Blackmore's Night

Corn Exchange, Cambridge

24 May 2000

Different again.

Not the same fire and energy he had in Newcastle — that still ranks as the best — but Ritchie and the band made this different again and delivered an outstanding performance.

I'm sitting on a bench in Cambridge, looking up at the breathtaking Kings College buildings, breakfasting on bagels and Starbucks coffee, and trying to write down my memories of an incredible evening of renaissance rock. I think this might be one of my life's unforgettable moments. (Especially now it's immortalised in manuscript for future generations... oh help, this place is getting to me!) I'm staying in Trinity College — the closest thing to a castle — and somehow it all feels right. Cambridge is the perfect city to see Blackmore's Night.

Ok, enough of the preamble, let's get on with the review.

How many of you have seen Ritchie kneeling at the front of the stage to sign autographs?

How many of you have EVER seen Ritchie step up to the microphone to introduce a song and joke with the audience?

I have.

This is not your father's Man In Black. This is a Man In (Black) Tights for a new century — the 16th century, to be specific.

Ok, that sounded really stupid, but I'm trying to make you understand how this style of music is good for Ritchie. Stop wishing for a Rainbow reunion, because it couldn't be as good as this.

The support acts remain the same — Albert Dannerman from Germany followed by Mostly Autumn from York and they are both good in vastly different ways...

Albert added a new song to his set — a tune on the bagpipes — and he was joined for it by a backing band consisting of Ritchie Blackmore and three more members of Blackmore's Night (completely unannounced and staying out of the spotlight) accompanying Albert on mandolin and stuff. Very cool.

Blackmore's Night...

The set list changed. I can't remember everything they dropped. No March the Heroes Home. No Gone With The Wind. No Black Night. They added Avalon early in the set, and I liked it very much. Candice's voice was beautiful and this song suits her very well.

Overall the sound mix wasn't as good as previous nights. Candice's voice seemed variously up and down in the mix. Oh, and Candice's neckline was lower, but I didn't really notice that of course.

Ritchie traded a lot of jokes and comments with Candice throughout the show, some of which we could hear and some of which Candy kindly repeated for us. When she began to introduce The Clock Ticks On, Ritchie started "heckling" her from the sidelines, until she pushed him in front of the microphone and said, "All right, you introduce it". Ritchie's introduction went roughly like this:

"This is a difficult song to play. Well it isn't really difficult but we always get it wrong so if you see any mistakes hold your hand up like this." [more prompting from Candy] "It's by Tielman Susato in the 1500s and you all know what that was about." [?]

And it's a great song. I really like the live arrangement. The whole band (including Albert) plays the chorus over and over, like a round, with ever-increasing energy and speed. It's cool.

Spanish Nights is a consistently good showcase for Ritchie's mastery of different styles. Last night's performance was the best yet. Ritchie begins the flamenco-style introduction from the album, then moves into a lengthy, slow, melodic solo that would fit well into any Rainbow number (think of the mid-paced soloing in live versions of Mistreated, for example). "Slow" is a poor description, of course; where other, mere mortal, guitar players will linger over one note, Ritchie plays ten and still makes it sound slow. The rest of the band watch while he plays alone. I don't know how long this lasts for. It feels like ages, yet it's still not enough. Then he counts the band in and the tempo picks up for the song itself, which is ridiculously fast. His style changes again. It's not exactly Spanish, but it still has that "feel". Finally, he's dueting with the violin player and it feels even faster, like, maybe, I don't know — what can I compare it to? Sorry, losing coherency, but I just don't have any way to describe this to you. It's like :-o

I wish I could remember the violin player's name. Candice introduces him every night but I have a terrible memory. He's extremely good, and trades musical lines with Ritchie like... well, like Jon Lord, really, which is the best compliment I can give to a musician.

Ritchie is really stretching out all the songs again. But it's by no means a one man show, because the band joins in the extended instrumental passages. This is a very accomplished band. A lot of the extended songs have an improvised feel to them, though Ritchie is clearly in charge and the band take their cues from him.

Ok, the encores, or this review is never going to end.

Writing on the Wall — introduced with a long violin solo, and Ritchie steps back in the middle of the song to let the violin take another solo.

Then two more new songs (well, new on this tour): Wish You Were Here and Spirit of the Sea, both beautiful songs that confirm Ritchie as the greatest melodic guitar player EVER. (And, before I forget to say: Candice Night has a beautiful voice.)

Then a cover of Mr Tambourine Man — yes, really. I don't know why. Cool.

The final song, again, is the perfect Now and Then. Could this song become Blackmore's Night's Smoke On The Water? I certainly hope it stays in the set list forever. I love it.

I'm at the stage where tour fatigue has set in. things are going blurry. I think emotion will keep me going through London tonight. After that I very reluctantly miss the final date of the tour and I start wishing for the next tour to come round — SOON.

Thank you.