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BLACKMORE'S NIGHT, Buxton Opera House
1 October 2011

Blackmore's Night, photo by Lee Millward

Cue Carlsberg voiceover. In carriages from Chesterfield to Chester, fathers would have told tales to their first born that once there was a man who could evoke fear in whole armies of camp followers such as other musos, camera operators, managers and promoters until he was tamed by a princess from a distant land.

Fast forward to the Georgian splendour of the Buxton Opera House on this glorious autumn evening and we're set for lyres and fires.


This was poetic innocence ladled out in generous portions and interspersed with moments of pure genius from the man in black.

The backdrop to the opener, 'Locked within the Crystal Ball' from the 'Secret Voyage' album was an impressive voyage through sea and stars. This was poetic innocence ladled out in generous portions and interspersed with moments of pure genius from the main in black.

Blackmore broodily remained in the shadows for the first couple of songs causing one or two professional challenges for our lensman Lee Millward, while Candice took the floodlights.

Blackmore's Night, photo by Lee Millward

The foreground was lined with trees and old barrels around which seven minstrels plied their successive trades on violin, keyboards, bagpipes, bass, pipes percussion and of course the stringed ensemble.

Those few Rainbow and Purple fans who hoped in their heart of hearts that their icon would suddenly see red and rip into 'Kill the King' whilst appearing on the nearby "royal box" dangling down a mutilated Stratocaster to the baying wolves below like he did in 1977 at the Liverpool Empire would be disappointed.

Other half, Candice Night just about touches the right note with a witty delivery between songs which alludes to the Purple or Indigo past without giving any indication that this more recent offering is a poor substitute for it. This way we can celebrate past triumphs and tribulations without being slaves to them and, instead, enjoying Blackmores Night for what it is.

Witty lines like "Before Ritchie became medieval, he was just evil" were legion. Self deprecating moments such as when Blackmore corrected his missus on the number of ex wives he had tempted (four not three) provided an added dimension to the evening's entertainment.

Blackmore's Night, photo by Lee Millward

Vocally Candice Night too is more than fit for purpose and a good frontwoman. Lyrically, is more Carly Simon than Carole King, preferring celebrations of people through the ages getting together in candlelit situations over any allusion to societal change.

And yet Blackmores Night is also a celebration of medieval and renaissance music, so who are we to scoff at lyrics that, in their day, were motivational pieces designed to lift people from lives that were often nasty, brutal and short? The question is whether it has a place in our record (or mp3) collection now.

This came to light particularly in the 12th century muse written by King Alphonse entitled 'World of Stone.' Fast forward to the 16th century, 'The Clock Ticks On' before which Blackmore whimsically chimed in with "I wrote it my myself in the 1500s." A deft move; at least he can't be sued by living musicians like some of his guitar contemporaries we could mention.

Many of the songs from the extensive Blackmores Night back catalogue are a joy to behold. 'Queen for a Day' combined ballad with jig and, with some magnificent acoustic runs from our man, we could sit back and forget the everyday challenges that this recession is imposing on many of us.

Two blasts from the past, one intentional and the other curiously spontaneous added cinnamon to the mead. Purple's 'Soldier of Fortune' was beautifully executed. Two thirds through and we lost both Night and Blackmore, the band having to fill in for a good ten minutes while they jammed as bemused as us as to what was going on.

Blackmore's Night, photo by Lee Millward

Rather than some backstage duel though, it might have had something to do with one year old, Autumn Blackmore running across the stage to greet her mommy just a couple of songs previously. A lovely moment, and a further indication that our dark hero is now firmly set for a more sedentary life.

My favourite bit was inevitably the couple of songs he did on the white Stratocaster. It might have been pure nostalgia on my part, but I was nonetheless moved by his absolute mastery of this instrument eyes closed, chopping, picking and bending the strings to create a haunting interlude to 'Lorelei.'

Request time was also ironic. Inevitable cries of 'Stargazer' from the blokes and 'Fires at Midnight' from the ladies were eventually placated by the latter and also a rendition of 'Greensleeves' which was the closest we were ever going to get to Dio-era Rainbow.

"We get this every night. Ritchie will listen to your requests and then play something else," joked Candice. No change there then.

Those of us who have witnessed 90 minute sets with no encore in days of yore could not possibly complain at the three hour long repertoire. Let's hope they don't leave it another five years for a return to some of our more salubrious venues here in the UK. They will be made very welcome.

Review by Keith Thompson

Photos by Lee Millward

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