Blackmore's Night

Concert Hall, Reading

10 November 2003

I'm writing this sitting in the theatre in Reading — this is up-to-the-minute journalism ;)

The support band, "Geyers", was very good. Two Germans, Albert (who was support on the May 2000 tour) on pipes and horns plus another guy playing a very cool renaissance violin-thing (must find out what it's called). (I actually preferred last night's support, Italian quartet La Zag. But Geyers were very entertaining and musically very accomplished.)

A quick word about the efficiency and organisation of the Reading theatre staff: it's crap. First they forgot to search half the guests for cameras and recorders, only remembering after half of us were in. Then they forgot to close the hall during the sound check and had to chase out a bunch of us who were listening to the band running through Queen for a Day (part 1 & 2) [a song they didn't actually play tonight, take *that* all you people who went straight to the bar!]. Then the band's mixing desk was much bigger than they expected, so they took out a load of seats and had to hustle to fit everybody in alternative seats. Then they were so inefficient getting people through the doors that three-quarters were still queuing up when the Geyers came on. Huh.

Anyway... 20 minutes to band time, and what can I see?

The stage is a painted mediaeval village scene with a hill in the background and a road leading up to a castle. Spoiling the effect is the lighting rig and some modest speaker stacks.

On the left, the keyboards are tastefully hidden behind some barrels and hay bales. Centre stage, the drums are tastefully hidden behind fake foliage. More foliage grows up and around the various microphone stands.

A lot of the audience, more than at Birmingham, made an effort to dress in costume (which I would never have the nerve to do), including some young kids I can see on the balcony waving plastic swords and Halloween-type broomsticks. Cute.

(I can see a lot of Mostly Autumn t-shirts in the hall. Cool.)

On the right I see four (or five) guitars, lute, a mandolin I think, and a hurdy gurdy.

I can't see the strat.

But I know it's there.

The piped music is from the Geyers, and I know the main event is approaching because I recognise the tune they've played at every show just before the band comes on: Quatre Branles (I think), with the horns interpolating some suspiciously familiar riffs... Black Night... Smoke on the Water... it's almost time... I'm putting the notebook away now...

. * . * . * .

I didn't have the greatest seat in the world. Oh, I could see well enough and the sound (right in front of the mixing desk) was perfect. What spoilt it was the LOUD MORON who sat next to me laughing, scoffing, mocking, and wondering when Ritchie was going to play rock music again.

Apart from that... the set was a perfect mix of up-tempo and slow Blackmore's Night tunes, beautiful instruments, dazzling solos, and a little bit of rock... which...


I've got to say right now — I'm one of the biggest supporters of Ritchie's current musical direction. I love his pseudo-mediaeval compositions (I have several albums of real mediaeval music — of course I love this style). I'm happy with what he's playing now. I love every song in the set and his solos are just as good as they ever were with Purple or Rainbow — maybe even more beautiful. I don't care if he's not playing rock any more.

But still...

When he comes on with the strat for the extended (40 minute!!!) encore, I feel my chest tighten and my heart race. When he plays the first two notes of Difficult to Cure, I'm all misty-eyed. When he wails his way through Rainbow Blues, I think I'm forgetting to breathe because it's all gone grey and blurry. When he hammers out a riff to introduce 16th Century Greensleeves, I can't see the stage for tears.

I don't know how he does it.

Ritchie Blackmore still rocks. It's not all he does, but damn it's still an important part.

And the LOUD MORON left the hall before the encores and missed it all. Oh, how I laughed.

It doesn't get any better than this...