• How it all started
  • Dublin concert
  • The Hague concert
  • Antwerp concert
  • Photos by Jerry Kooyman

  • How it all started

    We first visited a John Denver concert in 1988 in our hometown The Hague. We were not fans when the concert started, but I believe we were when John walked away from the stage that night. After another concert not far from our home in 1990 (in Rotterdam, 30 km from our home), we decided we wanted to know much more about this man and his vision. In 1991 we had our first holiday with John Denver in the United Kingdom. We started with a concert in Edinburgh, and went on for concerts in Birmingham, London and Brighton. It became our favourite way of spending a holiday: some sightseeing and one or more John Denver concerts. The first question in mind when planning a holiday became 'where is John performing'. It brought us to Belgium and Germany in 1992, UK again in 1994 and twice to the USA (1995 and 1996). Of course we also visited Johns concerts in Holland everytime he visited us.

    This year we choosed to go to Ireland for our first visit to that country, and toured for five days in the South-Eastern part. The weather was pretty good, the nature is beautiful and the people very friendly.
    So, we ended up in Dublin to see our 20th John Denver concert on sunday, March 23rd. The concert was said to be started at 20.00 hrs, but we wanted to be early and arrived at 18.45. In many countries we would be the first in line, but not in Dublin. There was already a line formed and when the doors opened at seven we couldn't see the end of it anymore. We entered a big hal, and on the stage were three guitars and a piano. Slowly people entered their seats and 20 minutes after 8 all 7.000 seats were taken. John entered the stage.

    The concert in Dublin

    He entered the stage alone. We were up to a new type of concert, just John and his guitars. There were moments during the concert we did miss the band. It wasn't so long ago we were treated with the "Love Again" album and those arrangement were still fresh in our minds. Sure, John did everything he could to make them forget, he wistled on a few songs, he let the audience sing along, he was "ooh-ooh"-ing and "mmm"-ing a lot. But ofcourse there were moments we waited for the keyboard or the percussion, and it didn't came.
    Did that mean this concert was any less than the concerts we've been to before? Absolutely not! Because John had the stage all to himself, he could be more relaxed than in his concerts with the band and he talked quite a lot. Sometimes before the songs, sometimes after, sometimes even during the song. It's very disarming when he is in the middle of a song and just stops to tell a story. The selection of songs was sometimes surprising. He had them all: the spiritual songs, country and western songs, songs about nature and many lovesongs. There were sad songs and funny songs. He sang some of his greatest hits, and quite some not-so-famous songs. Old songs and a few almost new songs.

    "Hi", he said when he came up, and a loud "hi" came from the audience in return. Well, there seemed to be true John Denver fans in the audience. He started with a few songs we'd never heard before in concert: Eclipse and It Amazes Me. We were pleasantly surprised by an early Goodbye Again and Follow Me, since John hardly sung any love-songs the last few years. Then he continued with one of our very favourites Welcome To My Morning (Farewell Andromeda). He started with the Lalala'-part and just stopped in the middle, telling us that was our part to sing.
    Then he gave us a definition of spring. He had heard it from his father, didn't know if it was accurate, but it rang a bell for him: It's when a young man's fantasy turns into what a young woman has been thinking of all winter. We all had to sing along with Today.
    The part arrived where he sung some songs for children and about his own childhood. Catch Another Butterfly, For Baby (For Bobbie). He announced a Paul McCartney song, he corrected himself, a Sir Paul McCartney song. There was a short, polite applause from the audience. John got more response on his "Big deal" remark. I loved this version of Mother Natures Son. With his true remark that not all children will ever get what we take for granted, he sung another one of my very favourites I Want To Live, followed by Grandma's Feather Bed and a special version of Matthew, where he sung the last verse very, very slowly, in a speaking way.
    We were so surprised by our next very favourite The Wings That Fly Us Home. It's such a beautiful song. Since Ireland is a land with many golf-players, he came with the first song of the evening which is not recorded yet, 18 holes. The lyrics are funny and the audience loved it. After singing a short version of Sunshine On My Shoulders (he left out the second verse) John told us to close the first part of the show with the most popular song of British motordrivers, Take Me Home, Country Roads. After the first verse he told us another story about the song, that the license-plates in West-Virginia now have the subscription "Almost Heaven". After the second verse he told us about the popularity of the song in China.

    After this first part in which showed his spiritual and child-loving side, the second part was filled with Western and Love songs. It felt good, that John played so many love songs again. We missed them for a few years.
    Home On The Range was followed by Ponies. He sings that one so beautiful. After I'd Rather Be A Cowboy (Lady's Chains) and Darcy Farrow he told us, that some people come to Aspen to get away from all the busy stuff, and that he sometimes has to go away from Aspen to do so. And at one of those occasions, he was in a cabin where he had a dream that came back and back again. The next morning he took his guitar and wrote Whispering Jesse. The Wild Montana Skies (they really are) ended his Western part of the show and he started his love-session with Dreamland Express. It was the other song he wistled at. He warned us that people might look strange at you when you start to sing that song just walking on the street or anywhere else. I'm Sorry was followed by his mothers favourite It's A Sin To Tell A Lie. We expected we would have to sing with John that song, but he completed the song on his own. It was time to do a song at the piano. We hoped he would do more than one, since all piano songs are among our very favourites. He stopped directly after Seasons Of The Heart.
    The next songs he played with a recorded track. The Thought Of You. A few newer songs came along when he started with Is It Love?. Then he told us something about country songs. For instance what happens when you play a country song backwards. You get your house back, your dog back and your wife back. Sometimes you don't have to hear the song to know it's a country song. You can tell by the title. Like "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Leave". The one John recently wrote was called Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth (Because I'm Kissin' You Goodbye). He said it himself, it's a terrible song, but the audience loved it. Annie's Song and Rocky Mountain High closed the concert. It amazes me how one man can fascinate 7000 people all by himself for more than 2 hours (and all the time before and after that).
    Well, there had to be an encore of course. We were treated with Song For All Lovers and Perhaps Love. Telling the audience he loved Ireland and that the Irish sing better with him than anyone else in the world, he left the stage.

    The concert in The Hague
    Although most of the songs in the Hague were the same as in Dublin, the two shows were completely different. The songs John didn't sing in The Hague were his most recents, 18 holes and Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth. In stead of those two he sung Rhymes And Reasons and Country Girl In Paris. Or Did he sang the last one in stead of The Thougth Of You? A song he also didn't sing. Maybe an interesting question, maybe not. 
    Another change was a special request from our German friend Jochem, John sung Durango Mountain Caballero in stead of Ponies. In the encore A Song For All Lovers was skipped, John only sung Perhaps Love.

    So, many songs the same, and still so much difference. I thought the part before the intermession (where we of course were invited to stick around for the second part) John was SUPERB. I had never heard John sung like this before. He was taking all the time he needed to express himself perfectly at songs like The Wings That Fly Us Home and I Want To Live. And then again, I felt in love with the song Matthew, I can hardly wait to hear this version on a CD. The meaning he's giving it by singing very slowly so that it almost sounds like a protest song:

    And what about Mother Nature's Son. After singing the first line John told us that he should have written that song. Well, it sounded so great and to me it is a JD-song. I never heard the version of the Beatles and I don't want to hear it ever.
    Although still more than it would be the the next evening in Antwerp, John didn't tell as much as he did in Dublin. It must be hard for him to tell the stories that fans on the first rows already know from earlier concerts of the tour. The stories about Take Me Home, Country Roads for instance were skipped. In stead of that, he stopped after the very few notes, on which we started with approval hand-clapping and asked us just to sing along. Well, we did sing along.

    The second part of the concert was just good, but not as brilliant as the first part. For me it started with the second song: Durango Mountain Caballero. John really seemed to have forgotten the words to this beautiful song, not just a slip of the moment. It looked like that frustrated him, because even in Seasons Of The Heart, more than half an hour later he got mixed up in the line 'Still I wouldn't try to blaim you'.
    Although John didn't tell so many stories, he did talk with the audience. Like when he told us he'd learn us a new love song. Dolly replied with 'We know it already'. John was very alert on that and said that not everyone in the audience knew it. So he played the first lines of Dreamland Express, and corrected himself with the remark that appearantly everyone knew the song after all. 
    John also wondered about Is It Love, whether it ever will be released. He said he thought it was a great song. We really feel that too, although we maybe didn't say that loud enough, since John also skipped this last new song from his songlist for the concert in Antwerp. However I think it's a song that shouldn't be sung with the track recording, since this is a perfect song to let the audience sing along.

    After the concert John gave a short interview to the Dutch TV-station SBS-6. Thanks SBS-6 for broadcasting it!
    John told how tired he was after working for 11 days in a row, that he still touring because he needs to make a living and because he loves to sing, but that he hates the traveling, the packing and the hotels. And it upset him, that because he was so tired, he couldn't give us the show that he wants us to give. Also that although he wished there would one, there will not be a new album to be released in the near future. 
    We had noticed John looked very tired, but still we felt the first part of the show was one of the best we've ever seen.

    The concert in Antwerp

    The next we went up to Antwerp with our good friend Jerry Kooyman. Maybe you read on one of our other pages he sings for fun many songs of John and sometimes performs on his own. So he did in Antwerp in the Zoo, in the most important shopping street, and after the concert before the artists exit. Definite that last one was the most succesfull, some twenty JD fans were waiting to see a last glimp of John and did like Jerrys singing.

    John had changed the show quite a lot. We sure liked the songs he hadn't sung before. He opened with Leaving On A Jetplane, and after It Amazes Me he continued with Looking For Space, which is a very favourite of ours. Then he returned to the Dublin program starting with Farewell Andromeda, and leaving 18 holes out. In stead he sang the full version of Sunshine On My Shoulders.
    The second part started with the wonderful Love Is The Master, also a very favourite and continuing with I'd Rather Be A Cowboy (Ladies Chains) up to It's A Sin To Tell A Lie. Then John surprised us with another very favourite My Sweet Lady, he continued with on recorded tracking The Thought Of You and Country Girl in Paris. From there he ended with Annie's Song, Rocky Mountain High and Perhaps Love.

    John did sing good, and we liked that he came up with some of our very favourites. And that's what is to say from us about the concert.

    Photos by Jerry Kooyman
    Concert in "Het Congresgebouw", The Hague, 30 March 1997.
    Used with permission


    The fifth picture is also available in full screen format. See our photos page.