Belfast Telegraph

Will Van Morrison treat Belfast to Astral Weeks?

By Margaret Canning

It's an ‘astral’ weekend for Londoners as Van Morrison takes to the stage of the Albert Hall to perform one of the best-loved albums of his career.

Astral Weeks’ soaring melodies and heartfelt lyrics helped assured east Belfast Van’s place in the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame.

But the 40-year-old recording also put several east Belfast locations on the cultural map, from Cyprus Avenue to St Donard’s Church whose ringing bells are referenced in Beside You.

However, the artist himself has a love-hate relationship with the work as he fears it has overshadowed the rest of his oeuvre.

Still, the father-of-three has been coaxed to perform the album in a series of one-off concerts.

Alas for his homegrown fans, there are no plans to perform it on Irish soil — despite wishful thinking about a Titanic Quarter gig, close to the east Belfast immortalised in his song.

Stuart Bailie, a Radio Ulster DJ and expert on Van, confessed he was “tragically, too busy” to visit Van in the Albert Hall. But he |refused to give into pessimism over the juicy prospect of a Belfast gig.

“I keep hearing rumours that something might be happening, so I don’t want to spook the horses on that one.”

Mr Bailie, who regularly brings tourists to east Belfast spots revered by Van fans, said he listened to Astral Weeks at least once a month.

“My view is that just like all schoolchildren hear Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney, they should be taught about Astral Weeks at school.

“It’s one of the greatest pieces of art to have come out of Ireland,” he said.

Tickets costing up to £200 are still available.

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