Blackmore's Night

Grand Opera House, York

25 September 2001

He stands there, looking like he's not making any effort at all, and notes flow out of their own accord. And it doesn't really matter what style he's playing, he is still the best guitar player in the world and this was the best concert I have ever been to.

The Grand Opera House in York feels smaller and more intimate that the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, and I'm sure it makes for a much better atmosphere. Also, a lot more people made an effort to dress up, and I think the band appreciate that.

And the band seemed much more together than they were in Liverpool. And The Man In Black (even Candice calls him that) was in top form, playing his heart out on every song.

In short, every negative point I made in my previous review was fixed. This concert was two hours 40 minutes of pure magic.

Mostly Autumn (got to get a plug in for the greatest new band of the last 20 years), on home ground, played a slightly longer support set. So that put me in a good mood straight away.

As the now-familiar intro tape ran, I was virtually chanting "play well Ritchie, play well Ritchie". And from the first lengthy guitar intro to Shadow of the Moon, I knew that he would. His soloing through that one song surpassed any of his playing in Liverpool. And after that, he got better.

The set list was very similar to Saturday's set in Liverpool. A few songs were dropped, a couple added, and everything was drawn out, extended, and layered with more and more stunning guitar work.

Candice seemed more relaxed. She sang better and shouted less. And some of her banter with Ritchie was priceless: "You come and tell the story. Don't hide, they can all see you". "Stop that! Oh that's disgusting, he's standing behind me picking his nose". "This song is by [some French name] ... what do you mean, who's that? YOU told me to say that Ritchie". And so on.

There are too many highlights to list them all. Every note was a highlight. Here are a few...

Mostly Autumn came back on stage to join in Renaissance Fair. Which actually was not a great idea, as there were not enough microphones to go around.

The added The Clock Ticks On to the set, and Bryan Josh (Mostly Autumn's guitar player) came on to play 2nd guitar. Ritchie seemed to be throwing Candice's malfunctioning electric bagpipe around, in a semi-successful attempt to make it work.

Ritchie's playing on Spanish Nights is out of this world. Scarily fast.

Fires at Midnight: This time, they got it right. Ritchie played THE solo. The violin player still got his solo (and it's still excellent), then Ritchie took over just like he should. And did that stuff he does, in that way he does it. I won't attempt to do it justice with words.

Ritchie is enjoying himself. You can tell. This whole thing is fun for him, and fun for Ritchie translates into some unforgettable moments for the audience. He changes the set list round, heckles Candice, plays the wrong song, dances, sings, claps, and...

And when somebody in the audience shouts out for Temple of the King, he plays it. I mean, just him. the rest of the band stand back with puzzled grins on their faces. And when he's finished and we're all in tears, the guy in the audience shouts, "Thank you, Ritchie", and Ritchie replies with something like, "You're welcome".

And the moral is: a happy Blackmore is a good Blackmore.

For an encore, we get I Still Remember You, with an unreal slide guitar solo. Then Candice tells us that they want to play more but can't because there's a curfew. It's after eleven o'clock and they've been on for two and a half hours. So the band leave the stage. But when has Ritchie Blackmore ever followed the rules? So he wanders back on, straps on the Strat, and reminds us that he is still, and always will be, the greatest rock guitar player in the world... as he leads the band into Black Night. Candice sounds so BAD singing this. The bass player takes over, and does a little better. But it doesn't matter. Nobody even cares that there are words because Ritchie is playing in a way that shouldn't be possible, playing as well as I've ever seen him. The solo includes bits of Strange Kind of Woman and Woman From Tokyo and is a glorious demonstration of... of... skill beyond my ability to describe.

They leave the stage again, but the crowd doesn't move. Then Ritchie comes back on with a broom and starts to sweep the stage, so we get the hint...

I don't understand how people can't like this band.

I don't understand why anybody would pass on a chance to see Ritchie Blackmore playing this well.

"Stars are out and magic is here".

I wish I was seeing the rest of the tour.