Review: Cambridge Folk Festival 2014, Part 2 Van Morrison.
As ladysmith Black Mambazo ended Brendan and I made our move to get to the front. Hundreds of people poured out and we poured in.We tried on the left first and then on the right but it was so crowded it was impossible to rejoin Dail and Evonne right at the front so we had to settle for a spot about fifteen yards from the front of the stage. While we were waiting for Van to come on we got chatting to a couple from Belfast and the ladies name was Anne McMurray who is a friend of a friend of ours Maurice Kinkead who does a lot of great work in East Belfast. She asked us if we were going to see Van in Orangefield soon. I'm not, but Brendan is. Anyway, what a small world it is.I hope Maurice will say hello to her from me next time he sees Anne. Van was due on stage at 8.25 for a seventy five minute set. The band shuffled on before that to tune up. Shana always looks beautiful but tonight she looked even more lovely than usual in a pink dress.It was the usual band of Alistair White, Chris White, Bobby Ruggerio, Dave Keary, Paul Moore and Paul Moran.
I didn't recognise the first few notes and said to Brendan, "What's this?". Then Van came on and started blowing his saxophone and I immediately recognised Celtic Swing. The audience loved it, they were in party mood, out to enjoy themselves on the last night of the festival. The next song was Little Village which was great with Chris White excelling himself on the euphonium. Then it was one of Van's hits Whenever God Shines His Light On Me with Shana singing the parts that Sir Cliff used to do. The crowd loved this. A highlight for me followed, Someone Like You probably the second best known of Van's love songs but in all my history of going to Van concerts of 35 years I can't ever remember him singing this before. It was splendid with Shana joining in on vocals. At festivals you expect a bit of crowd involvement and most songs you accept it but during a beautiful ballad like this you would think people would listen. During this song a group in front of us were not even listening to the music but just prattled away to each other. Brendan couldn't stand it and tapped the ringleader on the shoulder and asked them in no uncertain terms to quieten down and have some consideration.Another Van classic followed Queen Of The Slipstream, I thought this was great and so did the audience.Van played some great harmonica on this song. If the audience liked that they absolutely loved the next one which was Baby Please Don't Go/ Parchman Farm.I didn't know anything about Parchman Farm so I looked it up on Wikipedia. It is an autobiographical song written by Bukka White about his experience on an infamous prison farm in Alabama. It was later recorded by Mose Allison with a different arrangement which i guess is where Van became aware of the song.
Then Van said, " As this is a folk festival, I'll sing a folk song". It was Dead Or Alive which is a Woody Guthrie song that Van recorded for The Skiffle Sessions album with Lonnie Doneghan. I bet Lonnie played at the Cambridge Festival a few times.Then it was the great Enlightenment which is a song I never get tired of hearing.Another great song followed Rough God Goes Riding. The next song though I could have done without which was Tear Your Playhouse Down which to me is one of the lesser of Van's lesser songs and in a time slot of only 75 minutes something like Here Comes The Night would have been a much better crowd pleaser.
The next song though was absolutely brilliant, Days Like This which delighted the hard core Van fans and festival goers alike. It was perfect with Van scatting along at the end and really enjoying himself. Next up was Moondance. The audience loved this when they recognised it. My only complaint is that when the time slot is so short there is no need to give all the band a solo. I know it gives Van's voice a rest but four minutes would have been long enough and they could have squeezed in another song without the solo's.A song which I heard ad-nauseam about ten years ago was next, Precious Time but I hadn't heard it for quite a while so I didn't mind and the Cambridge audience loved it so who am I to object.The whole audience sang along to one of Van's rare chart hits.They also loved Real Real Gone / You Send Me and Van seemed to be enjoying the party atmosphere because at the end he said, "One more time", and sang the last bit again. The Ray Charles Classic I Can't Stop Loving You followed with Shana trying to repeat the part that the Crawford Bell Singers used to do so well a few years ago. The audience went wild when they recognised the opening bars of Brown Eyed Girl which Van was almost obliged to do for this audience. He seemed to enjoy the audience participation and stopped singing at one point and let the crowd sing all the Sha La La's. I knew it was coming to an end now when Help Me began and during Gloria I was heading for the exit to avoid the crush but I did listen from the back. The crowd loved it and I think Van made quite a few new fans. There was no transcendental songs like In The Garden etc but I knew that wouldn't happen. It it was a most enjoyable evening in beautiful weather in a nice atmosphere and when I met up with Dail and Evonne we all agreed it had been a great day at Cambridge Folk Festival and the highlight had been seeing Van the Man.