Thursday, July 14, 2016

Van Morrison and Lizz Wright in Stuttgart!

As I mentioned in my last post, Bill and I just enjoyed a two night "staycation" in Stuttgart.  We booked two nights at the Waldhotel in Degerloch so we would be very close to the Schlossplatz, which was where Van Morrison and his opening act, Lizz Wright, would be performing.

Normally, when we attend events in Stuttgart, we simply drive or take the train in.  This time, we decided to get a hotel room.  Originally, I was also supposed to see Dr. Blair in downtown Stuttgart on Tuesday of this week.  We live about 25 miles from Stuttgart and, with the traffic, it can be a real pain to get to and from the city.  Add in the hassle and expense of parking and the hotel idea becomes a lot more appealing.  My dentist appointment was rescheduled at the last minute, but we still had our staycation.  Enough about that, though.  This post is about the fantastic concert Bill and I attended last night.


The clouds threatened to dampen more than spirits last night.


Civilized crowds enjoying food and beverages outside of the venue.

We purchased our tickets to see the show back in April.  I love Van Morrison's music, but had never had the chance to see him perform live.  I had also heard of Lizz Wright, because she did a gorgeous cover of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" that was included on a jazz compilation album I have.  I knew I'd enjoy her performance, even though up until this morning, I didn't own any of her albums.  That situation has now been rectified.


The stairs lead to the business lounge, where free wine was pouring.


Anyway, prior to last night, I had no experience attending a show at the Schlossplatz.  The other concerts I've been to in Stuttgart were at the Liederhalle.  I didn't know what to expect.  I also noticed that quite a lot of tickets had been sold, though mostly for the "stehplatz" area.  Basically, that means standing up for a few hours while you listen to the music.  Being an old fart whose married to an old fart, I determined that we'd rather sit.  Bill has some issues with his knee and we're both pretty short and have trouble seeing over tall people.

I booked us business tickets, which were hella expensive at about 190 euros each.  There was a time earlier in our marriage when buying those tickets would have been out of the question.  Fortunately, we had the means to get the pricey seats.  An added perk was a much shorter line to get into the Jazzfest and access to the business lounge, which was pouring free wine and beer all evening.  And the wine they were pouring wasn't the cheap stuff... or maybe it was cheap, but it didn't taste cheap.  ETA: My German friend Susanne says that there was also hot food included in the ticket.  I thought I saw something about food when I booked, but wasn't sure.  Oh well.  Next time, I'll know for sure!  I also have a cute pink wristband to commemorate sitting in the expensive seats, too!

As we were enjoying Lizz Wright's luminous vocals, a storm came rolling in and dumped rain on all the people in the stehplatz.  I looked at Bill and said, "You're glad I got us seats, aren't you?"  He nodded affirmatively.  The folks who were standing didn't seem to mind too much.  The sound was great and they had room to move.


Lizz Wright on stage from where we were sitting.  She was very kind to the people standing and did some uptempo songs so they could dance and stay warm.

The music last night was... what can I say?  Fantastic.  Really, it was the most enjoyable four hours I've spent in a long time.  Lizz Wright is a phenomenal talent and I was very surprised that she didn't pull in more of a crowd than she did.  Her voice is simply marvelous and her band is very passionate. But what I enjoyed most about her, besides her silky voice, was the fact that she's very humble and gracious.  She told us that it was "surreal" to be opening for Van Morrison and basically said she knew that most everyone was there to see him play.  She said she also looked forward to enjoying his concert along with us after she finished warming us up.



I enjoyed watching Lizz Wright's face as she sang.  I could tell that she was really enjoying herself, especially as she beat her tambourine with its picture of praying hands on it.   I also enjoyed her band.  The organ player was especially entertaining.  Sometimes, his face would contort into almost pained expressions, as if it hurt his soul to make music so beautiful.  I saw him singing along with Lizz and not really because he was backing her up.  I also liked watching her guitar player, who would curiously play with a guitar pick between his teeth.  Anyway, this morning when I got home, I downloaded all of Lizz Wright's albums.  She's fabulous.  Her alto voice is like warm, melted chocolate... smooth, sensual, and satisfying.


Another shot of the platz.


Van Morrison hit the stage at about 8:15 pm, after a bunch of roadies squeegeed the stage and moved around the instruments.  Once he hit the stage, he was all business.  Van Morrison sang for about two hours straight.  He never spoke to the crowd, but was all business... and everybody was LOVING it.  The guy sitting next to Bill was dressed in a leather suit and scarf and danced frenetically in his seat, all the while conducting.  He reminded me of a drunk guy Bill and I ran into in Luxembourg City, though it wasn't alcohol that was intoxicating our new German friend.  The drunk guy we ran into in Luxembourg happened to show up at the main square while a band from a Munich high school was performing.  He staggered out to the middle of the square with his misbuttoned shirt and a can of Carlsberg beer, conducting and lumbering about to the music.  At least at the Van Morrison concert, the conductor was reasonably sober and sitting down.  It was still fun to watch him getting into the music, though.


Some readers may know that I am myself a singer and frequently get moved when I listen to the right sounds.  I must say, there were some tears of joy last night.  When Van Morrison sang "Someone Like You", I pretty much melted into tears.  I found Van's performance very inspiring.  I tell you what, though.  The guy who really stole the show last night was the keyboardist/trumpet player.  I was in awe watching him shift effortlessly from organ to piano to trumpet in the course of a single song.  I love watching musicians who love their work and it was clear that he did.  Van Morrison himself was looking and sounding fine, wearing a hat, sunglasses, and not really doing anything but singing, playing saxophone, and harmonica.  He had a fantastic backup singer who was not introduced to us.  Pity, because I would probably download all of her albums, too.

As we were enjoying last night's show, I marveled at how civilized it was.  The crowds were well-behaved, so there was no need for shitloads of security.  People were drinking alcohol, but there were no ridiculous restrictions on how much a person was allowed to consume.  Food and beverages were reasonably priced and there were a lot of high quality options available.  Even the bathrooms were civilized.  They were clean, plentiful, and there was no need to pay a Klofrau.

When the show was over, it was too easy to just hop on the U-Bahn and go back to our comfortable hotel.  While we were riding back to the hotel, a drunk guy got on the train.  He was holding a can of beer and mumbling incoherently.  I happened to catch the eyes of a German guy standing nearby and we both cracked up at the same time as the drunk guy continued to blather about whatever.  He stayed on for one stopped, then hopped off into the night to his next destination.

After another great night's sleep, Bill and I got up, had breakfast, and said goodbye to the Waldhotel.  I think we'll be back, though.  All told, I spent about $440 for the room, plus another 100 euros on breakfast and a nightcap at the bar and whatever Bill paid to put the dogs up at Dog Holiday.  It wasn't a cheap staycation, but it was very restful and pleasant.  Now, thanks to Van Morrison's fabulous show, I'm left inspired to make some music and plan a trip to Ireland at long last.


I don't like to video during concerts, but I did manage to catch a few very brief snippets of last night's show.  It's only a minute of three songs, but you get an idea of what the mood was like...

If we're still here next July, I'm definitely going to plan another Staycation during Jazz Open week.  What a great time we had!  I'm sorry I didn't get us tickets to the other shows, like Keb Mo's.  He's playing tonight and I'm sad to be missing him.  

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