Blackmore's Night

Grand Opera House, York

30 September 2011

You know, I think the Internet is bad for me. I read so much bashing of Blackmore's Night that I'm starting to doubt my own opinion and wonder if the band isn't really as great as I though they were.

Then I go to a gig like last Friday's in York and realise, "the Internet" knows nothing, others' opinions are meaningless, the only thing that matters is how much this band entertains me. And the answer to that is... very, very, very much.

The band is on stage for two and half hours, the music is superb, the humour is entertaining, the rapport with the fans as good as any I have seen from any live band.

An evening with Blackmore's Night is pure entertainment from start to finish.

It seems to be a more extravagent stage set and light show than I remember from previous tours (though how long this will last I don't know, as Ritchie hands the scenery out to fans in the front row), but that's irrelevant really. What matters is the quality of music on offer.

The set leans heavily on material from recent albums, with very little of what I would call "classic" Blackmore's Night. But while recent albums may have been moving away from the more traditional renaissance music, there's still the wide diversity of style that no other band really gives you. Songs (and solos) borrow freely from Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and folk styles, and mix it all up with a modern sound. And of course tons and tons of guitar, in any style you care to name.

It's hard to say how much of the set list is really made up on the spot (I suspect not as much as they want you to think) but there is still plenty of improvisation. And solos. Every member of the band gets time in the spotlight, with the drum solo particularly standing out.

Candice is as always an engaging front person, and again it doesn't matter if her jokes are scripted because they're still funny.

Her voice is especially good, too, stronger than I can ever recall it being before, a vast improvement. No more of this "limited but good enough for the music". She sounds great. Full stop.

And the most important ingredient: the best guitar player in the world, playing as well as I have ever seen him play (and I've seen him a lot), and looking like he's having as much of a good time as we are.

How good was it? The best concert I have ever seen.

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