Thursday, 20 October 2016

Van's Melbourne Concerts, 1985

Van Morrison's Australian Tour of 1985 is considered one of his least memorable.  Apparently, Van tried to pull out of the commitment but it couldn't be arranged.  Australia has seen a few reluctant music performers over the years.  Bob Dylan has had few issues of the years. among his many great shows here.  One issue for some performers is the "tyranny of distance".  Performers just aren't at their best after being peeled out of their seats after a couple of long haul flights strung together.  

Van's three opening concerts on the tour were at the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre.  It  was originally built for the 1956 Olympic Games but by the mid-80s had been re-configured to a capacity of 7,200 people.  Van's shows took place on February 25, 26 and 27.  The first show lasted for 1 hour 22 minutes and consisted of 19 songs.  The second show lasted for 1 hour and 27 minutes and again 19 songs were played.  The third show had 21 songs performed and lasted for 1 and 22 minutes.  There was a commonality about the shows with most songs played at all three shows.  Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, Vanlose Stairway, Summertime in England and St Dominic's Preview were some of the 'threepeats'. 

Australian performer Ross Ryan opened for Van at these three Melbourne shows only.  He was kind enough to answer my questions about his memories of the tour. He admitted that he was a huge Van Morrison fan and nominated Astral Weeks as probably one of his all-time favourite albums. He said,  "As a writer and particularly as a vocalist – he’s the real deal. Hence I was very excited to score the support spot."

He continued, "When I arrived on the afternoon of  the first gig, the vibe from the Australian promoters was that they’d been finding Van, shall we say, a tad difficult. He refused to do any press and all photography was banned. It was also implied that overall he was not exactly a cheery chap.  It seemed that, at the time, he pretty much wanted to be almost anywhere rather than Australia."

"I’ve supported lots of overseas acts and have always enjoyed meeting them and hanging out. In this case I was left with a dilemma. I was back stage with a dressing room right next to Van’s. Our names on our doors. Usually I would just knock and introduce myself, etc.  But after my conversation with the promoters I asked myself, “Do I really want Van Morrison to think I’m a jerk?” Thus, alas, I never met the man."

"As for the shows, they too lacked communication. His band was awesome and the sound was great but sadly Van sang off-mike all night – like 6 inches or more away from the microphone – so you couldn’t really hear him very well. He also had made sure that he could barely be seen. He was dressed completely in black, wore a black hat  and had obviously arranged that there would be minimal stage lighting. If I recall, at one point he even walked off to get a spotlight taken out."

"For the price of a bottle of Johnny Walker per night, I’d arranged with Van’s front of house sound crew to record my opening sets. On the second night I mentioned to them my frustration at not being able to hear Morrison’s vocals. Their response was something along the lines of “Yea, tell us about it”."

Mr Ryan found the shows a little disappointing – an opinion shared by more than few fans there. Australian fans are eagerly awaiting the return of the great man but only a few overly optimistic people think that will happen.  

Other Melbourne Comments 

Dave in Box Hill North     -   I attended Van Morrison's 3 Melbourne concerts (Feb 1985) & 1 in Belfast (1990). The music & band were great, but Van ignoring the audience overshadowed them.  I can't understand a music star turning their back on the people who have bought their albums and concert tickets and made their work acclaimed forever.  Pity you never saw Van live. In Melbourne in 1985 he was disappointing and in Belfast in 1990 he was much better.

JAC   -   I also attended one of Van the Man's gigs in '85, and have to say, I went to hear the music - NOT listen to some overseas musician comment on politics or the weather in Melbourne. So the guy is shy. Big deal. I got what I went for ... entertainment and brilliant music. And if he never returns to our shores, which looks likely, at least I can say I've seen him... 3 rows from front and taken photos!!

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