30.09.01, Reading, UK.
Grand Theatre

Kevin Dixon,

      And so I reach the final curtain. My last show of the tour and unlike the first show in Heidelberg, it’s raining. Having spent a few hours with Mostly Autumn in the afternoon, I took my seat to watch their always wonderful support slot.
      They ended their short set and introduced Albert, who also did a short set featuring an assortment of renaissance instruments. For the last song of his set, he was joined on stage by Chris, Candice, Squire Malcolm and Ritchie. A pleasant suprise for those who gave the support bands a chance.
      Tonight, the set follows the familiar pattern, it is however the different adaptations put on the songs that makes them different. Shadow has a delicate solo spot, during which Ritchie controls the band with hand signals. Cue-ing them in with a nod of the head, the song finished. One of the longest versions I can recall. Minstrel Hall, is again preceded by an acoustic intro of incredible guitar.
      However when 16th Century Greensleeves starts up, it quickly is obvious that Ritchie is really in the mood tonight. I am amazed that he can just turn out solos like this. From out of nowhere comes an aggressive beast of a solo, only for Ritchie to calm it down halfway through and play delicate notes again, before building to a climax. Soldier of Fortune struggles to follow, and it takes Bach Haus to pick things up again. If we thought the solo in Greensleeves was good, then nothing could have prepared us for the solo in Fires.
      This really was a work of genius. On previous nights he had been building and constructing the solo piece by piece, always exploring ideas. This time it all came together, this time everything just clicked into place. Starting with a short duet with Chris, Ritchie then adopted the Catch the Rainbow approach again. Wonderful melodies, that quickly built upon each other, slowly evolving into the Anya approach, with the band joining in towards the end. The audience at the end of the song is on its feet, awesome stuff.
      Somehow Mid Winters Night manages to survive the aftermath, and emerge as yet another superb song. Storm, is back in the set again. By now the gig has a momentum of it’s own, with the band feeding off the audience's response.
      Ritchie, on the black strat is really hitting top form by now. Vita at one point just stared with awe at the man. And the only thing that can spoil it all is......a curfew.
      Tonight however, things are different. Ritchie just keeps playing, a 40 minute encore. Gone with the Wind, goes on and on and on. Sir Robert at one point cues the band into a key change and Ritchie just changes key and continues the solo. Hanging Tree is stunning in its beauty. Ritchie strips back the backing to just his guitar at one point, enhancing the haunting vocal delivery.
      Following that he starts up Self Portrait, and Candice sings the first verse, sadly the rest of the band look lost, so the song is cut short. Writing on the Wall, sees Vita join Candice at the front of the stage. Ritchie unleashes another monster of a solo, truly spectacular.
      They finish off with Now and Then. The show clocked in at about 170 minutes, easily the best show in the UK, it was a fine way to say farewell to the band. A great send off.