Blackmore's Night

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

1 July 2013

Tonight's show was two hours twenty minutes again, but only because they ran into the venue's 11pm curfew—they plaed their two "encore" songs without going off stage first, that's how tight for time they were—and I'm sure they would have played longer if they could. They just seeemd to be enjoying themselves so much on stage.

There's not much left that I haven't already said about Ritchie Blackmore, so I'll mention the rest of the band instead. Sorry, no names, because they are all introduced with "stage names" that I already can't remember.

Regardless of names, they all play superbly, and Ritchie gives each one a solo spot at various points in the evening. All seem relaxed and even join in with the Ritchie/Candice banter at times.

The bass player has been with them for the last few years. He also plays mandola to accompany the quieter numbers, including a double-necked thing that I think must be a combined tenor mandola and mandocello (or possibly just acoustic bass, I couldn't count the courses of strings properly). He gets a short but energetic bass solo to show off what he's got.

The keyboard player has also been with them for several tours now. He gets a couple of solo spots which he fills with classical piano. He's good, but what is noticable is that the solos seem to be be the same each night, not improvised. He also sings backing vocals and gets a couple of lead vocals—and though these are mainly for comic relief, he has a seriously good voice.

The violin player is new, and she is superb. A lot of the lead melody falls to her, especially with Ritchie (still) low in the mix, and she carries it all flawlessly. Even Ritchie improvising runs that take off in random directions doesn't throw her. She also gets a couple of short solos, and while they don't feel improvised they do seem to vary each night.

The backing vocalist is also new, and has quite a different style to their previous backing singers, her voice being very high and pure so suited to lots of "oooooo"s and "ahhhhhhh"s. She sings all the bits Candice can't (if you see what I mean). She also plays french horn—a new thing for Blackmore's Night, but very suited to the music—as well as shawms and on other nights (not tonight, I think) has played high whistle.

The drummer is also new and he's the star of the show for me. (I mean, apart from the actual star of the show, of course.) As well as handling the more subtle percussion that the music needs, he's a proper rock drummer, a proper powerful rock drummer, and it's largely due to him that the songs are sounding so energetic this tour: he really drives them along.

Ritchie and Candice leave the stage at one point to let the "minstrels" play a song together, including plenty of interplay between them as well as individual solos. they've been doing this every night, but tonight it turns an unexpected jam of O Fortuna, very powerful and dramatic, which leads into a stunning drum solo—double bass drum, strobes, the works. A proper rock solo. We've barely had time to finish applauding this before Ritchie walks back on with the Strat strapped on to play Journeyman.

I've got to be honest, Journeyman isn't a favourite song of mine, and the playing seemed a bit sloppy. He played the acoustic parts of the show much better.

But the glorious sound of a solo on that cream-coloured strat, especially when he picked up a slide... that's the most perfect sound in all of music.

Unless you count things like the loooooong acoustic solo in Fires at Midnight, or the beautiful versions of Soldier of Fortune, Diamonds and Rust, Midwinter's Night, Dandelion Wine, Barbara Allen, and all the rest.

It's all perfect. It's the best show of the tour so far.

It's the best concert I've ever seen.

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