Skeppsholmen, Stockholm (Sweden)
I’m no fan of Van, in fact I don’t own any of his albums (bar a dreadful cheap collection of demos that my sister bought in a charity shop for me). I didn’t even know he plays the saxophone until he stepped onto the stage and started blowing into one.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve now been converted, but thanks to some heavenly intervention a few songs into this festival gig it turned into one of the most memorable and entertaining gigs I’ve ever attended, and this without Van doing his Colin H-impersonation!
It didn’t start very promising, some pretty bland jazzy numbers had the audience clapping politely, before things got a little better when he trotted out some hits. Still, the right mood wasn’t there. Not on stage, not in front of it. But then:
“Hey where did we go, days when the rains came…” sang Mr Morrison, and in that exact moment the skies opened and showered us with gigantic cold, cold raindrops.
After Saturday’s hot, cloud-free sunfest and a mostly sunny (but not so cloud-free) Sunday afternoon, suddenly it was pouring down like a waterfall. And this changed the mood and turned the gig into a mad party.
It was as if everyone just thought; “OK, I’m here, i can’t get out from this crowd, I’m going to get absolutely soaked – the very least I can do to make it worth it is to have as good a time as possible!”
So while gusts of wind practically threw buckets of freezing water directly into our faces, and the stage crew desperately tried to cover up instruments and electrical components with tarpaulin; all of us in the audience started to dance, clap, sing along, cheer, laugh and make the most of it, making roller-coaster noises every time the wind and rain subjected us to yet another ice bucket challenge, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the beautiful rainbows flanking the stage where Van and his band kept playing (wiping the puddles off the keyboard in between songs), smiling at the scenes of collective madness in front of them (well, Van didn’t crack a smile – obviously).
At the end of the show I’m wet from head to toe (I did pack a mac but couldn’t get it out of my bag in time in the packed crowd, so I just covered myself with a big shawl) but happy as can be. At the end of “In the Garden” Van walks off the stage, still singing in his mic in the wings, before returning for “Gloria”, leaving his excellent band to keep jamming along for a long long time while the audience keeps singing, applauding their solos and dancing while the rain finally stops and allow us to wring out our clothes. The way they look at us and grin and cheer makes me suspect that it was a memorable gig for them as well.
(Songs: “Celtic Swing”, “Close Enough For Jazz”, “By His Grace”, “Days Like This”, “Baby Please Don’t Go”/”Parchman Farm”/”Don’t Start Crying Now”, “Wild Night”, “Moondance”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Wild Honey”, “Whenever God Shines His Light”, “Precious Time”, “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)”, “Bright Side of the Road”, “Real Real Gone”, “Think Twice Before You Go”, “And the Healing Has Begun”, “The Things I Used To Do”, “The Way Young Lovers Do”, “Help Me”, “In the Garden”, “Gloria”)
9000 wet souls, some covered up in waterproofs but plenty of others hiding underneath scarves, picnic blankets, sweaters, or trying to wear plastic bags as hats.
Everyone refusing to let the weather defeat them.
It made me think..
Van’s voice is remarkably good for a man his age, and his band is excellent. I didn’t think I knew many songs but as the gig went on I found myself going “Oh, that’s one of his? I know this one!” several times.
Still, as much as I enjoyed dancing to this in the rain, I’m not sure I would find it that interesting in my own living room…so I don’t think I’ll be buying his albums. Sorry Van!