Lincoln concert, February 21st, 1998
F anyone asks, I now have to say that, yes, dreams do sometimes come true. Being a sceptic by nature, I came to this opinion quite recently. You see, it seemed extremely unlikely that I would ever hear my favourite group from the 70's, Amazing Blondel, in concert. The trio had, after all, broken up in 1973. However, events took a positive turn in 1997 when Amazing Blondel regrouped and released their new CD Restoration. I was delighted by the music; original yet true to the Amazing Blondel style of old, and grateful for an invaluable gift discreetly printed on the inside of the CD jacket: the address of the Amazing Blondel website. When I learned, through the website, that Amazing Blondel had also returned to the stage with a series of live concerts, I rather impulsively decided to make the trip from my home in Copenhagen, Denmark, to England to attend concerts at Biddulph and Lincoln.
The concert in Lincoln at The Lawn Complex on February 21st must surely have been one of the highpoints of Amaz-ing Blondel's 1998 concert schedule. With Lincoln being the subject of Amazing Blondel's Fantasia Lindum album, and this being the first stage appearance in Lincoln since their still widely remembered concert in Lincoln Cathedral in 1972 (well, two people I met at the Lincoln Tourist Center thought they recalled it anyway!), the evening had all the makings of an emotional reunion between audience and band. With lights low and anticipation high, the three musicians made their way onto the darkened auditorium stage and launched, unaccompanied, into the chorus of the Fantasia Lindum number To Ye. The sound of the three solo voices was so immediately recognisable as the Amazing Blondel of old that the distance between time past and present was, for me, immediately closed.
My euphoria increased with the next number, Seascape, from the album England, with its lovely lyrics and characteristic melodic line played so beautifully by Terry Wincott on the metal flute. Applaud, snap a picture, applaud again; my behaviour pattern for the evening was taking form. The concert program included highlights from Amazing Blondel's first five albums, plus Restoration. The next four songs included Cawdor, Under the Greenwood Tree from Evensong, and again from Restoration Love Lies Bleeding and the instrumental piece Aubaird, played on solo guitar by Eddie Baird.
The Amazing Blondel trio sound like a much larger ensemble. Terry alone contributes an incredible range of sounds. With several flutes perched on his lap, he switches, often in the same number, between bass, tenor, treble and descant recorders, flageolet (small, keyed wooden flute), metal flute, and crumhorn (can he be the only surviving player of this ancient oboe-like instrument?). All this when he is not strumming his mandola or providing the harp-sichord and organs sounds from the keyboard. The forgiveness the audience displayed with his jokes is hard earned!
One of my all-time favourite songs (from any band) begins with a crumhorn introduction: Celestial Light. The lyrics, a tribute to the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral, were so movingly sung by John David Gladwin and the band. Rearing this song performed live, in Lincoln, was enough, in itself, for me to justify the expense of a trip to England. My wife, who did not accompany me on this trip, required additional justification so, for the record, I was also rewarded with a diversion into the song Weaver's Market from what was my first Amazing Blondel record, the purple album.
All three band members demonstrated their vocal talents in Benedictus Es Domine from Restoration. Inspired by Gregorian chant and sung in Latin, this lovely song proves that even within the framework of medieval-inspired English music, Amazing Blondel continue to find plenty of room for creativity and new sounds. The Restoration songs also feature, in my opinion, some of the Amazing Blondel's best acoustic guitar playing to date. This was once again made evident on the song Sir John's in Love Again. Lighthearted lyrics, beautiful guitar playing mixed with the sound of harpsichord and recorders - another Amazing Blondel classic that I was really happy to see included in the Lincoln repertoire. Amazing Blondel have recently released a live album, A Foreign Field that is forever England, from concerts recorded in the early seventies. Apart from the new songs, I found the Lincoln concert to be remarkably reminiscent of this live album. The beards and the long hair are gone now, victims to the years, as are the lutes with their difficult tuning. Remaining, undiminished, are the humour and intimacy with the audience, the impressive musicianship, and the live songs; vibrant, beautiful, and inspiring.
The band was called back for two encores and obliged the audience with a pair of songs from Evensong: Willowood and Pavan; the latter song performed live for the first time since 1972, according to John. For fans wanting more, and that probably included almost everyone present, the band graciously appeared afterwards to chat, sign autographs, and pose for even more of my by now annoying photographs. It was as appropriate end to a remarkable evening.
Following the concert, I spent a wonderful day in Lincoln exploring the Norman castle, viewing the Magna Carta, fol-lowing a trail of Roman ruins, and repeatedly returning to Lincoln Cathedral for yet another look. During my wanderings, I stumbled onto the location where the cover photo for the Evensong album was taken, an unexpected thrill which unleashed a frenzy of photo taking. To a confirmed Amazing Blondel fan, it was yet another experience in a weekend filled with sounds, sights, and impressions, which I now carry inside me, no longer as just a dream, but as a lasting memory.