I have seen Van Morrison on several occasions, and loved all his performances. My best experience with Van Morrison, is the concert he did at the Norwegian Wood festival in Oslo in June 2000. Both because Van the Man was telling jokes on stage, and making fun of his musicians. But also because of the dove. Today is his 67th birthdfay, but I sincerely hope he has no plans of retiring.
I never got any picture of the dove, since it didn’t come until after the thre first songs when we had to go out from the pit. But during Moondance, which came quite early in the set, a dove flew in and landed on organist Geraint Watkins’ instrument. There it sat through the whole concert. Here is a link to a picture of the dove. (I take no responsibility of the content of the page.)
The concert was recorded by NRK P1, where I was Music Director at the time. We were exceptionally happy to be allowed to do it, since he played a fantastic concert this night. Van was in a great mood, the band played excellent, and he sang all his best songs during the concert. I will say that of the around 500 concert recordings I was so lucky to be responsible for during the period 1993-2009, this is definitely Top 5.
But back to the dove. After Have I Told You Lately, where he introduced the song with “It’s just a song that I wrote that Rod Stewart made famous, it’s alright, I don’t mind” Van and the band did a long version of It’s All In The Game as an encore. The dove still sat there, as if it was listening to the great music. When the applause ended and the stage crew started to clear the stage, the dove fell down from the organ, dead.
In the book Norwegian Wood 1992 – 2011, author Tom Stalsberg tells that he asked a zoologist, Roar Solheim if the dove could have died from the loud sound on stage. Solheim states that the dove probably was ill and would have died anyway. If it had perceived the sound as dangerous, it would have stayed clear of the stage in the first place. Sten Fredriksen from the festival tells that they buried the dove backstage. I like to think that the dove probably was dying, but got a beautiful death accompanied by one of rock history’s greatest songs, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.
The second time I photographed Van Morrison was at La Zona Rosa during SXSW in 2008. The concert was an early evening gig, and after queuing for more than an hour, I got a great position in the pit. The concert was great, he played and sung as good as he usually does, and his band was excellent. But he didn’t do Have I Told You Lately, and there was no dove there. I got much better pictures of him, though.