On August 26, I had the pleasure of seeing Blackmore's Night live in Berlin, Germany.
It was my first chance to see guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore in concert, and living on the West Coast, I didn't think I'd ever get the opportunity as Blackmore's Night performs mostly in Europe and, on rare occasions, on the East Coast in the U.S.
The 1,600-capacity Admiral Palace theater provided a very intimate setting. The stage looked as if it could've been used for a William Shakespeare play with greenery, flowers and rocks covering musical equipment and curtains painted to look like castle walls hanging on either side. When the concert began, all eyes were on Blackmore as he strummed his acoustic guitar and greeted fans in the front row who dressed as if they were at a renaissance fair.
If I had to describe Blackmore's Night musically, I'd say they are a fusion of renaissance, folk and rock. It became clear from the beginning that they didn't have a problem breaking the rules. How many renaissance concerts have you seen with an arena-rock-style drum solo? A very impressive group of young talented musicians provided the perfect backing to Blackmore's Night.
The concert was full of dynamics, and each song featured a wide spectrum of different arrangements. The best example of this was probably a Deep Purple cover of "Soldier of Fortune," which began with Ritchie and his wife, Candice Night, alone on stage playing very softly. The stage volume was so low, the entire audience had to be silent. As the song progressed, more instruments joined in until every member of the band played with full force. At that moment, it felt like more like a rock concert.
Behind the band was a large screen where different moving images would appear relating to specific songs. The stage production enhanced the live music to create a very enjoyable experience. At times it was easy to forget I was watching one the greatest rock guitarists of all time as songs like "Renaissance Faire" had everybody singing and clapping.
Two hours into the concert came the moment I had been waiting for as Blackmore returned from a short break carrying his signature yellow cream Fender Stratocaster. The band played "The Moon Is Shining" from their latest album, and the sound of an electrified Blackmore had the audience on their feet. The highlight came as he began his outro solo, which lasted about five minutes. Like a master, Blackmore built a solo that took the entire audience on an emotional journey. As he moved higher and higher up the neck and held a high bend for several seconds, the audience was in awe.
As a guitar fan I thought it couldn't get any better than that.
At which point he walked over to the front of the stage, dropped to his knees and began going crazy up and down the neck with both hands, flipping his guitar over and abusing his whammy bar. I cannot describe the audience reaction as the entire venue shook with a deep growl. With that single move, Blackmore reminded everyone that he was still the rock guitar god he's always been. As the song ended, I couldn't help but notice the man next to me was crying. I was also relieved that my friend got the moment on film!
The concert ended up lasting well over two and a half hours with Ritchie and Candice taking requests from the audience. Other highlights included "Fires at Midnight," which began with Ritchie alone on stage, on a stool, improvising acoustically for a few minutes. The beautiful melodic phrases had the audience in silence again, which contrasted perfectly the heavy metal style moves of moments earlier.
To say I enjoyed the concert would be a huge understatement. I would urge any guitarist to see Blackmore's Night if you get the chance.
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.