22.05.00, York, England.
David Meadows, email@example.com
York Opera House. It's a small venue. I counted 500 seats in the stalls,
just about all sold out, and I don't know how many more on the balcony. And
everybody was there to see Blackmore's Night. Not Rainbow, not Deep Purple.
Everybody was behind Ritchie's new "style" 100%. (ok, so there's always ONE
who's going to shout for Stargazer, but we just laughed at him). Not many
people had opted to wear period costume, but the few who did actually did
add something... something indefinable to the evening. (I am firmly
convinced that mediaeval dress should come back in fashion for women.)
A quick word about the support acts. The first was a local trio called
Autumn: Flute, guitar, and drum (tabor I think)/ankle bells. They dressed in
period costume and played several tunes of their own composition, in a
mediaeval sort of style. They got a good reaction from the crowd (but maybe
they have a big local fan base who turned out for them?) I liked them.
Then, from Germany, "Albert" (I missed his last name) who demonstrated
several mediaeval instruments (bagpipes, recorder, "cow horn" (I thought it
was called a Gems Horn, but oh well, maybe not in Germany...) and some
bizarre thing that looked like a walking stick and sounded like a
saxophone). The crowd liked Albert, who got people clapping along with some
of the tunes.
And I realised two things as I watched the support acts: (1) Ritchie really
is serious about this kind of music. He wants an audience that want to see
mediaeval musicians, not an audience who want to see Ritchie Blackmore. (2)
He got exactly what he wanted in tonight's audience.
So... Blackmore's Night. I've spent the last few weeks telling people I'm
going to see Ritchie Blackmore. I'm going to spend the new few weeks telling
them I saw Blackmore's NIGHT. This was a band. A real band with
accomplished, professional musicians, not Ritchie Blackmore with a few
sidekicks. This is a Very Good band.
The band: Two keyboard players (both singing backing vocals), one guy on
second guitar (acoustic), violin (electric) and occasional other thing
(maybe a mandolin), drums (hidden behind a large amount of foliage, so it
wasn't immediately obvious that it was actually an electronic drum kit. This
was odd, but on reflection it was probably the best way to reproduce all the
different drum sounds they needed. Actually, the electronic drum sound got a
bit annoying at times, but only at times and only a bit.) "Albert" came on
for a few songs and played his various instruments when needed. Candice
Night sings, plays recorder, tambourine, castanets, and something that
*might* have been an electronic bagpipe -- if such a thing even exists. Oh,
and tells jokes.
The Man In Tights... er, Black... Ritchie plays Lute, a couple of acoustic
guitars, a telecaster... and when he needs to ROCK he straps on a familiar
white Strat (it waits in the back corner of the stage, just visible behind
an Engl amp... just to tease us I think ;-) ).
So what did I think of the show? This wasn't the show I expected. I thought
we would get a mostly acoustic, laid-back set. But a surprising proportion
of the set was electric. A lot of the Blackmore's Night songs were
rearranged to fit the instruments they had on stage, and Ritchie played
electric (mostly telecaster) for most of the set. And you know what?
Candice Night is a terrific frontman -woman - er person. She has a great
stage presence, she's warm, friendly, and... well, just likeable. So she
hasn't got the greatest voice in the world. So what? It's good enough. She
talks a lot between songs, tells the story behind each one, and fills the
time with jokes while Ritchie swaps guitars. She had the audience laughing
again and again. Some memorable Candice quotes (roughly paraphrased):
"The best thing about working with Ritchie is that he changes the set list
on us every night... I don't know what we're doing now..." [several more
seconds of chatter] "...I still don't know what we're doing but Ritchie says
it's in B flat. Apparently that's important."
"Once upon a time there was a band called Rainbow and it was ruled by a
mean, moody tyrant..."
[talking about Catherine Howard's Fate] "Henry VIII married her while she
was a teenager. He was more than twice her age. I think that's terrible,
don't you Ritchie?"
"I'll just check that we really are going to play this next one, because
sometimes I get all the way through the introduction and Ritchie goes...
[huge shaking of head] Nooo nooo"
Well, I'm no good at set lists, but he's everything I can remember (but not
necessarily in order).
*Shadow of the Moon
*Play Minstrel Play (with the flute part played mostly on keyboards)
*Possum Goes To Prague (with a guest appearance by THE Possum - actually a
glove puppet that plays a mean tambourine solo)
*Durch Den Wald Zum Bach Haus
*Under a Violet Moon
*Spanish Nights (absolutely terrific, Ritchie duets with violin, and he's so
*Catherine Howard's Fate
*Past Time With Good Company (they play this "as we think Henry VIII
probably played it" -- with just the vocal and Ritchie on the lute, and it's
beautiful. Then they play it again with the rest of the band joining in and
Ritchie switching to electric guitar, and it ROCKS. To me, this arrangement
sums up Blackmore's Night. They really can play authentic renaissance music
when they want to, but it's still Ritchie Blackmore, the greatest hard rock
guitar player there has ever been, and when they rock they rock. It's a
unique synthesis of old/new and soft/hard... I don't know any other band in
the world that could have performed the show I saw last night. It was a
*Renaissance Faire (very popular with the crowd, though it's far from my
favourite on the Shadow of the Moon album)
*The Clock Ticks On
*16th Century Greensleeves (yes, ok, they had to do *one* Rainbow track, and
it's a good one, and Candy will never be Dio (but he never looked as good in
a mediaeval gown) but she does sing it well enough and anyway it wouldn't
matter because it's RITCHIE BLACKMORE).
*Soldier of Fortune (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Apparently the first time they
ever played it (AND I WAS THERE!!!!!!) You know how it is when there's a
favourite song that you think you will never hear live, then you hear it? Do
you know emotional that is? Candice really does a good job (Coverdale must
be easier than Dio) and Ritchie is just perfect and I was in tears. I give
it a "10" (out of 5) Oh WHY didn't I find some way to record it last
*Writing On the Wall (with a long violin intro (playing the Swan Lake bit)).
*March the Heroes Home (an absolute superb stomping rocking version.
*Gone With the Wind (my absolute favourite Blackmore's Night song, this
sounds so very good live, Candy's voice is stronger than you would expect
and Ritchie plays the strat and he's sooooo good... have I mentioned how
good he is? He is, still, the best guitar player in the world. Ever.)
Finally, the second encore is Now and Then, played very simply with just
vocal and guitar (maybe keyboard too) and dedicated to the audience.
And that was it. Standing ovation...
Ritchie. He danced, skipped, clapped along with the audience, shook hands
with the front row and shared his beer with them, played with the glove
puppet... played all of the songs... I almost caught him smiling a couple of
times. While it's clear that he's the boss, he acknowledges the rest of the
band and waves for them to take their bows at the appropriate moments. I
think he was happy. And Candice was happy (she actually smiles more on stage
than Steve Morse ;-) ). And I was happy. And I can't think of anything else
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