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Morrison top of the class for bitter-sweet school farewell

Past pupil Van Morrison performs at Orangefield High School in east Belfast. .
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Past pupil Van Morrison performs at Orangefield High School in east Belfast. . Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

 

It was a bitter-sweet farewell to Orangefield as Van Morrison revisited the scene of both his early inspiration and enduring memories for three special concerts.

The weekend pilgrimage was shared by hundreds of former staff and pupils eager to show their appreciation to the iconic singer/songwriter who put their otherwise unremarkable secondary school on the world map.

There was no shortage of nostalgia as an inspired Morrison belted out a carefully chosen set list in the assembly hall of the now closed Orangefield High.

This was the illustrious former pupil giving something back – happy as always to pay homage to the cradle of his creative genius.

The final concert on Sunday night brought the curtain down on a tough, inner city school that punched well above its weight in terms of producing impressive musicians, writers and politicians if not – with a few notable exceptions – renowned academics.

Morrison’s performance back where he first took to the stage was the undoubted highlight of the five-day Eastside Arts Festival.

Conjuring up images of many east Belfast landmarks, he thrilled the often boisterous crowd with Got to Go Back, Orangefield, On Hyndford Street and Brown-eyed Girl.

It was a masterclass in how to rework a back catalogue. Although the original tracks have stood the test of time as well as any, the vibrant, live renditions breathe new life into decades-old Morrison standards.

And he has the appearance of someone happy at his work - laughing aloud after some wayward ad-libbing on Ballerina, the first encore.

Dana Masters was assured as ever on backing vocals and also performed impeccable solos on Someone Like You and Sometimes We Cry.

Sound quality to rival most purpose-built music venues was an added bonus for the appreciative audience – many enjoying their first Van Morrison concert, taking advantage of the cut-price £25 ticket fee for former staff and pupils.

Despite becoming increasingly accessible in recent years – with a tendency to perform smaller, more intimate gigs – the enigmatic former window cleaner has lost none of his trademark mysticism or sense of wonder.

The years have also been kind to Morrison’s instantly recognisable voice.

An unforgettable night was rounded off with two encores, the second featuring a rousing “No guru, no method, no teacher” climax to In The Garden.

If Sunday night’s performance is anything to go by, he could bring his brand of Belfast blues to yet another generation.

• Set list

Got To Go Back

Joyous Sound

Centrepiece

Orangefield

Magic Time

Someone Like You

Northern Muse

Whenever God Shines His Light

Cleaning Windows

Too Many Myths

Baby Please Don’t Go

Sometimes We Cry

Brown-eyed Girl

Precious Time

Enlightenment

On Hyndford Street

Ballerina

In The Garden

 

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