Blackmore's Night

Opera House, Buxton

28 October 2005

I'm four rows back and at the extreme right — which sounded perfect, until I sat down and found the entire right half of the stage is blocked from view by the speaker stack. Disaster! Utter disaster!!!

Let me describe the Blackmore's Night stage layout. It doesn't matter how big the stage is (tiny in Edinburgh, medium in Newcastle, large in Buxton), it's always the same: Candice, bass, violin, keys, drums, and two backing singers on the left half of the stage. Ritchie on the right half of the stage. Yes, that's right, I'm going to spend the entire show NOT watching Ritchie Blackmore. Disaster!!!

[Pause to watch support act: "Geyers", a 30-minute set each night and very good.]

Must mention the venue — possibly the most beautiful theatre I've ever been in. All traditional styling, white and gold with painted ceilings with cherubs and things. It's about twice the size of the Tyne Theatre and so far it looks like it will be pretty full. Typically mixed audience: all ages, little children with their parents, and all manner of dress.

I've got my eye on an empty seat two to my left. If it stays empty I'll move...


On the way to Buxton this afternoon I saw a rainbow [rising] over the dales. I took this as an omen that it would be a good show.

And sure enough, Ritchie picked tonight to play 80% of the show in the centre of the stage — far enough over for me to see him!

The set is a perfect mixture, mid way between the Edinburgh and Newcastle sets, with the best bits from each. Long acoustic soloing (especially in Ghost of a Rose, Fires at Midnight, and the three instrumentals) and Ariel as the electric encore. (That's completely wrong, of course, because the "acoustic" numbers are mostly played on electric guitar -- but you know what I mean.)

The encores ended abruptly after Ariel and I think the whole show was about 10 minutes shorter, but it didn't matter. Ariel was the best version yet, a really powerful arrangement with the guitar well up in the mix and Candice... well, I don't think I've ever written these words before in a Blackmore's Night review, but... Candice's voice is incredibly POWERFUL. She has sounded much better on this tour than at any other time I've seen her, singing with a lot more strength and depth and still as sweet as ever on the mushy stuff.

Ok, now is a good time to talk about the rest of the band.

Candice Night, as I've mentioned, is singing really well and is in her usual good humour, telling the stories behind the songs and cracking jokes (usually at Ritchie's expense). She plays a couple of wind instruments on some songs, but otherwise seems happy to stand at the side of the stage in between verses and just watch Ritchie solo. She has a good connection with the audience and stays on stage long after the house lights come up, shaking hands and talking to a couple of little girls who made their way to the front.

She wants to "take us back to a simpler, more innocent time", but one without the dirt and disease and fleas — consequently, she looks more like a Disney princess in her layered skirts and dangling lacy sleeves and silvery bodice than any kind of "real" mediaeval figure. But that's ok, it's all part of the fantasy.

The keyboard player ("Bard David" — sorry, I can't get into this fake naming conceit, his name's Dave, ok?) is very accomplished. He sounds like a million different instruments during the songs, but when he gets a solo spot it's a piano recital meandering through a variety of obscure classical pieces. (Maybe not so obscure, but I'm not really au fait with piano works.) He has a fine voice, too, though it's mainly used for comic relief...

"Tudor Rose" plays mainly violin (and is therefore wonderful). She gets a great solo spot during Bach Haus, which she has made different, and interesting, each night. She also plays recorder and some other woodwind instruments.

"Sir Robert" plays electric bass and acoustic guitar. He has an acoustic bass on stage but I haven't seen him use it yet. He also adds a few backing vocals. I think he's been with the band the longest (I've seen him before, anyway, so he's escaped being sacked for at least two years) and it shows — he's the only one still able to follow when Ritchie takes off in a random direction. (And even he struggles at times, for example in Mr Peagram's Morris and Sword, where Ritchie's playing a completely different tune and Sir Robert can't find a spot to jump in.)

"Squire Malcolm" on drums just stays in the background and gets on with the job.

The backing singers ("Lady Nancy" and "Lady Madeline" I think) do a good job of filling in the sound without overshadowing Candice, and contribute operatic wails to the big instrumental choruses. They are tucked away in the back corner and poorly lit, but they come forward into the spotlight to do the screams on... Child in Time! Oh, did I mention that they're playing Child in Time on this tour? It deserves a mention, and assuming they do it again on Sunday I'll give it a proper review then. Too tired to do any more now.