – Van Morrison & Corinne Bailey Rae   

Day one of the three-day Glastonbury Abbey Musical Extravaganza, a sort of extension to the famous festival that had taken place in Michael Eavis’s muddy fields a couple of weeks before. This was, you might say, his more genteel version of the real Glastonbury music festival, this one being held in the grounds of the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey at the heart of this ancient Somerset town. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were playing on the Saturday evening, with Ray Davies (formerly of The Kinks) performing on the Sunday night. But we were all geared up for Friday night’s stars, Corinne Bailey Rae and the mighty Van Morrison.

When the gate opened we all entered in an orderly fashion, to be greeted by a longish walk through the abbey grounds to the concert stage. There was a great atmosphere already building — the warm sun added to the festival feel. It wasn’t long before we were pitching our chairs in the middle-front of the stage and being surrounded by other folks setting up their chairs and picnic tables, many complete with table-cloths, bottles of champagne, candle-holders and full meals! It was all terribly “British”.
I popped off to photograph the magnificent ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, set in 36 acres of parkland. The concert brochure tells us: It was at the abbey in 1191 that the monks sought and found the remains of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. Their bones were reburied in 1278 inside the abbey church. They remained there until the abbey was vandalised after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and no-one has seen or heard of them since.
As legend has it, the abbey was also the first Christian sanctuary in Britain and was visited by Joseph of Arimathea, Saint David and Saint Patrick. Many believe that the Holy Thorn tree that can be seen in the grounds originated from Joseph of Arimathea’s staff, and others are convinced that King Arthur was really buried there.  

Back to the concert  -  After Corinne’s set, the crowd was full of anticipation. And then, suddenly, Van The Man was on stage. In contrast to Corinne’s friendly banter, Van just got right on with it — no “hello,” no introduction to the songs and virtually no gaps between them. I’d never seen Van live before but I’d heard he could be, shall we say, a little terse. Grumpy, even. But the audience didn’t care — we all went wild. By the third song, I was a total convert. There was something in his voice that made me want to cry with a peculiarly overwhelming joy. People jumped up and down and danced with abandon, me included. Personally, I found it a remarkably engaging experience.  

Tell you what, though — he looked mighty impressive up there, stocky bloke that he is in his hat, dark glasses and suit. He carries them well. I should look so good in 2017. His career spans four decades and we all know so many of his songs from radio plays, but there’s so much more to him than those classic hits. He played guitar, harmonica, keyboards and sax, to a mixture of blues, jazz, country music and ballad, some rock ‘n’ roll and all sorts. Some I knew, many I didn’t. But I loved ‘em all. At one point, after a particular favourite with the audience, we thought he was actually conversing with us when he turned to his band and said, “Result.” And then, rather gruffly,”What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?” We all started shouting out the titles of our favourite songs. But he was only shouting the next song title at the band. He sounded a bit miffed about something.

Fireworks. The band played on, and on, with barely time to gather breath between songs. Before we knew it, the best part of two hours had passed, and Van was finished. While the band still played and the guitarist shouted “Mr. Van Morrison!” several times, he walked off the stage to wild applause. I looked behind me. Everyone was standing now, little twinkly lights from glowsticks, candles, torches and flashing necklaces showing here and there amongst the crowds of smiling faces that stretched off into the darkness back towards the ruins of the abbey, lit up with gentle greens and blues. It looked magical.

Then he came back and did Gloria as an encore and we shouted ourselves hoarse doing the chorus. He wandered off again leaving the band playing and us singing, and this time he was really gone, leaving without a wave. Apart from a few asides to his band, it seemed like he’d spoken hardly a word — certainly none to us. But do you know what? I forgive him. Seeing him live, I understand now that all he needs to do to communicate is sing. Why bother talking? Give ‘em the music, that’s his policy. And it worked for me — that’s what that joyous shiver was that I felt earlier in the concert: I suddenly really get him, you know? He feels like an old chum I’ve just rediscovered and I want to know all about him. So I’m perusing his back catalogue as I write.

An excellent ten-minute firework display from Dragonfire exploded above our heads to round off a fantastic night.

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