I last saw Van Morrison at Hampton Court Palace in 2016 and as a seasoned Van watcher, I have to say that five years later, at the age of 75 he’s still most definitely got it. Yes, we all know he’s a grumpy f*cker who doesn’t give a shit whether he plays to an audience or not, but once you get over that element of the show, the rest is pure musical genius.
The venue helps enhance the magic. I’m not sure you could find a more wonderful venue to listen to his music, nestled in one of the courtyards of the Tudor Hampton Court Palace, admiring the turrets originally enjoyed by Cardinal Wolsey before Henry VIII took it over with all six of his wives.
We arrived on a boat, well a ferry really, picked up in Richmond and dropped at Hampton Court an hour and a half later. It’s a wonderful way to see the river:-
Approaching the palace from the river:-
Then you get to picnic in the glorious gardens first, although I have to say that it would be helpful to have been ushered into our seats before 8.30pm or given any sort of reminder it was time to get going. By the time we’d got through the queues and dumped our picnic stuff, Van was already on and the seats were only half full. It took about half an hour before everyone had finally taken their seats, so lots of disruption, standing up and letting people pass and no view of the legend in the meantime, who of course wasn’t going to bother to wait for us all to take our seats:-
Just look how beautiful it is when the sun goes down and the lights come on:-
I think he was in a pretty good mood. It is of course always a little hard to tell, but he did even say how great it was to be back with a live gig and he’d have been delighted to be in a non-Covid environment. His voice was as lush and pitch perfect as ever and he was fully in the moment, singing, playing his sax and his harmonica and conducting his band who all sit facing him to ensure they can respond to his every whim.
Good to see some older females up there with him – one on percussion and one with the most glorious voice imaginable. She showed it off to us once Van had done his leave the building trick – although lucky us – he gave us two encore songs, “Gloria” and “Brown Eyed Girl” where we could finally stand up and dance. The rest of his set included a number of songs I love. He played “Moondance” quite early on, but at twice the normal speed, just to ensure we didn’t start looking like we were enjoying ourselves too much at the beginning by dancing.
Other songs included “Day’s Like This”, “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Precious Time,” “Real Real Gone” – I forgot how much I loved that song. It was a pretty jazzy set, he did four covers including “Help Me” (sonny Boy Williamson) and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Don Gibson).
It was a warm balmy evening, the moon was out and it was the perfect evening, so thank you Van for letting us share your magical journey with you – even if you’re not bothered!
If you want to see perfection – listen to this version of “Precious Time” – you get to see his face as well, which is rare these days. He’s nearly always covered with a hat and sunglasses.
And here’s my last review, I got some pretty good photos:-