Monday, August 04, 2014

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.


The End.

Review: Cambridge Folk Festival 2014. Part 1

It had rained heavily on Saturday at Cambridge Folk Festival but on Sunday morning when Dail, her friend Evonne and I set off from Dail's house in the pretty town of Stamford it was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky so I was relieved I didn't have to pack my emergency poncho. It only took about an hour to get to the festival site in Cherry Hinton on the outskirts of Cambridge. This was the 50th annual festival and I had never been before but this year I thought I would make the effort especially as Van Morrison was on. When we entered the arena where all the stages were I noticed  how crowded it was compared to the Village Pump Festival the week before. The arena was hardly any bigger than at the Village Pump but there was about ten times the amount of people which meant that it was packed. What made it worse was that everybody seemed to have brought fold up chairs.It said in the programme not to bring chairs unless you were elderly,disabled or injured but people had ignored that and placed chairs to claim their spot. It was just a sea of chairs. At the Village Pump there was room to breathe but not here.

                                                                  Anyway, that was the only thing I didn't like about this festival. Everything else was great. We took a walk up to the front and  watched a bit of Sarah Jarosz who is a young American singer-songwriter who was accompanied by a fiddle player and a cellist. She was quite good I thought. Then we went to the Club Tent where they showcase new young musicians and there was a really good young English singer-guitarist on. I think his name was Luke Jackson . Dail wanted to secure her position right at the front so we went back to the main stage and got a place right on the barrier and Dail and Evonne took turns keeping this place for the next eight hours. Evonne and I went for a stroll and got a drink and we listened to The High King's.
They are a traditional Irish folk band and their set was mainly well known Irish songs but performed brilliantly. This is just the sort of lively music festival audiences love on a sunny day and they went down a storm. After that we got some food and rejoined Dail. Jason Isbell was on next. I hadn't heard him before but I had heard great reports of him and I must say I thought he was great. Some of the songs were really sad and touched a nerve but it was a great performance. He was accompanied on vocals and violin by his wife Amanda Shires who I think you will agree is gorgeous (See photo).The Oysterband were on after Jason and Dail and Evonne were blown away by them and afterwards couldn't stop talking about them but I didn't see them. I had gone for a walk.
   Strolling past Stage 2 I heard a fair maiden singing a plaintive ballad. "I know that voice", I thought to myself and had a look. Just as I thought it was the one and only Kate Rusby making a surprise appearance. I think Kate is wonderful and I'm going to see her in Bath in December so I stopped and listened to the rest of her set. She brought on Sarah Jarosz as her guest and it was really nice.

 After Kate's surprise appearance I walked on and I met Someone I recognised. It was none other than Chris White who is one of Van Morrison's horn players. I shook hands with him and told him that we had met before. It was in the pub after a Van concert at the Albert Hall. He said that he remembered me but he might have just been polite. I said I was looking forward to seeing Van later. He was friendly. I think all of Van's band are really nice people. I should have asked for a photo but I didn't think. Never-mind. Then strolling through the market area I found a tattoo parlour doing Henna tattoo's which last about 14 days. "I know, I'll get a Van tattoo", I thought. " Can I have a tattoo saying Van The Man in Celtic lettering please?", I said to the girl. "We don't do Celtic lettering", she replied, "This is your choices". "Ok, do what you think is best".I felt obliged to have one once I had sat down. Anyway, it turned out rubbish and a waste of money. I took a photo of it but I'm not showing you it. It will be gone in two weeks and good riddence.
                                                               After that waste of time I saw The Rails on stage 2. I had seen them in Bath less than two weeks ago. In Bath they were a two piece acoustic act but at Cambridge they were a five piece electric outfit and were great. I must get The Rails album because I really like them. Kami looked really cool in her shades and I filmed Bonnie Portmore which is my favourite of their songs (See video below) . Back at the main stage I tried to rejoin Dail and Evonne but it had become impossible so I listened to Julie Fowlis from a distance. Julie is a traditional singer from the Outer Hebrides. An internet friend Jez has often mentioned her so I had a good listen.She has an exquisite voice singing in the Gaelic. Very nice indeed.

 I needed another drink and a cigarette and sat at a table outside the main bar. Who should I meet but Brendan from Dublin who I last met up with in Brighton back in February. It was great to see another die-hard Van fan. We watched Ladysmith Black Mambazo from a distance. I don't think Brendan liked them much and I wasn't all that bothered. I got a passer by to take our photo and we passed the time chatting about Van. Eventually Ladysmith ended and as thousands of people moved out we knew it was time to make our move. It was time for the legend they call Van The Man.




To be continued in Part 2, Van Morrison At Cambridge 2014.