Camel | Harrogate Royal Theatre

Some things in your life are very personal and effect you in a way that touch your soul. Camel are one of those things and an element of my life since adolescence. Imagine how thrilled i was to hear that after a ten year abscence due in no small part to guitarist Anrdew Latimers illness that a short tour had been organised? Not just a short tour but one to commemorate The Snow Goose and of course original band member the late Peter Bardens. I couldn’t think of a nicer place to begin the tour than the Royal Theatre in Harrogate. A beautiful spa town steaped in history with amazing archetecture. None more so than the rather sumptuous Royal Theatre with it’s mural’s and archetraves adding to the mood of the event. One down side though was the hike to the nearest loo and the limited capacity thereof!

Promptness was the order of the day and the band hit the stage at 7:30pm sharp. very un-rock n roll and caught me unawares. Most of the adience was seated upon my arrival and i missed the first few bars of the newly revamped Snow Goose. I flayed myself with hemp all the way home. Camel have re-recorded the Snow Goose and the new version was on sale at the merch desk. It was great to see Andrew latimer looking so well and able to maintain the very high standard of playing whether it be playing guitar, flute or keyboards. I can’t think of any other musician who gives so much of themselves to an audience than he. Each note he plays seems to transcend straight from his heart and soul.

The band played The Snow Goose in it’s entirity and the re-worked parts really were a breath of fresh air adding a new dimention to an already loved classic and played with aplomb. Guy Le Blanc’s keyboards were simply fist class and caught the spirit of Pete Bardens sponteneous style. Following a short brake Mr Latimer returned to the stage alone armed only with an acoustic guitar. As he sat and strumbed the opening few bars of my favourite version of Never lt Go” i could feel the hair standing up on the back of my neck. As the band filed in behind him they simply took flight, Denis Clement’s drum and cymbal work driving the piece along like an express train. This rousing rendition of Pete Bardens timeless piece of music had everyone to their feet for a standing ovation. Rightly so, it was blisteringly good.

Not wanting to stop for breath the band launched straight into Song Within A Song from the excellent Moonmadness album. Colin Bass not only played some fine bass throughout this song (and indeed all evening) but his lilting vocals which never seem to age carried it perfectly to Jason Hart (Renaissance) and Guy La Blanc’s keyboard conclusion. The next song was a bit of a treat for me as it is easily one of my favourite Camel pieces. Air Born was fully paid justice to, Andy’s flute melting into an almost Shadows guitar sound i couldn’t help feeling that of all the gigs i have seen throughout the year and of the ones i had yet to see, camel may well have spoiled it for everyone.

All hands to the pumps for a great outing from Breathless as the band blaised a trail through Echoes. Hour Candle Found Andy Latimer in full flow and never betrayed once that he hadn’t played a live set like this in ten years looking every bit as enthusiastic and fresh as i remember him playing with Pete Bardens at Newcastle City Hall in 1976. The spirit of Pete Bardens was once again visited with Mystic Queen from Camel’s very fist album. Some of the finest guitar of the eveing was to be heard in Hour Candle which gave way to the best version of Tell me that i have heard to date. Denis Clements stepping out from behind the drums to play fretless bass, and pretty fine job he did of it too.

Back up to full speed with gusto the band proved that they still had the camel magic steaming ahead with Wait, Bobbins and Fox Hill before concluding the set with a very emotional For Today. After a lengthy foot stomp and slow hand clapping the band returned to play Lady Fantasy . Just as we thought it was all over a myriad of acoustic guitars were donned and a new song with a working title of Never Let Go Two was played. Written for and dedicated to My late keyboard hero Pete Bardens. This was the one that tipped me over the edge and i do have to confess to shedding a tear or two. I really do hope that all differences are put to one side and that Tallulah and Sam Bardens attend the london gig as these shows really are a testament to the influance, spirit and rich legacy of Pete Bardens flare and musicality.

Throughout all the changes Camel have undergone over the years and the difficulties they faced on a personal and professional level it was a joy to see them return to the stage and play like they have never been away.  As for The Snow Goose, it has never sounded so good. As you may have guessed, this wasn’t just a camel gig, it was a very special moment. One i think many people in the audience shared that night.

Special, very special.

Pictures by Brendan Eyre.

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