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Van ‘The Man’ Morrison goes back to Orangefield High School and gets top marks

Belfast Telegraph – By Andrew Johnston – 23 August 2014


Photo: Van Morrison Musician/ Singer/Songwriter performing at his old school, Orangefield High 22 Aug 2014

With bottles of water and fizzy pop the only refreshments on offer and a curfew of 9.30pm in place, last night at the EastSide Arts Festival was a decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll affair.

But that hadn’t stopped a capacity crowd from shelling out £85 a head to see local legend Van Morrison.


Photo: Van (middle guy) in his teens as lead singer with his 1st band “Them”.

The last time Morrison trod the boards of Orangefield High, he would have been ‘Van the Boy’, but he returned every inch the conquering hero.

After the customary Celtic Swing intro had set the mood, the first words out of the singer’s mouth were the opening lines of Got To Go Back.

“When I was a young boy back in Orangefield,” crooned the portly figure in black, “I used to look out my classroom window and dream.”

If I had to do it all over, I’d do the same thing again,” he sang on third song Only A Dream.

Morrison’s dreams have certainly come true, and if his choice of setlist is to be taken at face value, he wouldn’t change a thing.
Photo: Van Morrison

As for his erstwhile classmates and teachers, several hundred of them had crammed into the school’s assembly hall.

The school’s closure is a shame on many levels, not least because the acoustics in the hall were better than those in many purpose-built music venues.

Every note Morrison and the band played was crystal clear, and the main man’s vocals have rarely sounded better.

Needless to say, he was hardly Mr Chatty, but he did seem in good form, whether announcing a “comedy section” (“Billy Connolly said I was very, very, very, very funny”) or delivering an impromptu Clint Eastwood impression during Rough God Goes Riding.

Elsewhere, Morrison delighted with a string of hits including Moondance, Whenever God Shines His Light, Days Like This and Brown Eyed Girl.

The highlight of the evening was arguably the 1999 track Precious Time.

The sentiment of the lyrics (“It doesn’t matter to which God you pray/Precious time is slipping away”) took on a deeper resonance given the occasion.

Now in his late sixties, it’s clear Morrison has fallen in love with his home country all over again. The star has played everywhere from the Harp Bar to Dunluce Castle over the past few years, and he’s booked for two nights at the Europa Hotel in October. But for sheer nostalgia and cultural significance, nothing is likely to top last night’s school reunion at Orangefield.

Read entire article here

And this article from Belfast Telegraph – By Mike Gilson/Editor – 27 August 2014: ‘At long last, I’ve come to appreciate why Van’s the man’

When friends said Astral Weeks, I said White Light/White Heat in the sort of uncompromising, boneheaded arguments that the young have over music.

Coming to Northern Ireland, you have to be careful, though. Van is yours and, no matter how often he has failed to return your affection, that far-away look in your eye when his music is mentioned is a warning sign not to be flippant.

Certainly not to suggest in jest, as I did once, that if Van was playing in my back garden I’d pull the curtains and put on the snooker. People in this office have still not forgiven me for that.

But in recent times I have been fascinated by his story arc. He’s given so much back to Belfast lately and gigged so often I think he might actually be due to play my back garden soon.

We’ll never know why he’s come back to us big-style, because he’ll never tell us. But his co-operation with the new Mystic Of The East heritage trail, which takes us to The Hollow, Connswater River, Cyprus Avenue and all the places that formed him and figure in his songs is perhaps a sign that, as we get older, those of us who have spent much of our lives “getting away” at some point spiritually or physically long to return.


Photo: Van Morrison

We begin to forgive home for the sins we attached to it, recognise that in our impetuous, grab-at-life youth we were partially to blame for our acrimonious separation and start to make our peace. And perhaps Van has now turned this life journey into one of the most artistically poignant performances we are likely to witness.

The chance to see this is why, together with hundreds of others, I am crammed into the plastic moulded chairs of our school-day nightmares as Van plays the last of his gigs at Orangefield School’s assembly hall on Sunday night.

Surreal isn’t really the word. The place is closing down almost before our eyes, the last pupils having left last term. The fixtures and fittings are being taken down. You half expect the doors to be removed from their hinges by the time you come to leave.


Photo: Van Morrison

But here we are in the hall where the young Van probably sat dreaming of escape while the headmaster droned on up on the stage. Now we are in Van’s place and he is up there. Except we do not take our eyes off him nor refrain from listening.

On the tiny stage he is delivering what might be one of the gigs of his life using a voice of such astonishing lustre and beauty it’s like he’s stolen it from a man half his age.

He doesn’t really acknowledge us, but nobody expected him to. The songs, full of the loving references to this place and its surrounds, are moving even to this sceptic’s ears.


Photo: Van Morrison and his daughter Shana Morrison often perform together in Ireland.

Around us all is changing and soon, when the bulldozers come, this gig will join the ghosts of thousands of kids being ordered not to run in the corridors, in detentions, winning sports days, just vague outlines, hazy memories.

Sunday night’s audience know how lucky they are to have such a chronicler for their small part of the world. Van’s songs are timeless even as buildings are reduced to dust.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

 

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