First night in DC

I’ll pick up where I left off … going to bed Wednesday morning just in advance of the birds’ wake-up call. I never would have heard them, though, what with the music from Tuesday night’s show filling up that space inside my head. Morning, as it often does, came too soon, but not without its rewards…lying there in bed, and with the birds long gone about their day, there was nothing but the music of Tuesday night running through my head to luxuriate in.

But not for long…lots to do this non-travel day before hitting the road for DC. We could have gone to the beach for an afternoon jumping the waves and watching the evening fireworks at Hampton Beach, or we could have gone exploring some of the local trails. But in the end that turned out to be far too ambitious a plan and we stayed right where we were, taking a lounging day and stuffing ourselves with cherries, simply because we could. Lots of music on the stereo, with Veedon Fleece and Hard Nose the Highway leading off the rotation, a Caledonian day, with the music floating out to the porch as we enjoyed the sights and sounds of a beautiful summer’s day in New Hampshire, with just enough time to end it on the couch to watch the St. Luke’s video, getting to remind ourselves just how great it sounds when Van is inspired, in this case, with the likes of Georgie Fame.

We were up with the birds Thursday morning – just enough time for some coffee and load up on CDs for the car ride ahead. Out the door at 7 and down to Donna’s just after 8, we officially got ourselves on the road by 8:30. The GPS lady said we’d be in DC by 4:01, although as the hours passed, she became somewhat less optimistic about our progress over hill and dale. I think it was all those stops for coffee, although I think the traffic getting through New York City played its own part. But in the end, it just gave us more time to listen to Van and chat up the state of affairs in Vandom – and we all know, there are never enough hours for that.

It was a little before 6 when Donna and I dropped Sean off at his hotel and headed over to ours. Just enough time to park the car, drop off our bags, brush the teeth, comb the hair and off to the preshow. When I asked the concierge fellow for walking directions to The Exchange, he looked at me dumbfounded and asked me where we were from. Apparently, walking more than a few blocks is reserved for those who don’t know any better or are from New Hampshire. But how else do you see a city you’ve spent the day driving to get to? Obviously by cab.

But we’d have none of it, and 15-minute walk to The Exchange got us there in plenty of time for a beer and a chat with the fans who’d come in for two nights of Van. With Boston setting the stage, it was hard for all of us not to be a wee bit excited about tonight’s show. Who knew what to expect? The man is always full of surprises, and the anticipation was running high. It was good to see Mike Steiner and Cheryl, Dan, Robert, Mike and Lori, our host Randy, with we three road warriors rounding out the table. Where was Alan? Maybe he and a few others are only coming to the Friday night show, who knows?

It’s a short walk to the venue, and even accounting for the leisurely stroll over and the climb up the stairs to our box seats along the side, plenty of time to sit and wait, as once again, Van starts 10 minutes late. A far cry from the days when if you didn’t get there half an hour early, you ran the risk of missing the opening.

I loved the box seats – room to shift my very comfortable cushioned chair around to get a full-on view of Van, binoculars out, notebook at the ready. Donna was in the next box, and between the two of us, had our boxmates simply drooling in anticipation about what they were in store for – for all of them, this was their first concert. And I couldn’t help thinking what a great place to start.

It sure didn’t take long to rid myself of that notion. Although count me in as always being the last to know. I was having a great time where I was sitting – the band was in place on stage, my binoculars peeled on an archway stage right, waiting for Van to appear. And somewhere around 8:15, he did, walking through, and in the dim light looking like Gigi was holding his arm with her hand, propelling him along. He came in to sit and the piano to the sound of rapturous applause. My seat gave me a great view of his face, bathed in white spotlight. And I settled in for another great night of music.

But it was not to be. Van had a bee in his bonnet about something and he was making everyone around him pay. He was having none of it. And what a shame. A beautiful setlist, marred by whatever it was that was pissing him off. In Fair Play, he called out something, gesturing to someplace vaguely to his left…maybe it was a sound problem, although hard to tell. And from that moment on, it was a series of problems – his onstage table needed to be moved, some tea with honey for his dry throat, and at one point, beckoning Pete, the stage manager cum go-fer, onto the stage for a confab. Next thing you know, there’s Peter rummaging through assorted papers on a desk offstage, finally finding what Van was looking for, bringing them onstage, where Van never looked at them again. I have no idea what was up on the night, but with the music sounding like sounding like a diluted bucket of washwater, I had loads of time to be distracted by all the comings and goings. Van was not pleased to be there and simply played out his 100 minutes. It couldn’t go by fast enough for him.

Simply the most lackluster show, and a real shame for the money he is asking for these days. Although to be fair, if this was your first time seeing Van, you got a beautiful voice singing some lovely songs. And if you hate that whooping and yelling from the audience during Van’s shows, this was a perfect show for you. Dead silence out here. I think we were all looking forward to this excruciating experience to be over.

It’s the morning after, and easy to imagine that tonight is the night to make amends. Let’s hope whatever put him out of sorts yesterday has been dealt with.

You just never know with Van. He’s never gonna fake it like Johnny Ray. He plays it like he’s feeling. No faking it like Johnny Ray around these parts.

Looking at my watch, I’ve got a couple of hours to see what’s up in DC. I missed the early-riser group, who were off at the ungodly hour of 9 to soak up the sights of Washington – there are no shortage of monuments in this town and twice as many museums. I’ve got my eye set on the Smithsonian. Just enough time to get in some edukashun before the preshow.

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