Days Like This are a joy to behold
It was perhaps the most awaited street party Belfast has ever seen - the homecoming birthday concert of Van Morrison, without question Northern Ireland's greatest musical export. Van The Man is an unique musical talent, now turned 70, whose extensive volume of work has made him a global superstar.
His two concerts in Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast, the street known to his global fanbase from his seminal Astral Weeks album, recorded when he was in his early 20s, sold out almost as soon as tickets became available. It was an entirely fitting venue for a singer whose roots are in that part of the city.
And it is a city which he has never forgotten for all of his fame. He drew inspiration for some of his finest songs from growing up in working-class Belfast, and he has always been keen to return home to perform.
Morrison is an enigmatic character - taciturn and unwelcoming of any personal intrusion - who simply lets his music do the talking. It certainly speaks volumes to his fans, as the audiences at his concerts yesterday proved.
They had come to Belfast from all parts of the globe, including Australia, various countries in Europe and a large contingent from the US. Such is the magnetic appeal of the man and his music.
They had come to pay homage to an outstanding artist, as well as to be entertained. And Morrison tuned into the feelings of his audience, playing some of his best loved hits in his inimitable style, which combines rock, soul, blues, jazz and traditional Celtic to create an unique fusion.
Tourism chiefs know a winner when they see one and cleverly commissioned a film of the concerts, which will be an invaluable marketing tool for their promotion of Belfast as a visitor destination.
Morrison is as much part of - and as big a presence in - east Belfast as the giant Samson and Goliath cranes that dominate the skyline in that area and across the city. He may not live there, but from his songs and from his choice of venue for his landmark birthday, it is clear that he still holds as much affection for it as its residents do for him.
It was his song Days Like This that was chosen as the signature anthem of the peace process, encapsulating the aspirations of an entire community. It is a dream yet to be fully realised, but for a few hours yesterday evening, it summed up the emotions of those who gathered to listen to an icon.