Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Blackmore's Night in Concert

Tonight's outing was to see Blackmore's Night at the Somerville Theater. It's well worth writing up.

For those who don't know the band: Blackmore's Night is headlined by Ritchie Blackmore (famously of Deep Purple and other rock bands) and his longtime lady (and now wife) Candice Night. They're both devotees of the Faire circuit, and the band has gradually made its name there, doing "renaissance rock" that bears about as much resemblance to period music as Steeleye Span does to traditional folk: you can see the origins, but they're really a rock band.

msmemory discovered them a while back, and we picked up all the albums -- the group is quite a lot of fun, with lots of tunes that are catchy bordering on addictive. But I'd noticed some time ago that their live album, "Past Times With Good Company", was significantly better than the studio ones (a rarity for me: I'm usually not a big live-album fan), so I suspected that they gave good concert. When we found out that they were coming here for their first ever concert in this state, I had high hopes.

Hopes met and exceeded: that was one of the best concerts I've ever been to -- on a par with the legendary Steeleye concert at Nightstage 20 years ago, and for many of the same reasons.

The audience was a bizarre mix. A large fraction was rennies in garb -- the band strongly encourages fans to come in costume. (Sadly, we were the only SCAdians I saw there except for Guendalina and Angelina: in retrospect, I think a lot of folks would have enjoyed it.) And another large fraction, of similar size, was older white guys drinking a lot of beer: we quickly figured out that they were all lifelong fans of Blackmore, there for the guitar riffs.

The concert started quite late, although they sent out a couple of members of the band as opening acts, including one fellow doing a mix of modern and period pieces on bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, ocarina and other period instruments. And the first few numbers were only so-so: well-staged, but a bit slick and bland.

But over the course of the first half-hour or so, they got a read on the audience, started interacting with it, clearly threw out the set list and started riffing, and started to really have *fun*. They figured out that the audience was packed with Blackmore fans, so they started tossing in some Deep Purple numbers. Ritchie threw a Stevie Nicks number at Candice, which she gamely grabbed and sang perfectly (afterwards, she said that they've never done that one in concert before). One minute, they're playing "Come with me to the Renaissance Fair" (which is built on top of one of my favorite galliard tunes); the next, they're doing a highly adapted rock translation of an Alfonsine cantiga; the next, they playing their version of a Joan Baez number.

The band clearly demands a lot of virtuosity of its members, and gives them free rein to explore. Everyone got a solo, and got to do whatever they wanted with it. The fiddler started with the number she was in the middle of, and ever-so-gradually wandered off into a set of jigs. The keyboardist did a Bach harpsichord section in the middle of one number, and then gave a three-minute piano concerto (no, I have no idea by whom) for his solo. And Blackmore himself demonstrated that he's lost none of his skills with the strings: whenever he went into an acoustic guitar or mandolin number, the *extremely* rowdy audience fell silent enough to hear all the fine nuances.

At about 10:50, the management of the Somerville told them that, yes really, they had to get off the stage *now*, and got quite soundly booed by a crowd that was all on their feet and would happily have stayed for another two hours. I think the band would have been up for it: by that point they were clearly having a blast.

So overall, a huge success. I recommend the band's albums, but I *particularly* recommend seeing them in concert: this is a group that synergizes with a crowd better than almost anything I've seen before. We're definitely going to keep an eye open for them in the future...
Tags: reviews

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