Three long months had gone by since I last saw Van back in the summer at Llangollen and Liverpool, so it was high time to get back on the train to Torquay for another two nights with the Celtic Soul Brother. The Grand Hotel is right next to the railway station in Torquay which is handy. I couldn’t check in until 3.00 so I left my bag at reception and went for a stroll along the sea-front. I sat in a bar next to the Princess Theatre for an hour because I figured it was sound check time and you never know who might walk by. Then I walked back to the hotel and decided to have a nap till the evening. The phone rang at about 5.00. It was Jane from Oxford to tell me she was downstairs with Corinne and Nell. It was great to see Jane again and Nell who had come all the way from Australia to see Van. Corinne is originally from South Africa but lives in Canada now. I hadn’t met Corinne before, so it was nice to meet her as well. What great company for the evening. We sat around chatting for a while and then decided to walk into town. As we were leaving we spotted Van going into the restaurant for dinner. We didn’t intrude on his privacy, but I sensed that this was going to be a memorable stay in Torquay.
We had dinner in a nice place called The Iguanas. The food was excellent, and the service was friendly and quick. I recommend this place if you are ever in Torquay.
|Me, Corinne, Othmar, Jane, Nell.|
It was getting near to show time and we made our way to the theatre. It is a lovely little theatre right by the harbour. I have seen three Van shows here previously but not for 12 years. We all had really good seats right near the front. It was nice to see Peter & Kathryn sitting in the front row and Brendan from Ireland who writes such great reviews. Later we also saw Othmar from Switzerland, so it was a nice little gathering of Van fan friends. The show began promptly at 8.00. It was Van’s usual band of Teena Lyle, Dana Masters, Mez Clough, Paul Moore, Dave Keary and Paul Moran. This was the setlist for the first night, Hold It Right There, Back On Top, How Far From God?, Magic Time, Have I Told You Lately?, Raincheck, Baby Please Don’t Go / Here Comes The Night, Roll With The Punches, Talk Is Cheap, Think Twice Before You Go, Days Like This, Moondance, Broken Record, Enlightenment, Symphony Sid, Steal My Heart Away, Wild Night, Tore Down A La Rimbaud, Did Ye Get Healed, The Party’s Over, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria. The band were excellent as always, you can’t criticize their musicianship, Teena always seems to really enjoy herself, especially on such songs as Moondance, Broken Record and Did Ye Get Healed. Since her return Teena has introduced the fun element to the band, she makes them smile. Dana is wonderful as a backing singer especially on a song like Symphony Sid which I don’t really like all that much but her contribution is great. Mez Clough on drums and Paul Moore on bass are always a first-class rhythm section. Dave Keary is a fine guitarist but I feel sorry for him sometimes because Van goes from song to song so quickly that poor old Dave barely has time to change his guitar between songs. One thing I found quite amusing is that during Enlightenment Van looked through his collection of harmonicas and tried a few, couldn’t find one he liked and didn’t bother playing one.
|Corinne & Nell.|
They announced before the show that taking photos and filming was prohibited but during Here Comes The Night I couldn’t resist doing a bit of filming. I captured a couple of minutes before a security lady told me friendly but firmly to put my camera away. That put an end to my film career for the two nights!. After the show I asked politely if I could have one of the posters off the wall in the foyer and they said they would save me one the following night which was nice of them. I’ll show you it when I get it framed. A gang of us walked back to the Grand Hotel together. Sitting in the bar the general feeling was that it was quite a disappointing show. As I have said it wasn’t the musicianship at fault, it was the uninspired choice of songs. Van has such a vast repertoire of great songs, the greatest back catalogue of work of any singer, but the night had been devoid of highlights. He is at his best when he stretches out songs and improvises but there was none of that tonight. However, we were all confident that the next night would be an improvement but none of us realised just how magical the next day would turn out to be.
|Corinne, Jane & Nell.|
I usually miss breakfast in hotels but the next morning I made the supreme effort to get out of bed and join Jane, Corinne and Nell in the restaurant. Then Van and his staff arrived, and they sat at the next table to us. Luckily, Van had his back to us or we wouldn’t have resisted glancing across at him. While we were having breakfast, we noticed this fan who I have since found out is called Ken went over to Van and shook hands and had a few words with him. This was encouraging!, We decided to write down a few songs that we would like to hear Van sing. As it was autumn I wrote down When The Leaves Come Falling Down. Nell wrote Little Village. I can’t remember what Jane and Corinne chose. We didn’t want to bother Van while he was eating but just as he was getting up to leave I said to Nell, “Go and give Van this list of requests now or you will regret it for the rest of your life”. Nell went over to Van and gave him the list and Van sat down again and signed a flyer for Nell and signed Corinne’s concert ticket as well and listened while Nell told him she had come all the way from Canberra, Australia to see him. He was most courteous. Some people especially the press have given him a reputation of being grumpy but as long as you aren’t too intrusive Van is a friendly person.
|Fumiko, Nell, Jane & Corinne.|
That got the day off to a good start. We decided to walk into town along the sea-shore. On the pathway below the sea wall I pointed out to the others something that Kim had spotted in 2006 when we last came here to see Van. Someone had carved I LOVE PAT in the cement of the pathway and it was still there 12 years later. That brought back some very poignant memories for me I can tell you. (See photo) Corinne had brought her binoculars with her and her book of British birds and was all set for a day of walking by the sea and birdwatching. I didn’t fancy that, I’m more of a sitting in pubs type person. After a while I told the others I’d see them later and went into town. I bought a shirt in Debenhams and had a look in a few charity shops and went in Yates’s for a couple of drinks. When I emerged from there it was drizzling rain, so I decided to go back to the hotel. I spotted Van again on my return, but I had intruded enough for one day, so I ignored him this time.
I met the others again that evening and we were joined by Fumiko who had just arrived. We pointed out Van to her and she got his autograph on her ticket as well, so everyone was well pleased. Time was getting on, so we ate at the hotel this evening and then headed off back to the theatre. This is the setlist for night 2. Let’s Get Lost, Benediction, How Far From God?, Magic Time, Have I Told You Lately?, Baby Please Don’t Go / Don’t Start Crying Now, Here Comes The Night, Cleaning Windows, When The Leaves Come Falling Down, Tore Down A La Rimbaud, Little Village, Symphony Sid, Bring It On Home To Me, Ride On Josephine, Steal My Heart Away, Days Like This, Enlightenment, Broken Record, Moondance, Carrying A Torch, Whenever God Shines His Light On Me, The Party’s Over, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria.
|Fumiko, Brendan, Corinne, Hugh, Jane, Nell, Othmar.|
The show didn't reach the dazzling heights of Llangollen in the summer but it was a vast improvement on night 1. The absolute thrill for me was when Van introduced When The Leaves Come Falling Down by saying “This is a request”, and performed it sublimely. I would have filmed it, but I was too scared of getting busted again. Nell who was sitting next to me was equally delighted when he sang her choice of Little Village. I did notice Van improvised some different lyrics into this song by singing “I’m from the island of the saints, a long way from home”. Other highlights for me were the Sam Cooke classic Bring It On Home To Me, a splendid duet with Dana of Carrying A Torch and Cleaning Windows. I also really enjoy Ride On Josephine with Mez on drums and Dave on guitar and Van on harmonica. I collected my poster from the nice lady in the foyer and we all met up outside and were joined by Hugh and a gang of me, Brendan, Othmar, Jane, Nell, Fumiko, Corinne and Hugh repaired to the bar of the Grand Hotel. The atmosphere was a lot more upbeat than the night before. What a fabulous day and night it had been.
|Jane, Paul Moran & Nell.|
Next morning after breakfast Corinne set off for more bird-watching on Dartmoor and then me, Jane & Nell caught the 11.38 train. At the station we met Paul Moran from Van’s band who was really friendly and I took a photo of Jane & Nell with him. It was a golden Autumn day after all the rain. The journey was fun. Two young punky types girls were singing along to music on their phones, so I got them to play Brown Eyed Girl and we all joined in. Before long Westbury White Horse came into view. It was quite sad to say cheerio to Jane and Nell when I realised the party’s over. But hey, Van is on again in Bristol on Monday. See you in Bristol Van fans x
|Golden Autumn Day, from the train.|