Blackmore's Night

Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

9 November 2003

The band furtively take to the stage to mild applause: the cheers are reserved for The Minstrel in Black (and white boots — my god, where's the man's fashion sense?) who wanders to the centre of the stage (no spotlight for him), playing a melodic, wailing guitar synth introduction which moves seamlessly into Cartouche as he swaps to a lute and waves the band in to join him. Candice Night (in tasteful green and black taffeta) comes on to her own round of cheers and launches straight into the vocal.

There's no sign (nor mention) of her mystery illness which caused Friday's cancellation. I thought she seemed out of breath for the first few songs but her voice was otherwise as good as it ever is.

The band were in a playful mood: plenty of banter on stage between all of them (all of it audible from my 5th row seat), including a mock fight between Ritchie and the bass player.

The show was 2.05, including encores. I can't do a song-by-song list (over 20 songs, including one Purple and three Rainbow), so I'll just list a few memorable moments:

Soldier of Fortune came early in the set and featured the most beautiful solo I've ever heard in my WHOLE LIFE. (Apart from Diamonds and Rust, a few minutes later, which was just as good. And Dandelion Wine in the encore, which was better. Oh, and the intro to Mid Winter's Night right at the end, which had absolutely the best solo of the night.)

Candice's best line of the night, while asking us to join in Under a Violet Moon: "We were told that Birmingham has the best singers in the world." [Pause. Stunned silence.] "Well, it was Ozzy Osbourne who told us that..."

Home Again: this is the structure to the live version of Home Again:

[random guitar solo as the chorus is supposed to start]
[Indignant look from Candice Night]
[chorus of Rule Britannia. Yes, *that* Rule Britannia.]
[Ritchie goes quiet]
[chorus of Rule Britannia again]
Home Again (another chorus or two)
[Rule Britannia again]

Candice: "Shall I ask for requests now, dear?"
Ritchie: "No, I want to play Rule Britannia again."

When Ritchie finally does call for requests, he ignores them all and plays what he wants anyway. (Would you expect anything else?)

Ah... it's hard to convey the atmosphere of the show. It was just fun, wrapped around good songs, wrapped around the best guitar playing I've ever heard.

He played a mix of electric and acoustic, plus a bit on the guitar synth, lute, and mandolin. Oh — I forgot to mention the main highlight: he's added a hurdy gurdy solo spot: Tielman Susato's Quatre Branles (the original version of the Blackmore's Night song, The Clock Ticks On). Not only is Ritchie Blackmore the best guitar player in the world, he's also the best hurdy gurdy player I've ever seen.

Should have been a longer show. It left me wanting much more.