The big day had arrived.I threw back the curtains and the sun shone through."Fecking brilliant", I thought. I gave the fish Country Joe, Justin, Dude, Dirt, and Colleen a good feed and said cheerio to our faithful cat Murphy. We set out on one of the worlds great train journeys, Westbury to Castle Cary, it took 18 minutes. Thirsty after the epic journey we had lunch in a country pub and got a taxi to our hotel. It was the Meare Manor Hotel which used to be the home of the Abbots of Glastonbury. We were in the Lancelot suite with four poster bed and jacuzzi style bath etc, very nice.We chilled out for the afternoon and i tried a local beer called 'Lady Of The Lake'. At 5.30 our taxi arrived to take us into town. Thousands of fans were already queuing up to see Van The Man at the Abbey.
We went in the 'George And Pilgrim' pub which is one of the oldest pubs in England and crawling with ghosts.Simon had organised a get together of the Van fans. Because of the smoking ban though we had to keep going outside for a ciggie. Then showtime arrived.
The Abbey Ruins was once the most magnificent religious edifice in Britain. It stood on 12 hides of land (the symbolic measure of the New Jerusalem as described by St John in Revelation 21), and originally given to Joseph of Arimathea and the 12 Saints. The Abbey was built according to a prehistoric arcance tradition of sacred geometry known to the masons of the Middle Ages. The proportions of the Abbey relate to the principle numbers of the magic square of the sun. These numbers symbolize various aspects of solar energy and were also used in the construction of Stonehenge, of which the Abbey was spiritual successor. King Arthur was buried in the graveyard of Glastonbury Abbey south of the Lady Chapel, at a great depth, between two monumental pillars.
Prompted by hints and rumours, the monks excavated the spot. They dug down seven feet and unearthed a stone slab. Under it was a lead cross about a foot long, with a Latin inscription: "Hic iacet sepultus inclitus rex arturius in insula avalonia", "Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the Isle of Avalon". Some smaller bones, and a scrap of hair that crumbled away when touched, were explained as Guinevere's. The bones were placed in caskets, and in 1278 they were transferred, during a state visit by Edward I, to a black marble tomb before the high altar of the main Abbey church. There they remained until the Abbey was vandalized after the dissolution. No one has seen or heard of them since. Legend proclaims that after Arthur's death, a powerful spirit haunted the ruins of the Abbey, appearing as a black-armoured knight with glowing red eyes and a burning desire to eradicate all records of the ancient Arthurian legends which is why, it is said, that those seeking to discover the truth find so few facts available. Today a notice board marks the spot of Arthur's final resting-place. Occasionally people lay flowers there to honour this mighty King whose life and death gave birth to so many myths and legends. These mystical tales that still envelope Glastonbury Abbey in a cloak of mystery, add to its profoundly rich and timeless history.Glastonbury and Avalon have been a great source of inspiration to Van Morrison who was a well known figure in the area. Avalon Sunset, Common One and Enlightenment all have reference to Avalon. So it was particularly apt that Van should play in the Abbey grounds which is indeed a haunt of ancient peace.
We had a nice picnic while listening to Corinne Bailey Rae who is a sultry young soul singer and i thought she was really good although I'm not that familiar with her music. Twenty minutes after she finished Van came on stage.
As soon as the first notes of DID YE GET HEALED? started i knew we were in for a special night. It was great and we cleared away the picnic stuff and headed for the front. MAGIC TIME was next and Van sang this brilliantly as well. HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY followed and it was the dreaded Las Vegas version which i can't abide but not to worry. The next song was INTO THE MYSTIC one of the best songs in history, it was superb and especially moving being performed in the mystical surroundings of Glastonbury Abbey. I mean what more do you need?. PLAYHOUSE was next and this song is one of my least favourite songs from Pay The Devil but i must say that Sarah Jory excelled herself on this song. She is quite brilliant.RAINCHECK was next and it was great as well.The next song I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU went down a storm with the audience who loved it.One thing i noticed about this audience was there was lots of youngsters there which is a good sign.I didn't recognise the next song which was BABY, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO? (or something like that). Simon told me later that it was a Jimmy Reed song. Van went back into the archives on the next song DON'T START CRYING NOW > CUSTARD PIE.
STRANDED was next, one of Van's best songs of recent years, it was performed beautifully with some lovely piano playing as well.What a great band Van has at the moment. MOONDANCE was next and the audience loved it. I am a bit bored with it but its one of the songs which make the concerts possible so who am i to complain. ST JAMES INFIRMARY was next, a song i have never really liked but some people like it. Things livened up for STOP DRINKING THAT WINE, SONNY BOY. It got all the audience dancing and its a lot of fun.BEAUTY OF THE DAYS GONE BY was next and it was really excellent. PRECIOUS TIME followed and I'm getting a bit fed up with it now but i suppose the audience liked it.
The next song though made the whole evening worthwhile and one of Van's best ever songs which i don't think i have heard him perform before TUPELO HONEY.This song is tailor made for this present band and Sarah was quite sublime on this song. The great songs continued with WHY MUST I ALWAYS EXPLAIN.
The concert ended with BROWN EYED GIRL and GLORIA which is what the crowd wanted to hear. The sun was setting over Avalon as a huge firework display ended the concert in spectacular style. Overall i thought it was a quite brilliant performance in very special surroundings and meeting up with some great friends made it even more special.
The next afternoon in the George And Pilgrim we got chatting to the owner of the Gothic Image bookshop which has been in the High Street for 30 years and sells all sorts of weird and wonderful books and music. He was in there with his friends and I told them about my blog page and they said they wanted to read my review so this is for you.It was nice meeting you.
Van Morrison gets great again:
So, one of the wettest summers around and the prospect of Van Morrison playing outdoors. You’d either be a very smug pessimist or an off the register optimist to be viewing that with any enthusiasm. And yet . . .
The man defied all expectations and turned in a stonker of a performance. Now don’t be daft, there was no smiling or audience banter or playing late into the night but clearly there was something going on. Maybe this had something to do with his inspired band which in addition to the usual keyboards, guitar, small brass section also included violin and a selection of slide instruments – dobro, pedal steel and straight electric slide guitar. The connection between all the band and their leader but especially between the pedal steel and violin was something to hear enabling solos from one instrument to continue on with the other fairly seamlessly. Coupled with some interesting oldies – Into the Mystic anyone? – brought the house down. Except it was outdoors and the abbey had already been pulled down several hundred years previously. One particular highlight was the seeming question of “what do you want me to do”? which, before a stunned audience could hit him with requests, turned out to be the instruction to the band for the next song – and very fine it turned out too. As did
the weather. Needless to say, for the finale we got a ripping version of Gloria (well there always is one, it’s how you know he’s about to leg it) and then there were fireworks to take our minds off the fact that he wasn’t coming back after that (he never does – so don’t go calling out for Gloria early in a set or you might find yourself short-changed). Fantastic, an addition to the list of Van Morrison shows that you can recall with joy – I have a vague memory his performance at Knebworth back in ‘74 was similarly impressive but we were all younger then.
And an honourable mention for Corinne Bailey Rae who did a sterling job of performing whilst everyone stuffed their faces – she deserved better but you can’t interfere with a picnic when the sun’s shining. Those Glastonbury events just keep on getting better. But have you noticed how no-one sits on the ground any more? Time was that you stood up and danced – in a reserved English style or an off your face deranged way (the latter guaranteeing lots of space around you) or you just keeled over on the ground. Ah, the dangerous edge of rock and roll replaced by comfort. Bring on the nurses.