Sunday 23 October 2016

Van Morrison: Fans come from all over world for gig of a lifetime

Brian Hutton

Published 01/09/2015 | 07:00

Van Morrison performing on Cyprus Avenue
Van Morrison performing on Cyprus Avenue
Cyprus Avenue

Van Morrison celebrated his 70th birthday with once-in-a-lifetime concerts on the east Belfast street that he immortalised in his masterpiece 'Astral Weeks'.

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Three thousand fans squeezed into Cyprus Avenue - the 'avenue of trees' as he called it in the seminal album - for two intimate shows in his birthplace.

Hundreds travelled from dozens of countries for what had become a pilgrimage ever since the gigs were first announced last year.

Tickets which quickly sold out with a face value of £50 (€70) traded on online auction sites for up to £400 (€550).

Despite the heavens opening for a deluge of rain at the start of his first show at 3pm, poncho-covered devotees gave the six-time Grammy award winner a standing ovation.

Opening songs included classics 'Moondance', 'Brown-Eyed Girl' and 'Baby Please Don't Go'.

Politicians, playwrights, fellow musicians and screen actors, including 'Sex and the City' star Kim Cattrall and television celebrity chef Rick Stein, were among those who braved the weather for the special birthday concerts.

Rick Haught (57) travelled from Eugene, Oregon in the US with his wife Carla for the first show, the climax of Belfast's EastSide Arts Festival.

"I'd be lying if I told you when I stepped onto Cyprus Avenue I didn't get goose bumps," he said.

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"I had always wanted to see Van in Belfast, but to see him on his birthday on this street is something special."

Mr Haught has travelled to 12 US states to see the enigmatic star and has been planning this trip for over a year.

"It's the soundtrack to everything I've done for the last 40 odd years," he added.

Mark Keown (54), from Sandford Avenue in east Belfast, grew up among the local place names made famous the world over on countless Van Morrison albums.

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"This is all very familiar to us, so when you listen to something like Cyprus Avenue, you know exactly where it is - you have a sense of the geography as well as the poetry of the song," he said.

The recently knighted genre-defying singer and multi-instrumentalist was born close to Cyprus Avenue, in a small two-up two-down on Hyndford Street, on August 31, 1945.

He once described the much more affluent, 85-tree lined Cyprus Avenue up the road as "a very mystical place" and someplace "where I could think".

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Irish Independent

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