Blackmore's Night

Tyne Theatre, Newcastle

27 October 2005

The set really does change every night. It has on every tour I've seen, but this year it's really all over the place. Let's see... they dropped Mr Peagram's Morris and Sword, Arial, All for One, Midwinter's Night, and Dandelion Wine from the previous night's set. They replaced them with Avalon, The Times They are a Changing, Still Remember You, Minstrel Hall, and a new song I didn't recognise. Half the time the band don't even seem to know what's coming. Sometimes they're standing there trying to work out which instrument to pick up after Ritchie starts playing something random, until finally they get it (usually at about the same time we do) and join in. The show felt longer than in Edinburgh but I think they must have been about the same (about 2:10).

He's still in total command. They play when he tells them to, shut up when he tells them to. He directs them with cryptic hand signals and when he decides he's played a long enough solo and points abruptly at the empty microphone, Candice has to sprint across the stage to sing the next verse. ("He's only the boss on stage," she tells us. I don't even want to think too deeply about that...)

And when some joker at the back of the hall shouts "pick the Strat up, Ritchie", you just know that he's NOT going to pick it up for the whole night. Because it's his band and nobody tells him what to do. (Candice: "We're taking requests tonight but only from Ritchie.") And do I care? Not at all. Because his way of proving his point about not playing rock songs is to play the most perfectly beautiful extended solo in Fires at Midnight that you can possibly imagine, when the band shuts up and watches and the audience is so still you can hear a pin drop. One of those solos when you don't think he's ever going to stop and you really hope he won't.

But aside from the breathtaking playing, the whole show was just fun. I've heard somebody describe Blackmore's Night (negatively) as a "cabaret" act. To which I answer — so what? Why shouldn't Ritchie and Candice crack jokes at each other? So what if he wants to wear tights and play the hurdy gurdy? What's wrong with sing-along drinking songs? Yes, it's a *fun* show. The look on Ritchie's face when he's playing alone on stage and a giant rabbit walks in front of him carrying Candice over its shoulder is priceless and we all crack up. But we also note that he's playing incredibly beautiful and technically perfect guitar while these antics are going on. It's just good entertainment. It makes you feel good. When you've got the best guitar player in the world playing some of the best solos of his life, AND he can make you laugh while he's doing it... it's just really good to take that memory, that feeling, home with you.

In case you haven't realised it, this was the BEST concert I have ever seen :-)