22.05.00, York, England.

David Meadows,, 22.05.00.

      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? BLACKMORE ROCKS.
      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"
Set List.
      Well, I'm no good at set lists, but he's everything I can remember (but not necessarily in order).
*Shadow of the Moon
*Minstrel Hall
*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 fast...)
*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 unique experience.)
*Renaissance Faire (very popular with the crowd, though it's far from my favourite on the Shadow of the Moon album)
*Mond Tanz
*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 night???
*Writing On the Wall (with a long violin intro (playing the Swan Lake bit)).
*March the Heroes Home (an absolute superb stomping rocking version. ***ALBERT ROCKS***).
*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 to say.