The big day had arrived. I haven't been this excited about going to a gig for ages. I couldn't wait to get to
see all my friends and dig Van Morrison at the Royal Albert Hall. I got to
Westbury station early for the 11.05 to Paddington but it was running late so i
had to kick my heels and wait for
about 50 minutes till the train arrived. The journey was uneventful and i got
to London London about 1.00 and took a cab to
Kensington, i should have walked because its a nice walk through Hyde Park and i was too early to check in at the hotel. Anyway,
i decided to go to the pub because you never know who might be hanging about
but i didn't meet anyone. "They are probably seeing Doctor Feelgood and
James Hunter",i thought to myself. I had a pint of Aspells cider and at
2.00 i went to my hotel. After an hour or so, Jacky & Bill knocked on my
door. It was great to see them again because they are my best friends since
1970 when we were poor students together. I was really looking forward to
introducing them to all my Van Morrison fan friends.
We decided to go to the pub and get some food before everyone started turning up. The pub is the Queens Arms which wasn't far away and we had some food and a couple of drinks. Then the Van fans started to arrive. It was one of the best gatherings of Van fans i have ever been to. There was Andrew Robertson and full force Gayle from
Stuart and Michelle from San Diego California, Julia from Marsailles, Brenda and Joost from
the Netherlands, Diana and
Bert, Wim, Theo, quite a few people from Holland and
actually but i can't remember who came from where. There was Belgium Petra
and Uwe from Hamburg, a couple from Switzerland who i met in Bournemouth.
I met a guy from ,
i think his name was Antonio. It was great to meet Maurice from Spain for the first
time. Dail from Belfast Stamford was there, Alan Douglas
from Kent, Alan Maginnity
from up north and John C from Halifax, John
Melrose from .
Alan Lloyd from Scotland London via Australia and Jez from Worthing. Loads of other people but i can't
remember their names because i was bollixed on cider and wine by the time we
left the pub. Nosey was the star of the show as usual, hopping about and introducing
everyone and talking to everybody. When it got
near to show time Nosey organised everyone outside for a few group photos
and then we headed to the Albert Hall. We got there a bit early so we went in
the Spitfire bar and Bill and i downed
yet another bottle of wine.
Did you know the seating for the Albert Hall comes from right here in Westbury?. Made by a firm called Audience Systems. Anyway, that’s by the by. We took our seats with about five minutes to spare in the magnificent auditorium and the band came on stage followed by Van wearing his saxophone and they played the instrumental Celtic Swing. I wrote the set list and my comments down in my moleskine notebook but next morning i found i had lost it so i'll have to just try and remember what happened. Open The Door (To Your Heart) followed which was quite pleasant and then daughter Shana joined Van for Sometimes We Cry. Then it was the Ray Charles classic I Can't Stop Loving You which was really good. Fire In The Belly was next and i didn't like it at first but as the song developed i really got into it and Jacky and i sang along, "Gotta get through January, gotta get through February". Jacky and Bill had never seen Van before so i was interested to see what they thought. I think Jacky really enjoyed the show, i'm not so sure about Bill. He enjoyed the next one though which was Baby Please Don't Go.
Then Van announced that he was bringing on a special guest and i hoped it would be James Hunter who is brilliant and had performed here in the afternoon but oh no it wasn't . It was Chris Farlowe. I don't like him and i groaned when he came on. They sang Early In The Morning ,Rock Me Baby, Hoochie Coochie Man and Dimples .I think they did anyway, i'm going by the official setlist but i didn't pay much attention during this part of the show. Then Farlowe departed and Van said he would be back later, "Oh great", i thought, "I'll look forward to that, NOT !". Who Can I Turn To? followed and Shana joined Van on That Old Black Magic. It doesn't do anything for me i'm afraid. I wish Van and Shana would learn a couple of new songs .but i don't suppose they have time to rehearse with Shana living in the USA. Philosophers Stone followed and i had heard bad reports of the new arrangement of this song but i didn't think it was that bad. Saint James Infirmary followed and i didn't like it. It's too gloomy for me but i know some people thought it was great.
For me the highlight of the evening followed which was Celtic Excavation leading to Into The Mystic. I have seen Van sing this a few times before but this performance at the Albert Hall was stellar. This is the transcendental music that is the reason i like Van's music. It's impossible to keep that level of brilliance going for a whole show though so we were brought down to earth with Moondance which i am quite bored with hearing i'm afraid. I didn't mind hearing Jackie Wilson Says again though. It was good fun and Jacky seemed to really enjoy that one. That was followed by the second major highlight of the evening for me All In The Game/ You Know What They're Writing About/ No Plan B. It was magnificent and along with Into The Mystic saved the night for me and turned an average show into a great one. Chris Farlowe then returned and they sang Stand By Me and it wasn't too bad and finally Gloria brought the evening to a close. Before the end of that i said to Jacky and Bill, "Come on, lets go and beat the rush".
We hurried back to the pub which was soon packed. It was so crowded it spilled out onto the streets. Some of the band showed up and everyone was buzzing from the show. Then an old friend of ours Luciana from
up to meet me and Jacky and Bill. I
hadn't seen Luciana for 30 years and she is just as beautiful as ever. She
brought along two of her children and it was great to meet them as well. The
perfect end to a great day. Brazil
Finally when the pub closed Nosey led the way to find a restaurant but everywhere was closed and we ended up in a sleazy Burger King outlet. After that we all went our separate ways and Dail,Julia and i found our hotel. I invited them to my room for a glass of wine but they politely declined. They are more sensible than me and i had drank far too much anyway. Next morning there was no sign of them at breakfast so i walked through Hyde Park and had a pint of cider at Paddington and caught the 11.06 train and was back home at 12.40 and that was the end of my trip to London to see Van The Man.