Orpheum. Graz, Austria 15 October
Show time approx 1 h & 55 min
When we heard that BN was planning to do a show in Prague we were excited. Especially since it was to be on a weekend, which meant less time to take off work. And as neither of us had been to Prague before, we couldn’t resist it. We arrived to Prague two days before the show so we had plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing. Prague is a very beautiful city with its ancient history, very medieval. So it’s easy to understand why Prague is one of BN’s favourite cities. Another hero of mine, Sean Connery was in town earlier this year to shoot his latest movie The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. So during our 3 hours plus sightseeing tour of the town our tour guide told us some anecdotes about the making of the film in Prague, which was very interesting.
The next day we met up with Rainer and Susanne from the German fan club and their friend Janna. We went for dinner at a local restaurant and guess who we met there? Yes, the entire band including Ritchie whom immediately recognised Rainer and Susanne. Ritchie approached us and greeted each and one of us and fixed us a table, although the place was full. After we were given a table, the manager approached us and told us to join their table for dessert, which turned out to be a special cake made just for the band. Needless to say we finished our meals within minutes. We were all very happy and excited to join the BN table and have a chat with the band. The cake was made to look like a guitar with the Ghost Of A Rose cover on it (see Photos). The cake was very tasty and delicious. Almost too lovely to eat. I was in seventh heaven! Having cake with The Man In Black, can it get any better?
Saturday, show day. During the day we went for a long walk in the town and did some more shopping. By this time Rainer Klos and Dima had joined our little group. We had a few drinks at a local bar just outside the venue. The bar was crowded although I didn’t see many people in costume. Perhaps they would come later? The doors to the venue were about to be open so we hurriedly finished our drinks and headed for the doors. As we entered the venue we looked around this amazingly beautiful theatre. We soon found our seats, front row of course. Just minutes to show time and still not many in costume. I guess only a dozen or so were in costume. Since Prague is an old city with its ancient history I thought it would be easy for people to find “BN clothes”. Perhaps they hadn’t adopted the BN spirit yet. Anyway, the lights went down and the support band started to play. It was a local band who’s name I’ve unfortunately forgot. They sounded pretty good and they were a very spirited and cheerful band. Thomas and Albert from the Geyers were originally supposed to open but couldn’t make it in time due to other engagements.
Now it was time for BN to take on the stage. The house lights went out and the band entered to the usual Way To Mandalay intro, which went on to Cartouche. The band seemed to be in a very cheerful mood, especially Ritchie who had his medieval hat on. With this in mind I hoped for a 2,5 hour show. As you all know if Ritchie is in a good mood the shows are usually longer. However, towards the latter part of the show Ritchie seemed to be a bit concerned of something. So we “only” got a two hour show. I have to say that the audience wasn’t really participating in the show. During Renaissance Fair we were only a handful who did the usual dance while the other few in costume looked at us with a “what the hell are you doing” face. Anyway, the show was great and as I mentioned before Ritchie was in a good mood and handed out beers to us in the front row.
During Village On The Sand Ritchie handed out his mandolin to Rainer who was obviously very surprised and very happy. Ritchie switched to his white strat and played on it the rest of the song. Rainer played proudly along as he were the 9th band member. I wish you all could have seen this incredibly special experience. Truly a great moment! Time for Home Again and during the middle part I shouted out “Sweden” and Ritchie asked me if it was OK to go to Norway instead. I replied something like “Yes, Norway is close enough” and we got the Hall Of The Mountain King theme.
Later on it was time for requests and I believe most of us in front row shouted “Mandalay”. However, Ritchie gave the impression of not wanting to play it, as he asked if anybody said “Storm”, apparently someone did so Storm we got. Not a bad song though. In fact, it’s one of my favourites. However, “Mandalay” is a much rarer live track. The main show ended with an amazing version of Ghost Of A Rose, which I find a very strong and emotional song. A live highlight for sure.
They soon returned to the stage and did all encores at once. Starting with the rock ‘n’ roll sing-a-long All For One. Difficult To Cure/Self Portrait up next unfortunately without the Burn riff, which I was hoping for. And for the grand finale - Black Night. A true crowd pleaser, now everybody was up shouting, screaming, dancing and singing. A great ending for a great show. Now we have to wait until next year to experience the mighty BN live again. Can’t wait!
All For One
Show time approx 2 hours
Paul & Cecilia Deblond
Pesti Vigardo. Budapest, Hungary 21 October
The venue was a very beautiful theatre (completely sold out) and the audience turned out to be great although everybody remained seated during the encores. The show was 2 hours and 30 minutes and a lot better than the Prague one, with Ritchie starting in a restrained way but then blasting off one magnificent solo after the other. The one in Greensleeves seemed like he never wanted to stop playing. The Geyers were the support act (Thomas and Albert only) and played along with BN several times, which Ritchie obviously enjoyed a lot. After Ghost Of A Rose I was chosen to give the ladies their flowers. Well, let's see what the next shows will be like, can't wait.
Teatro Excelsior. Dolo Venice, Italy 23 October
I thought Prague was cold... but arriving in Dolo by train taught me better. A 4 km walk from the station to Dolo (no buses or taxis) is bad enough... if it's cold and rainy it's worse. I was lucky enough to find a hotel which was just a 2 minutes walk from the venue, a theatre with a pit for an orchestra, which meant the audience sat about ten metres away (should have sold binoculars at the entrance). But the lucky seven guests were admitted to the pit right in front of the stage - a bit strange, to have the rest of the crowd so far behind you. (and during Under A Violet Moon I had the band in front of me and Candice singing behind my back, as she walked along the stage extension surrounding the pit). Opening act La Zag did a strong performance once again, playing for 30 minutes. Half an hour later-at 22.15 (!) Blackmore's Night hit the stage with the usual Mandalay Into/Cartouche opener. They had Anna Florina of La Zag as an extra percussionist behind the guitar amps. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, although miles away. Some nice flute again on Play Minstrel Play. No Intro to Minstrel Hall, but a nice ending, making up for it.
The next few songs were nicely played, but with the Budapest show in the back of my mind not outstanding, although some quite interesting parts in the solo of 'Fires'. Diamonds And Rust was once again a wonderful performance by Candice, standing ovations seemed just natural after this piece. The audience then got asked for requests. Having witnessed the sound check I new they had rehearsed 'Where Are We Going From Here' so I opted for it, but with the majority of people screaming for rock numbers the strat won the battle. Straight into Greensleeves this time, another great solo. Peagram was played with the mandola minus one bust string-still a great performance. Home Again was introduced by a long keyboard solo and saw us few in front of the stage dancing whereas the others remained seated. Ghost Of A Rose-another beautiful version, I just love the structure of the song, very dramatic.
Renaissance Faire-the dancers were down to 4... but you could hear the crowd enjoying it. Once again we were asked for requests, which resulted in a 20 second medley of Crowning Of The King and Shadow Of The Moon (too short to seriously include it in the set list). To our surprise Ritchie played Temple Of The King-unfortunately just one verse and no solo... The Clock Ticks On, featuring La Zag ended the main set and it took the band a very long time to come back, although the crowd was frantically shouting for more (by then people had come up to the stage extension-at last. A very nice All For One, Difficult To Cure (the intro without mistake this time, unlike Prague and Budapest) and Self Portrait-this time with an extended, magnificent solo started the encores. An instrumental version of Purple Haze seemed to be the end, Ritchie apparently leaving the stage... only to start Black Night from behind the curtains. The first verse of this song was the last time Candice had to sing that night, and then Sir Robert took over. The song ended with Woman From Tokyo as a sing-along riff and then the Blackmore Blues, Ritchie asking Sir Robert to sing. Fantastic. The last number of the evening surprised everybody-'Sunshine Of Your Love', Bob singing again... great fun, but it ended much too soon... just 1.55, a short show for BN standard... altogether a show full of surprises, with a somewhat distant Ritchie (passing down beer, but no shaking hands this time). Milan tomorrow... what can we expect next? Strawberry Fields? ;-)
All For One
Teatro Smeraldo. Milan, Italy 25 October
None of the Italian shows were cancelled. Having assured myself that Milan is NOT a nice city I found my way to the venue, a fairly ugly theatre with a disco in the same building (which seriously endangered the show). In contrast to the Dolo show in Milan the acoustic set was better than the electric set. Ritchie played some very nice solos and extra bits in Minstrel Hall (although the intro was very short) and Fires. Marnen delivered a very nice performance in Bachhaus, resulting in standing ovations, once again.
Diamonds And Rust has turned into Candice's calling card, the crowd's reaction is always overwhelming. She gives the lyrics an extra dimension with all the emotions, the feeling she so clearly expresses. Stunning... All For One this time featured La Zag on stage, adding a little fun to it, Ritchie adding a little solo at the end of the song. Running time: 1.55
Intro (ended a bit premature, as the rhythm section started early)
All For One-with La Zag
Teatro Puccini. Florence, Italy 26 October
A fairly small theatre, not really very nice. At least there were a lot of people in costumes, so I hoped it might turn out a good show. And it all began well... although Ritchie kept in the background most of the time, not really looking at the audience (maybe confused by the die-hard fans having been given seats on the left), everything he played was very nice. Minstrel Hall was superb, despite the very short intro. Ritchie played really well, added a few unusual songs (Ocean Gypsy, Wish You Were Here-no medley), and then came 'Village On The Sand', the first indication that something was wrong. He never picked up the strat during this song, kept playing the mandolin, sometimes so far away from the microphone that I wondered if people a few rows back could hear it at all.
Ghost Of A Rose once again was great and Renaissance Faire seemed nice as well, but maybe he did not like the fact that all the audience ran to the stage and remained there instead of just standing up, dancing and sitting down after it was over. Anyway, he swiftly started playing Home Again (no time for the keyboard intro) and decided to leave it at that. No single note being played on the strat does NOT mean it has to be a bad show (just remember the 3 hours at Rabenstein), but ending the show after just 80 minutes, with not a single encore might tempt people to use stronger words than disappointing...
Arenberg Theater. Antwerp, Belgium 29 October
Tired as I am I made up my mind to write a few comments now, before I forget to do so altogether. Both shows (Antwerp & Amsterdam) were excellent, set in very nice theatres, too. It just seems that Ritchie plays with more enthusiasm when the Geyers are around, you could really see him enjoying himself while they joined Blackmore's Night on stage for songs like ’All For One', ‘Renaissance Faire', ‘Clock Ticks On' and Albert adding some vocals to 'Play Minstrel Play’. Both nights Minstrel Hall was excellent, Amsterdam featuring a rather slow intro compared to the up tempo one in Antwerp.
Both shows saw Ritchie smiling a lot, being a lot more relaxed than during the Italian shows. In Antwerp he asked me to join them on stage to sing the nanana parts in Village On The Sand. Having declined I ended up playing the mandolin (which I had to do again in Amsterdam, only there he did not seem to want it back, so I held on to it till the encores began). Amsterdam featured great solos in Greensleeves and Self Portrait, even Difficult To Cure getting an infinitesimal intro (remember the ones from ten years ago???). The Antwerp show was 2 hours 5 minutes, Amsterdam 2.20. Let's hope for a good one in Luxemburg...
Show time approx 2 h & 5 min
Pepsi Stage. Amsterdam, Holland 31 October
Total time: 2 hours 20 mins
Grand Theatre. Luxembourg, Luxembourg 2 November
Here a few remarks about the Luxemburg show. The venue was a big theatre in an area with lots of construction and road-works (luckily it was a Sunday, so there was no noise) which made finding the way to the parking lot quite challenging.
The inside of the theatre was nice enough, but I had the impression that the audience was much too quiet. The concert was a bit strange, at some points I was afraid of it being a very short one, again, eventually we got about 2 hours, which is not too bad. No strat during the regular set, but a very nice solo in Fires and Ritchie once again enjoying himself most when the Geyers were on stage. Altogether a show of lesser quality than the previous two, but it had its moments.
Opera House. Buxton, UK 4 November
Set List: Susatissimo, Cartouche, Play Minstrel Play, Minstrel Hall, Under A Violet Moon, Past Times With Good Company, Soldier Of Fortune, Home Again, Diamonds And Rust, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves, Mr. Peagram’s Morris And Sword, Fires At Midnight, Durch den Wald zum Bachaus, Violin solo, Ghost Of A Rose, Renaissance Faire, Village On The Sand, I Still Remember, Hurdy-Gurdy solo – The Clock Ticks On, All For One, Difficult To Cure – Self Portrait. (First Encore set: Piano solo – Writing On The Wall, Second Encore set: Beyond The Sunset, Now And Then).
The opening night of Blackmore’s Night 2003 UK tour (for me) proved to be "a last minute dramatic dash to get to". Leaving my hometown of Lincoln at teatime (partially grid-locked due to a road accident) was an absolute nightmare. Then I had to get to Tuxford where Niall Hall (also a member of "Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire") lived. We transferred to Niall’s van and he, knowing the route to Buxton quite well, propelled us on a hair raising night-time dash through the countryside, which resulted in us getting to the venue’s bar just before the support band La Zag had finished. Whilst in the bar, we managed to speak with Heather Findlay and Bryan Josh from Mostly Autumn, who was part of the audience on this occasion. I wished them well and said how much I was looking forward to their gigs later in the year.
Then we headed into the main part of the theatre, where I managed to meet up with fellow "More Black Than Purple" contributor Richard Gillitt and also finally got to meet his wife, "The Fair Splodge!" I also had brought a package for band manager Carole Stevens. It contained "Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire" newsletters plus guide books for Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Theatre Royal, so that Carole could possibly consider them for future concert venues? I knew that the chance of her being able to spare me some time on the first (though the band have been touring together for some time now) night of the tour would be slim. In the end, it transpired that one of the band entourage took it backstage to her and told her that I would try to speak to her later in the tour.
Then it was time for everyone to make a dash to their seats, as the pre-recorded Susatissimo had begun to play out of the speakers. The very intimate atmosphere of the venue, designed, with its various circles and balconies ensured that everyone was relatively near to the band, though my friends and I were lucky enough to be in the Stalls. The stage backdrop was of course the illusion of a medieval building; the centre part resembling a giant window, showing a castle on a hill (that appeared to have a purple sky behind it. That was how the show’s lighting effects later made it appear like!) Some very tiny straw bails had been put in front of a few monitors to "disguise" them a bit. Even a couple of the stage crew had medieval outfits. One had a brown waistcoat and a pointy hat whilst the other had a hooded cloak, resembling a tongue-in-cheek sinister monk. Everyone laughed each time this particular character came on stage to move things.
As the band came on stage, huge cheers and applause broke out. After all, many of us had been waiting for two years to see this band, since their last tour. The synthesised sounds of Ritchie’s fender broke out, the atmosphere and cheers built up even more. Candice came onto stage, greeted by huge cheers and applause. Then the band launched into opening song Cartouche. This was the first time that I had heard this track done "live" and I personally wasn’t disappointed, it being one of my favourites from the new album.
The audience included fans in the front row, in medieval costume plus two lads in the balcony in "Old Lady Costumes", continuing a tradition they had started on the last tour! Candice seemed extremely amused and pleased to see all the costumed fans, especially the two "Old Ladies."
Then came two much-established quiet songs, Play Minstrel Play and Minstrel Hall. I personally think that these numbers are always played at this point to allow the band, Ritchie especially, to "gently get musically warmed up and eased into the rest of the gig" but of course, this point is purely my own personal perception.
The atmosphere livened up with the next two tracks that followed, Under A Violet Moon and Past Times With Good Company. Now played to the improved standard as presented on the Past Times With Good Company double-live CD, these two tracks are now well loved audience favourites. Candice then announces that "rumour has it, that Ritchie was in a couple of bands before this one." This is then the cue to play Soldier Of Fortune (or Soldier Of Fort-chun as Candice actually pronounces it!). After this, it is apparent that Ritchie is warmed up and in a bit of a humorous muck-about-on-stage mood. In the middle of playing Home Again, he improvises a brief excerpt of Rule Britannia and all the audience begins to laugh and then sing along.
Then comes Diamonds And Rust, another good track from the new album, followed by Sixteenth Century Greensleeves one of my favourite Blackmore tracks of all time! "The track Mr. Peagram’s Morris And Sword (Candice explains) is named in honour of a teacher at Ritchie’s school who taught the boys to Morris Dance; though Ritchie missed most of it as he was always in the Headmaster’s office for being naughty!" Despite the joking, this track proves "seriously delightful" when performed on stage.
Candice then announces that it is "Request Time". The audience begins to call out song titles, some of them being Led Zeppelin tracks! Then someone calls out The Locomotion. Ritchie and the band obliged for a few bars but it became even too funny for then to continue with! It is then announced that, despite requests, Ritchie is going to play what he wants to anyway, so the band then play Fires At Midnight, a well-established epic favourite these days.
Durch den Wald zum Bachaus came next, followed by a violin solo that seemed to unfortunately indicate in some places (in other songs as well?) that the violin player was suffering from first night nerves (though the band have been touring together for some time now). It could’ve been due to his consternation at being alone on stage, or more possibly because I personally liked Chris Devine’s violin contributions to the band so much that I find it hard to fully appreciate and praise any successor in his place?
Ghost Of A Rose when performed on stage is simply brilliant! It sounds very different; enhanced in a similar way, as were other tracks on the first three studio albums when they were re-presented on the Past Times With Good Company double-live CD; hearing is believing! Candice’s lyrics were superb.
Renaissance Faire is always going to be superb show highlight, again sounding like the version on the "live" album mentioned previously. The Fender-dominated Village On The Sand (studio version) is presented on stage with Ritchie playing the mandolin a lot more. It thus sounded a lot more "Folky" as opposed to "Rocky" and yet it did seem to work excellently, much appreciated by the audience.
I Sill Remember is normally re-arranged on stage to showcase the violin talents of Mr. Chris Devine (as opposed to the Fender-dominated version on the "Fires At Midnight" CD). With his successor now in the band however, I would now argue that the Fender seems to be more apparent during the epic instrumental section of the song; the musical balance having swung back somewhat? The moving line "A thousand stars lit up the sky" caused the entire stage to be illuminated by many tiny specks of light (i.e. A spot light was obviously being reflected somehow, off a spinning glass ball, to generate an excellent and atmospheric effect during several places in the song!)
Having past memories of Ritchie’s epic stand-alone-on-stage Fender solos with Deep Purple, it came as a complete contrast when he performed a hurdy-gurdy solo (which he clearly enjoyed) that turned out to be the introduction sequence to The Clock Ticks On. This was another superb show highlight, with La Zag the support band coming back on stage to join in, all the audience singing and clapping along too - brilliant!
I thought that the studio version of All for One was an excellent rock number but the version presented on stage absolutely blew it away, Mr. Blackmore hammering away on the Fender in epic style! Admittedly, Candice’s woodwind instrument was a bit inaudible initially, as standing directly behind the microphone didn’t quite fully work. She then got a larger woodwind instrument for the next chorus break and (standing to the side of the microphone, so as to get the end of the instrument in direct contact with the microphone) this cured the problem.
I was absolutely delighted when Difficult To Cure started up. I thought, "He really is up for it tonight, anything can happen". It actually turned out to be an introduction sequence that turned into Self Portrait, a surprising but very pleasing end to the main part of the show.
The first encore set began with a piano solo (though admittedly my thoughts turned to a certain Mr. Jon Lord at this point, wishing he was stood there, playing his boogie woogie piano!) Anyway, the piano playing on this occasion was highly competent and it transformed into the introduction to Writing On The Wall. Ritchie was again on fine form. Another superb long guitar solo ensued, which incorporated Burn, played as an instrumental sequence within it. The cheers from the crowd (especially me!) when that was played, said it all!
The second encore set was much quieter, setting the tone for the ending of the show. An excellent version of the very moving Beyond The Sunset was performed. This was then followed by the now traditional show closer Now And Then; everyone was singing along!
So, the show had ended. The P.A. was playing The Red Baron and I made my way across to Richard Gillitt to immediately begin finalising arrangements for the Reading gig on the 10th November. There was also just time to say a brief goodbye to Jerry Bloom (who’s "More Black Than Purple" magazine is just so vital and appreciated by many fans) and then it was time to head back home.
As we drove back, Niall and myself inevitably discussed the show in great detail. Niall thought that one of Ritchie’s solos hadn’t quite worked (but one has to accept that this does occasionally happen, as improvisation is the nature of Mr. Blackmore’s playing). We both thought that the violin player seemed to be struggling in places but hoped it was a case of "first night nerves" that would sort it out. The band as a whole had needed a few tracks to get really warmed up but by the second half of the show especially, were absolutely superb.
In overall conclusion, we both agreed it had been a brilliant night out; definitely worth the money, the travel hassles and almost a two-year wait since last time! Fortunately, we would be going to the Birmingham gig on Sunday 9th November with a few more fans associated with our "Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire" project. Another great night of music to look forward to!
(Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire)
Carnegie Theatre. Workington, UK 6 November
Travelled the 95 miles to see the lovely Candice and mercurial Ritchie playing at the Carnegie Theatre in Workington last night. Had my 16 year old daughter and her boyfriend in tow, both psyched up about the gig. Tickets said 7.30 so after a pleasant meal in the town (lovely people in Workington, very friendly) we headed to the venue at 6.50pm only to find a queue waiting as the doors were closed. Ominous?
Still, not long to wait before we were allowed entry. Headed for the merchandise stall to see what was on offer. Great, a tour programme, the first one I've seen having attended Newcastle in 2000 and York in 2001. A quick drink in the bar and into the theatre to find our seats. Not difficult, this place was tiny, perhaps better suited to Agatha Christie mysteries rather than concerts. Nevertheless it was very intimate and the sound proved excellent as the support act took the stage at 7.25 for an entertaining half hour. A pity that half the audience chose to stay in the bar throughout.
Soon the auditorium filled up and was packed. Half hours wait before the main act appeared to tremendous applause kicking off with Cartouche. Brilliant! Candice was, as ever, in great voice. The show progressed wonderfully with a lot of calls from the audience for some of the new numbers off Ghost Of A Rose which seemed to please Candice. However it was noticeable that Ritchie conferred often with Candice off microphone and it seems from comments by Candice that he was rearranging the set quite a lot. Nevertheless the music was superb.
However after 1 hour and 15 minutes and at the close of Fires At Midnight the band left the stage with Candice seemingly scurrying off wishing us a very hurried `bye'. Naturally everyone assumed they would all return for a lengthy encore but the house lights went up almost immediately and the p.a. system began blasting out `The Bloody Red Barron' from the Barron Knights. Yeuk! Perhaps the title of the song should have been `The Naughty Black Knight’?
We all waited hopefully for around ten minutes shouting for more before it became absolutely evident that Blackmore’s Night had gone for good. No encore, no natural close to the gig, just a feeling of being left hanging in the air like a jilted lover. Was Ritchie in one of his famous temperamental moods? I guess we'll never know.
So although the music that we did get was absolutely superb, we were, on the basis of past performances, somewhat cheated. 2 hours in 2000, two and a half in 2001. I was told that the Buxton gig a couple of days earlier lasted two and a half. OK Paul Rodgers only ever plays 80 minutes but his gigs come to a natural close, this one didn't and we do expect a lot more from Blackmore’s Night. I personally had a 200 mile, 4 hour round trip for this one and I know a lot more of you out there will be doing much more than that. Wish now that I had decided to go for the Edinburgh gig instead.
For the record the set list was:
Michael Hurst, Newcastle upon Tyne
Scottish Borders 7 November
Just thought I'd share this with the group - at 3.00pm today, Friday 7th November, I met Ritchie Blackmore in a motorway service station on the Scottish Borders!
I had been hoping to get to the Blackmore's Night gig in Workington last night but I had to travel to Glasgow on business. As I was coming home today I stopped off at a Road chef service station and almost fainted with excitement as I recognised the figure of Mr Blackmore walking across the foyer into the newsagents. He must have been incognito as a road-mender as he was dressed in a donkey-jacket, black trousers and hob-nail boots, with his trousers tucked into white socks. His one concession to rock stardom was his sunglasses, which are not needed in Scotland in November!
Anyway - I observed him from a distance then plucked up the courage to approach him and asked if he was indeed Ritchie Blackmore, he looked quite startled and just said "yes" very quietly. It was very obvious that he didn't want to be hassled and I'm well aware of his reputation for introspection so I thanked him and left him alone. A few minutes later I saw Candice come out of the ladies then both she and Ritchie walked across the car-park arm in arm and got into a huge shiny black Mercedes and drove away.
It’s not often that you meet your hero's buying a flake in a motorway service station!
Long live Rock n Roll
Chris, Whitesnake Yahoo group
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