24.05.00, Cambridge, England.

Patrick J.S,, 24.05.00.

      Just got back and my head is still bear with me.
Just a few observations :
      Cambridge Corn Exchange holds around 1500 - from what I could see, around 95% of the stalls were full and there were a considerable number on the balcony, too. So, I'd say easily 1000 + at the gig.
      Support No. 1 - Albert ???? (didn't memorise his surname) Entered the hall from the back playing mediaeval bagpipes ! His 'set' was pretty short and consisted of him demonstrating various 16th century instruments (including something which *looked* like a walking stick but *sounded* like a cross between a Korg 70's synth and a digeredoo ! Albert popped up again later to play the odd backing instrument (and sing completely inaudible vocals) with BN.
      Support No. 2 : Three members of 'Almost Autumn'. Apparently there 's usually 5 or 6 in the band but only 3 tonight. This was an instrumental set which suffered through the lack of instrumentation - bodhran, acoustic guitar and flute. Pleasant but hardly essential, though the bodhran player was *very* pretty (looked like a slightly younger version of Candice !!)
      BN : I have to say that I really didn't know what to expect. I've got (and really like) 'Under a Violet Moon but I was prepared to witness the artistic 'decline' of my teenage hero -(the man whose solo on HS on MIJ made me pick up a guitar in the first place)... Well, was I ever wrong ! RB is, on this showing, the greatest, most brilliant guitar genius on this planet today.... For most of the set he used a Fender semi-acoustic (Telecaster shape but hollow body with 'F' holes) which produced a positive array of sounds ranging from a normal Tele sound through a beautiful Spanish steel sound to what sounded like an old chorus pedal (I think it was one of those multi-effect guitar synths). He played an absolute blinder - when they played "16th Cent. GS", he brought out a yellow Strat, playing a choppy rhythm with the old classic, RB sound. When the solo arrived, I can honestly say that for the first time in years, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I got that strange feeling that I used to get at DP gigs in the pit of my stomach. Ritchie played his socks off - I've never seen him play that well - *ever* - he was fluid, inventive and so bloody fast I had to stare to keep up with his finger movements !
      Phew ! I should mention the rest of the band !....Didn't really catch any names but they were all excellent players - especially the guy who doubled on violin/guitar. This was a complete band line-up : Drums, rhythm guitar, acoustic bass, 2 lots of keyboards, violin, Vox + TMIB. Candice has had her voice criticised many times but, although she can't claim to be Aretha Franklin (let's face *nobody* is that good !), she has a great voice, warm, emotional and with a pretty good range, too. She reminds me very much of Julianne Regan at times.
      There were the by-now expected jokes - the story around Henry Viii /CH producing the "I think that's disgusting, don't you Ritchie ?" quip, 'No Second Chance" was dedicated to 'ex members of Rainbow and Deep Purple", there was the "Rainbow was run by a mean and moody wizard" joke......
      At one point, Candice dragged TMIB to the microphone because he was muttering at her in the background about how difficult the song was to play. Yes, it's true - RB spoke to the crowd for all of a minute !!
      There was a general air of happiness and contentment within the BN camp which was really quite moving. Candice and Ritchie are obviously very good for each other. The atmosphere wasn't spoiled, thankfully, by the inevitable brain-dead drunk at the back shouting out for SOTW....
      "Soldier of Fortune" was gorgeous - CN handled it pretty well I thought.....and so to the encores (2 of 'em !!! 4 songs !! - I remember being at a Rainbow gig where there was *no* encore at all and the crowd were baying for blood at the end..)...I was waiting for Black Night as posted by someone else but we got another couple of BN tunes and......Mr. Tambourine Man !! As if tonight wasn't incredible enough already, TMIB stayed on the stage for a good 15 minutes after the show - signing autographs and shaking hands....eventually he brought the entire band out to do the same.....
      What more can I say? I first saw TMIB at his 'peak' in the 70's and, I have to confess, my interest in his work has dwindled ever since THOBL. I wasn't expecting too much from him tonight but I was totally wrong. I've NEVER seen him play better. Mr. Blackmore, I humbly ask you to return to position number 1 on my favourite guitarists top ten....- you're a bloody genius. Can't wait for next time.....