Monday, 17 March 2014

Van Morrison - The Ziggo Dome, 10 December 2013

It’s a lovely night for Vaughan dance………..

I have grown up listening to Van Morrison he has influenced me in ways that I can and will not be able to explain in this article. I was not someone who owned all of his albums, rather I only had one and yes, it is sad to say it is a best of compilation released on CD in the 90’s. But bloody hell, you cannot tell me that that Best of doesn’t have some of the greatest songs of all time because it sure does, well in this man opinion. So as you would expect, when I heard he was touring through Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity to see him play live, even if it was going to at the super barn that is the Ziggo Dome. Upon reflection it may have been the alcohol on the purchasing night that made me jump a little higher than normal at getting tickets, but never the less I jumped.

As the day of the show approached I started to hear more and more about Van the Man and some of his quirks. About his demeanor, his ‘professionalism”, his interaction with other musicians and his general performance. These quirks were not totally off the wall, rather they were to focus the attention on the music, which I guess should have been the main reason for so many people to go to the show in the first place. And whilst I hate the fact that he doesn’t like/ allow the bar to be open in the room he is playing in, as he wants the crowd to be listening to the show and not worry about getting a beer, I did worry if this would prove problematic for the 3 Australians going on the night (namely myself, Mum and Dad) and only time would tell (the Dutchy I was less worried about).

Off the bat what I can tell you about Van is he is a small man…..or was that rather that my tickets, whilst rather expensive, did result in me sitting a long way from the stage. Much further than I had anticipated when purchasing said tickets.

What I wasn’t ready for was the sound of his voice, to me it was “on the money”. He sounded exactly like I wanted him too, and for all I knew they could have been playing a recording from out the back. And secondly his voice still commanded an immense power, I mean here was a pint sized man, who it is fair to say is getting on in years, yet sounds every bit as strong as his did 30 years earlier. It was a credit to him and I am guessing his production team. Add to that, the fact that at any given time you could hear a pin drop, it was surreal to say the least. I mean as I stood off to one side of the Ziggo Dome watching, you could hear my fingers click above all of the crowd who were ridiculously attentive, watching Van and the man do his thing.

And whilst he had this amazing voice he did not care to use it to interact with the crowd at all. In fact I think it would be fair to say that Van decided he would speak to the audience even less than when I saw Bob Dylan earlier in the year. And if we are going on the record, and we are, when I am not prepared for something like this, it can really piss me off. But on this night and having done my research (to some degree) it seemed okay, like this was part of the Van experience. 

So he might not say a lot, but with one look, one “meaningful” look, the band knew exactly what to do next, and EXACTLY who was boss. This touring show was all about him and not about the “other” band members. This became very evident every time Van left the stage, as that was the time and the only time, that the other band members were allowed to perform any solos or show boating that may really show off their skills as musicians. And was this really a bad thing as I am sure no one in the venue paid to see Van Morrison’s band of merry men, no they paid their hard earned moola to see Van the man.

The performance itself was a lot more jazz based that I had expected, and he was more about the music than I thought he was (clearly I didn’t do enough research). And all up he only played for one hour and forty minutes. And while that was not a criminal amount of time, I have just found myself seeing Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen play in the last year (twice each) and all of those shows had gone close to 3 hours. So I was surprised that after 1hr 40 min Van decided to call it a night. And I can hear some of you saying “JV we know you, how is it possible that you were not baying for this guy’s blood?” and it is simple. In that time he played all the hits.

On the night what did strike me more than a little strange was the fact that there was no merchandise for sale and on top of that, the show appeared to be NO where near sold out. Not that having no merchandise to sell is the end of the world, but I did find it strange as I was lead to believe that for touring acts this was where the money was. On top of that this was a crowd who clearly has a significant disposable income as they were willing to part with some very good coin just to get in. I was surprised that they weren’t going to be fleeced for a couple more Euros on the way in or out of the door.

I am sure by know you are thinking, Jason why do you still sound so positive about a show with more than a few negatives? Well to me it is very simple, concerts are all about the experience, and on this night I went to the show with a very good friend of mine and my beautiful parents. And if by my poor attempt at describing the show you thought the performance was a bit on the sterile side (and it may well have been) it made up “in my eyes” for in the experience side. And whilst this will be very hard to express in words that give meaning I think the connotations of standing arm in arm high kicking or swaying and dancing along to Vans hits with family and friends says it all. I left this show on a natural high, no disappointments, and no regrets. Nothing but the fondest memories. And if you ask me would I going again, well maybe not…….not unless that is, my family and friends would be there again, and then I would do it again tomorrow and the day after and the day after that!!!


Photos courtesy of the Ziggo Dome - thanks!

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