USA 2003

Theatre Of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA 17 September

A couple of notes about the Philly show. Small theatre, nice choice for a BN show. There was a pub right next door, serving good beer – they had Chimay on tap!!!! Huzzah! It was my first time in Philly, I enjoyed it very much – good city, lively, good people, and except for all the one way streets (can’t get there from here). The sold out show had people coming from all over, I met folks from Canada, Ohio, Minn., upstate NY, England, and Japan. The stage was wide, allowing for many front row seats. There were enough people dressed in costume that the preferential seating extended many rows back from the stage. The night began with two bagpipe players roaming the theatre, setting the mood and whetting the audience anticipation. The support act, Wyndfall took the stage, a 3 piece group (gtr/vocals, flute, cello) who were obvious fans of Jethro Tull, played through a 30 minute set of fine songs filled with tawdry stories and commendable solos from the flute and cello. The time had come for BN, anticipation ran high. Ritchie came on playing the guitar synth intro to Way To Mandalay as the band assembled on stage, then broke into Cartouche (a great opener) and Candice took the stage with the crowd loudly greeting her presence. Ritchie was in a great mood, interacting with the audience, and played magnificently from start to finish. Candice was in fine form, commanding the front-person role with skill, strength, and confidence.

The band played through several acoustic songs – Cartouche, Play Minstrel Play, Minstrel Hall, Soldier Of Fortune – all the while Ritchie was switching guitars, joking and talking to the fans, handing out beers. The music flowed very well, the band very together, very tight. They played Diamonds And Rust, and Candice sang it with perfection, very strong and confident – all the emotion and passion in her voice coming right through the speakers and into your heart. She is a Class A performer. As we wiped the tears from our eyes, a young lad in the front row presents Candice with her first of many bouquets of flowers. Ritchie threw on the strat, and it was time for 16th Century Greensleeves – much to the crowds delight – there’s no denying that Ritchie is in a class by himself when he plays his strat – there are no peers – no one talks with guitar the way he does. Greensleeves was played strong and true, Candice and the Sisters of the Moon providing great vocals. Ritchie played a great solo, extending it a bit from some of the other shows I’ve seen. He even got down and his knees and wiped the guitar up, giving the fans the exciting show they came for. After Greensleeves, as the crowd settled their heartbeats back down, they played through Under A Violet Moon, the crowd singing along in fine fashion. Mr. Peagram’s Morris and Sword was flawless, then came Village On The Sand with Ritchie starting the song on mandolin – which is a perfect touch for that song, it sounds much better on mandolin. Suddenly, in the middle of the song, Ritchie hands me the mandolin and tells me to keep playing. I stand in the front row – playing mandolin and he picks up his strat and goes through his solo and the rest of the song with his strat. I can’t quite describe how much of a treat it was to play along with them on his mandolin. Somebody pinch me!!!

I give the mandolin back (but not the pick), and the show proceeded. At this point I lose track of which songs were played when (wouldn’t you?), but they played through Renaissance Faire, Past Time, a well received Home Again, The Clock Ticks On – with the bagpipe players joining them halfway through the song. Then they played Ghost Of A Rose, which is such an awesome song done live – so epic and emotional – the drums rise and fall through the changes to bring strength to the song that is not present in the recorded version. The backing vocals are chilling and Candice sings the story so well you become part of the tale.

Through the several encores that night Ritchie treated the crowd to more strat playing, flowing through Rainbow Blues, Difficult To Cure, All For One, Writing On The Wall – piano solo intro. All For One really goes over well live, a great crowd sing-along, clapping and stomping, etc. Rainbow Blues was recognized immediately, the crowd roaring with the first notes. Late into the night Ritchie asks the audience what they want to hear – and he goes into Beyond The Sunset, complete with a great intro. The song is so beautiful, and settles everyone down from all the electric excitement. They end the show with Now And Then, and proceed to shake hands and sign autographs and visit with the audience.

The show was awesome, and went well over two hours. All of the many styles Ritchie does/has done were covered, and this version of Blackmore’s Night – the tightest and best version yet – were victorious! As new shows are added in the near future, you guys/gals have got to find your way there and see this show – you will not be disappointed.

Long Live Blackmore’s Night, and Long Live King Ritchie,

David Hall

Westbury Music Fair, Westbury, NY 19 September

Ahh yes, Westbury Music Faire show on Friday 9/19 – after somehow skirting the fury of the storm Isabelle, I’m anxious to see Blackmore’s Night in their homecoming appearance. As always, each concert is also an adventure in the venue itself; they always find these great places – with their own character and some special quality.

A short taxi ride from the train station and I’m delivered to this unassuming place, tucked away down the hill and off of the street – only a sign on the front of the building to indicate I’m even in the right place. No Marquis, no signs, posters, ads, anything that says Blackmore’s Night – hmmmm. From the outside, this venue looks like nothing special – but the night has not yet begun!

Arriving at 4:30, I go around to the stage entrance and meet a couple from Toronto and two others that were hanging out. About 30 minutes later, Ritchie and Candice arrive – Ritchie goes straight inside and Candice comes out to greet the fans and sign autographs. A few minutes later, Ritchie comes out and visits the fans – much to the delight of these dedicated people that came so far for the show. With the greetings and hello’s done, there’s a few hours to kill – but there are no restaurants or pubs in the vicinity; only a deli to bide the time – eating and drinking beer.

Fast forward to 7:30. The crowd, this amazing crowd begins to arrive – so many in costumes it is truly inspirational! Even the guy from Japan is in costume (can you believe it?). Blackmore’s Night music is playing in the parking lot, radio station van parked by the door. Visiting with Richard Michaels out front, we both look around and just say “Wow, this is great!”. The fans that showed up were fantastic. The doors opened and we go inside – this very ordinary building took on a whole new life, it was splendid on the inside. A theatre in the round (tonight in the half-round), with steep amphitheatre like seating – every seat was a good seat. The bagpipe players began this enchanted night, strolling about the theatre playing the mood setting songs. The support act followed, Wyndfall, a very Jethro Tull-ish act consisting of guitar/singer, flute player, and cello player. The audience appreciated their music and applauded them much more so than the Philly show 2 days prior. Their songs were highlighted by great solos on the cello, and excellent flute playing. The vocalist had a great voice and sang their tawdry songs very well, weaving the storylines and melodies through the chord progressions nicely. Their 35 minute set ended and was congratulated loudly by the audience on a job well done.

The time had come, Blackmore’s Night was soon to take the stage and the anticipation could be felt throughout the theatre. During the stage change, Geyers music was playing over the sound system – what a fitting prelude!

I had an unbelievable front row seat, in the orchestra pit right in front of Ritchie’s mandolin microphone, only one foot from the edge of the stage – which was knee high when I was sitting down. There were four front row seats on Ritchie’s side of the stage. Beside me sat the Japanese couple (in costume!) and Ian, who had flown from England for the shows. I cannot thank Carole enough for this dream-like seat. I stood up and looked around. The theatre was packed, no empty seats – except for the sections around the sides of the stage (obstructed views). Now it’s Showtime!

Ritchie comes on the side of the stage, with the lights still out, and hooks up his guitar – people are murmuring but wait for the lights to come on. He takes the stage and begins with the synth intro the Way To Mandalay, and everyone lets loose – cheering and greeting him after waiting so long to see him again. The band takes the stage as Ritchie plays on, and when all are ready they break into Cartouche – the crowd clapping to the up-tempo beat. Candice takes the stage and again everyone on their feet cheering and greeting her. As they play through Cartouche I’m just floored at how great this venue is, so intimate and close, nothing like my first impression outside. The first song ends, and the audience goes crazy, cheering and screaming their greetings so loudly for so long Candice doesn’t know what to think. Sir Robert leans over to her and says in her ear “Welcome Home” (see how intimate it was, I could hear him talk in her ear). The audience was very happy to see them and shared their appreciation in awesome fashion. Candice thanks them and proceeds with saying hello to all.

They continue the show with Play Minstrel Play, Minstrel Hall, Bach Haus, Soldier Of Fortune…..Candice sang wonderfully, Ritchie was in a great mood and handed out beers and said hello to folks. The audience was amazing, so enthusiastic and supportive! At about the 4th or 5th song, Ritchie said “What do you want to hear?”. Loud calls came for Loreley and Ritchie thought about it for a while. Candice said “Well, we’re going to play the one song that nobody asked for” as they went into Avalon – and it sounded great – good choice by Ritchie. For the next song, Ritchie put on the strat – to the sheer delight of the crowd – and they played 16th Century Greensleeves. Ritchie played a long solo this time. Like an everyready, he just kept going and going – signaling the band to continue - he seemed to be ready to let it rip for a while – and he did. As the song ended, the audience stood on their feet and loudly thanked Ritchie & company.

The band was tight and in good spirits as they continued through Under A Violet Moon and Diamonds And Rust – Candice does this song so well, supported by chilling backing vocals taking care of the space filled by Ritchie’s slide playing on the CD. Next was Mr. Peagram’s Morris and Sword, and as Ritchie played with impeccable skill, I sat there not 2 feet away in awe. Village On The Sand came next, Ritchie starting the song on mandolin and switching to strat halfway through. Candice got the audience involved with singing the chorus line with the band silent….she came out into the audience with the microphone and cheered everyone on, it was great! I Still Remember was next and I thought of Rainer, how I wish he could’ve been there. They did a great version, with Ritchie strumming the chords unbelievably fast during the bridge, so fast that Robert smiled and watched with joy. More songs followed….Renaissance Faire, The Clock Ticks On, and Ghost Of A Rose. I get chills and goose bumps everytime I see them play this song….so emotional… intense….so epic. The entire band….everyone’s part is so important to the song….and they all rose to the occasion. At this point in the show…the audience no longer willing to stay in their seat, fill the aisle – wanting to get closer, cheer louder and longer with every song. The crowd was spell-struck, and at that moment in love with the moment – it was a special night indeed!!!!!! Flowers began to make their way to Candice, and bouquet after bouquet was given to her, especially one with White Roses. Ritchie got into his zone and became more and more into the music. Next came some electric songs…All For One, which went over very well….the audience singing along. There was a treat for us in All for One….Ritchie played the intro melody with his fingers on the second time through…including the lick that is on the CD version (yes! I got to see him play it!!!!). As the song ended and roars came from the crowd, the front area around the stage becoming now quite crowded, Ritchie plays the first two notes for Difficult To Cure….then….something catches his ear from the side of the stage. He exits, and the band follows. The audience holds firm, clapping and shouting for more. Time goes by……one minute….two minutes… three…… then in complete surprise the house lights come on and the Red Baron song comes on…..the show is over - to the dismay of the crowd. The show ended prematurely it seems, only one encore.

I don’t think Ritchie was ready for it to end, he wasn’t done for the night. Something seems to have happened, and it was over. Even with this happening, the buzz around the audience hanging around the venue was electrifying…..all very pleased by what they just experienced, and intimate night with Blackmore’s Night. The music was so great, Ritchie’s playing was so inspired – especially his strat playing, and Candice sang like she was singing to each person – touching all in a personal way. Despite the unexpected end to the show, everyone was very satisfied.

After talking with some key folks afterwards, found out a couple of interesting bits:
1) Sound System Problems – The venue, due to some sort of labor union rules or the like, originally insisted that BN use the house PA system. The sound crew had to spend the time hooking up the sound to the house PA and the BN PA to convince the venue staff that they couldn’t possibly use the house PA because it was not good enough. Once they were given the go ahead to use the BN PA, they had to go about getting the BN PA ready for the show. The trials and tribulations of behind the scene maneuvers!!!!!

2) The Show Ended a Little Premature – Apparently, there was some misunderstanding (and miscues) regarding the curfew (who the hell invented this curfew thing, anyway). The curfew was fast approaching, but there was a little more time. A cue was given, meant to convey approx. 10 minutes left – but it brought the show to a halt. A little confusion, words, etc – Ritchie got upset, headed straight to the car….and BAM……show’s over!!! Again, the complexities that go on behind the scenes. Well, no one said it was easy!

All in all, a great show, great night, great venue…despite its image from the exterior (there was not a single Blackmore’s Night poster or ad of any kind). But there was no after party at all…..the night was DONE.

Cheers to all,

David Hall

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