Jon Lord

National Concert Hall, Dublin

25 September 2009

This is the fifth time I've seen Jon Lord in the last two years, and the incredible thing is that every show I have seen has been completely different. I don't just mean a few improvisional tweaks added in, or even a simple change to the setlist, I mean a completely different type of show with a different feel and sensibility.

My seat was dead centre and only the second row back from the stage, which is the closest I have ever sat to an orchestra. It's directly behind the conductor and as he's the man calling the shots I guess it's the equivalent of sitting right in front of the mixing desk at a rock gig. The sound of the orchestra is perfectly balanced.

The band was placed at the rear left of the stage, which is a set up I haven't seen before, and it was a bit weird — I couldn't see them at all — but again perfect for sound from my seat. If it was the regular set up with the band at the front, I think the drums would have deafened me. The band also used minimal amplification and blended perfectly with the orchestral sound.

The whole thing sounded perfect. But orchestras always sound perfect. And Jon Lord's Concerto for Group and Orchestra is my favourite piece of classical music. That's a big claim to make but it is honestly true: it has everything I love from 20th century orchestral music PLUS is has a rock band, including the sublime Hammond Organ. How can this not be the best thing ever?

Soloists and orchestra were all excellent. I didn't get the conductor's name but he was impressively enthusiastic and had a great musical rapport with Jon (Jon effectively "conducting" the soloists on his side of the stage). And I love to see an orchestra actually enjoying the music (somewhere in the back desks of the violins there was definite headbanging going on). So much better than the grim faces on the 1969 film!

The Concerto filled the first half of the concert and the second half included a set of pieces arranged for band and full orchestra, including:

Pictures of Home (basically the 1999 orchestration I think)
The Sun Will Shine Again
Pictured Within
Wait a While
The Telemann Experiment

For an encore, Jon brought an uileann piper on stage and they played one movement from the Durham Concerto (the uilleann pipes taking the place of the Northumbrian smallpipes, obviously).

The piper remained on stage and — I don't expect you to believe this, because I wouldn't if I hadn't seen it for myself — played Ritchie's solo in Soldier of Fortune. And it sounded amazing. That's got to be something so unique, it was worth the trip just for that!

The final song of the evening was Child in Time. It sounded magnificent, with a great organ solo and astonishing vocals. Though oddly this was the one song where I didn't think the orchestration worked... it didn't detract from the song but it didn't seem to add anything significant to it either.

The second half of the show lasted about 90 minutes but it didn't feel like it... it just whizzed by. But add in the hour-long Concerto, and that's amazing value for money.

Highlights of the show...... the principal cellist (several notable solos), Steve Balsalmo (a voice reminiscent of a young Ian Gillan in timbre and mannerisms), Kasia Laska (incredible emotion in her voice) and of course Mr Lord himself for being the only man in the world who can sound like Jon Lord.

Best concert I've ever heard.

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