Blackmore's Night

November 7, 2013
South Orange Performing Arts Center
South Orange, NJ

Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.

A full tapestry of a great concert unraveled in what is one of the best live venues for music in New Jersey — I present you Blackmore’s Night at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.  “Do You Hear the People Sing” taunted the audience as the players took their places. There was Ritchie Blackmore massaging a hurdy gurdy on a stand and Candice Night twirling out in her taffeta, silks, long blonde locks and welcoming smile.

They were joined by keyboardist David of Larchmont, backing vocalist and French horn player Lady Kelly De Winter, bassist Earl Grey of Chimay, drummer and percussionist Troubadour of Aberdeen, and Scarlet Fiddler on violin. Together,  the seven musicians embraced the mood and began with the title track of their latest album, “Dancer and the Moon.”  Even with Night’s vocal buried slightly in the mix (but quickly rectified), it was evident that the small but comfortable SOPAC was in for a great night.

Even as I anticipated seeing Blackmore play some electric guitar, I sat back and enjoyed his amazing work on the acoustic. A medley of “Play Minstrel Play,” “Somewhere Over The Sea” and “Queen For A Day Part II” featured some stellar violin from Scarlet Fiddler. A run at Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” included the first real solo spot from Blackmore, sitting as he did out of the spotlight on a stool in front of the drummer. He trilled and softly spoke volumes on his acoustic to begin the tune.

What I loved almost as much as his playing is when Night simply came over and lightly tapped her guitar playing husband on the bicep in a mock way of telling him to get on with it. It was a well-rehearsed bit of shtick to be sure but, but with Night and Blackmore bantering, it dispelled the notion of the guitarist being a curmudgeon and grouch, a label he’s been branded with throughout his illustrious career.

The band seemed to be having an equally good time, mugging and dancing around one another (even Blackmore locked arms with the Grey for a spin). There was a brash cover of “Durch Den Wald Zum Bach Haus” (including Larmont’s silly vocal on a couple bars of “Hava Nagila”) and a spirited “All The Fun Of The Fayre” where the first two rows of folks festooned in Renaissance garb began to call out and dance in the SOPAC aisles.

Another startlingacoustic moment came when the band ran through a cover of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust,” a tune Night truly handles masterfully. Blackmore switched guitars again, this time emerging with a white Strat, which enabled him to shred over the heaviest sounding part of the show (there was a keyboard solo thrown in here as well). Then there was the run through of a very long section of different tunes (all at Blackmore’s prompting) with a long, impromptu violin solo.

This far into the life of Blackmore’s Night (16 years as Night announced), the band really have these shows down. Even the set reflects the environment — brick covering decorations across and down the proscenium arch of the SOPAC stage, a soft color screen, hay stacks across the amps and drums, and the band in authentic costumes. When you throw in Night’s ability to play the odd and old-time instruments like Shams and flutes and the heavy sound this band manages at times, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and majesty of Blackmore’s Night.

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