If you’re keeping score, this is the fourth Van concert I’ve been to, and up after “Got to Go Back” I get to hear “Moondance” for the fourth time in a row. There are not many Van shows I’ve been to that I haven’t heard “Moondance” – he’s taken this song through the ringer and back through it again; just when you think there are no more ways to do it, out comes something completely new and different. But after a while, no matter how innovative, it is a song, ultimately, that you feel you’ve heard several hundred times too many as it is, knowing that as long as you continue to go see Van live, you’re going to hear again and again. What a marvelous night for a moondance. If somehow I could collect all the times this song has been played and multiplied that by the number of people who have heard it all those times, and could package that up, well, that would be an awful lot of moondances. I have this new rule about “Moondance.” I make it a rule to listen to it no more than one time a day. Which means that any time it comes on, say, in the car, I immediately fast forward; this on the chance that I could be in a position at some point later in the day when I can’t fast-forward and will therefore reach my quota for the day. There’s no value in peaking early with this rule … can I just have one more dance? Like if I’m at a concert. I can’t fast-forward live. Not yet, anyways. As long as there is Van, there is another chance to dance.
Just like summer nights, there are some concerts that are perfect. This was one of them. It goes without saying that again, the show was completely different. That is always the beauty of going to a Van show – a constant – that you never know what you are going to get. One doesn’t think in terms of expectations, because you can never know what to expect. It isn’t because it was different, though, that made this a perfect show. I have nothing but the greatest of memories of the music at the first three shows I had been to, but you could add those three together and they still didn’t fill the space that Van did this July night.
It’s always fun to talk to other fans who went to one of those 1986 shows in support of NGNMNT. I think we all would agree that Pee Wee Ellis was a huge presence on stage – there is just nothing to complain about with this man on saxophone. His contribution to Van’s music over the years is nothing short of brilliant. One of the greats of music – may his legacy live on forever.
The strings were like a gift from heaven. Including John Platania on guitar. None more beautifully displayed than on “It’s All in the Game.” Talk about first times. Listening to it this night was to wish that I could hear this song all the time, every time, as much as possible. Once was not enough. It immediately jumped onto my top 10. And has never left. Definitely on my Ultimate Set List.
This song has the distinction of being the only number one hit that was written by a US vice president – that would be one Charles Gates Dawes, who became VP under Calvin Coolidge in 1925, thirteen years after penning the music, “Melody in A Major.” The lyrics were added in 1951 and it was renamed “It’s All In The Game,” which later became a number one hit for Tommy Edwards in 1958. Difficult to say which version Van might have heard, but it was likely Cliff Richard’s that was on the charts in 1964. I had never heard either – it took me until 2007, down in my brother’s basement, both of us hunting through his record collection, to dig up the Tommy Edwards version – so this song was first and always Van’s for me.
Tonight as the string quartet with the added guitar line meandering throughout the opening lulled us into Van’s many tears had to fall we were off into this love story, told in troubadour fashion, like the piper in Wind in the Willows, drawing us under the spell of the music and the story. Like when I read Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Red Shoes” as a little girl – the red shoes carrying the girl across the fields, down the streets, and I flew with her. I want to loose myself, I want to lose myself, I want to loose myself, I want to lose myself I want to lose myself… make it real one more time again…make you feel like you will fly away. “Tir Na Nog” from the new album, which came up later in the set, was given the full strings treatment. The Celtic bard this time – the most simple of songs, again of love and desire, but this time with a mystical embodiment. The audience just eats it up. Another song I was never to hear live again, “The Master’s Eyes,” found his voice wrapping itself around the notes and the mystical appears again, this time in the form of structured religion. Later still we got “In the Garden,” “She Gives Me Religion,” and “Haunts of Ancient Peace,” and “Summertime in England.” I had no idea what this religion of his was, but I was along for the ride.