Van The Man

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Wang Center

For our last summer concert, Greg and I saw Van Morrison last night at the beautifully restored Wang Center in the Boston Theater District last night. The show was advertised as "Astral Weeks" and other older material, of which I am not very familiar. Greg loves Van Morrison and has listened to "Astral Weeks" since he was a kid, so this one was for him. Apparently Van Morrison is a bit ambivalent about performing, and does not want to be photographed or videotaped by fans. I was upset because in my rush to finish work, pick up Rebecca at camp, and get her to my Mom and Dad's, I had forgotten our camera. It didn't matter because when we arrived at the Wang Center, there were large signs everywhere forbidding attendees from taking picture/video, and this was actually enforced by Wang Center ushers. So sadly, I have no personal video/pictures from the night to post, but the performance was professionally videotaped, so maybe it will become commercially available at a future date.

It was a beautiful evening, and Greg and I arrived about forty-five minutes early, so we thought about stopping at a bar for a drink before heading over to the show. Everything nearby was packed, so we ended up going in early, and enjoying a overpriced glass of wine (me), a beer (Greg), and the view of the magnificent performance hall, from our seats high in the balcony. Van came out at 8:00 PM sharp, with no opening act. His onstage musicians included two cello players, a bassist, a drummer, a percussionist, a pianist, a flute/trombone player, a guitar player, and himself (vocals, guitar, saxophone and harmonica).

Unfortunately, the show was somewhat wasted on me. His voice sounded cool, but I couldn't understand a word he was singing, which made it hard since the only song I knew that he played the whole night was his encore. Greg is very familiar with Van's older stuff, and thought he sounded great. It was fun listening to him, and watching him conduct his nine piece band on stage, but I would have enjoyed it more if I knew more of the songs.

The encore song was "Gloria", which I thought was created by The Doors. Greg told me that Van Morrison actually created "Gloria", and it was an international hit for his first band, Them. Them toured the US in May and June of 1966, ending with three weeks in L.A. at the Whiskey a Go Go. During the last week, The Doors opened up for Them, and apparently Jim Morrison, extremely impressed by Van, based a lot of his own singing style on the Irish musician. On the last night of the tour, the two bands played "Gloria" on stage together, and The Doors continued to cover the song for the rest of their short but influential career.

On the way home, I started wondering if Van Morrison is the most famous person I've ever seen perform. My guess is no, although he is probably among the top four. So in honor of our last summer concert, here's the list, in very loose chronological order, of all the famous bands I've seen in the past twenty years. One star means I've only seen them as an opening act, and two stars means I've seen them more than once.

  1. Van Halen (with Sammy Hagar)

  2. Robert Plant (solo)

  3. Tesla

  4. Guns n Roses

  5. Metallica*

  6. Pearl Jam**

  7. The Red Hot Chili Peppers**

  8. The Rolling Stones

  9. Bob Dylan**

  10. Aerosmith**

  11. The Grateful Dead**

  12. Jerry Garcia (solo)

  13. The Beastie Boys

  14. Crosby, Stills and Nash

  15. Peter Gabriel

  16. Phish**

  17. The Allman Brothers

  18. The Black Crows

  19. Neil Young

  20. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

  21. Wilco**

  22. B.B King

  23. Jeff Tweedy (solo)

  24. The Decemberists**

  25. Van Morrison

I know I'm missing a few, but that's all I can come up with. If I saw them multiple times, I listed them roughly where I saw them for the first time. Anyone else seen some famous bands?

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