Aylesbury 2005 [no label 2CD]
Live at Aylesbury Civic Centre, UK, Oct 31, 2005. VG+ AUD stereo.

Fact - Blackmore’s Night has now flourished longer and more happily than any other band Ritchie Blackmore has ever been involved with. Meaning, either, that he’s mellowing in his old age, or he should have formed a band with his missus long before. Not that it really matters. Blackmore’s Night has also defied every prediction to become one of his most overall enjoyable projects as well, and this 2CD set, recorded on the final night of the band’s 2005 UK tour, is as powerful as any other evidence you could ask for.

The set is the standard BN fare, dipping between their own albums, and the clutch of Ritchie oldies that he’s now comfortable enough to revive… "Soldier Of Fortune," "Child In Time" and "Difficult To Cure," a song that always deserved better treatment than Rainbow meted out to it, and which gets it here. There’s also the usual handful of covers, "Streets of London" and "Diamonds and Rust," which we all expect, an instrumental slam through Slade’s "Coz I Luv You" which we probably don’t, and such an achingly beautiful drift through the Bee Gees’ "First of May" that the gig could have begun and ended there and it would still have been magical.

Night, for all the suspicion and cynicism that still surrounds her where "serious" rock fans gather, is a terrific performer, a force of nature who picks up the audience and really does transport them back to an earlier, happier time. Chattering with the crowd, she could be your favorite librarian; conducting the singalongs, she’s your old junior school music teacher. But in-between times, she has a voice that utterly defies its own limitations, to wrap even the corniest lyric (and heaven knows BN have written a few) in warmth and vigor.

The quality here is excellent - there’s a little disturbance as "Under A Violet Moon" gets underway, but it resolves itself soon enough, and the rest of the show is perfect. And so it ought to have been. In case the significance of the recording date escaped you, it was Halloween. If Blackmore’s Night can’t be magical then, when can they? - Dave Thompson

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April 11, 2008