It’s not often that I’m visiting the UK for holiday reasons. This time my wife, one of our sons and I chose to go to the Lake District. We’re talking about early to mid-July so that meant the Night Of The Prog and the Dutch show by Camel were out of reach for me.
Fortunately, I found an alternative because Camel were touring the UK at the same time. Closest to the Lake District was the beautiful city of York, so my wife and I combined the concert with a visit to this great city with so many gorgeous buildings and proof of an extensive history. Thanks to Ton Scherpenzeel of Kayak-fame, the current keyboardist with Camel since the passing away of Guy Leblanc, I was granted a photo-pass. It was a seated concert in this very nice venue, not too big but with a great atmosphere, comfortable seats and great acoustics.
One could appreciate the great vibe between the band and the audience from the first note and after the concert Andy Latimer told me, his extraordinary vivid performance had been triggered entirely by the enthusiasm of the audience. From the huge back catalogue of Camel the band chose to play a lot of really old songs. The opening song was Never Let Go, a very well-known piece from the first album. Indeed, I bet many prog heads would like the band to continue playing forever! Since the untimely passing away of Guy Leblanc and the difficult period Latimer had to go through, I still consider it a miracle we can hear this band performing live again, and how! From their second album Mirage they played The White Rider, one of my personal favorites, not in the least because for me the Camel-story started with that album. From then on I was hooked on this band, buying every record and going to as many shows as I possibly could.
The great trip down memory lane continued with five tracks from Moonmadness and Unevensong of Raindances in between. Another favourite of mine from Nude is Drafted. Fond memories again because the Nude show in Utrecht in the Netherlands was one of the best shows in progressive rock I’ve ever seen. Shivers down the spine of very many in the audience due to a stunning performance of the beautiful instrumental Ice from the album I Can See Your House From Here. Obviously the focus and spotlights mostly were on Mr. Camel himself playing as in his heydays. Even his vocals were better than several occasions I went to see Camel in the past! A rather modest role for Camel’s second keyboard player Jason Hart, but do not underestimate his contribution! The orchestral and full bodied sound could only be performed live thanks to his intricate performance. Drummer Denis Clement may not be a performer like Andy Ward, but he is a great musician and his skills are extraordinary.
After the show he told me he was able to pay Guy a visit before Guy’s passing away so both of them probably realized then that meeting would probably be their last. Since Denis lives in Europe most of the time, they didn’t have much contact outside of working with Camel. Ton Scherpenzeel, a fellow Dutchman and a well-known artist in his own right, was playing his many keyboards with dedication and he seemed truly concentrated, because many of the songs weren’t part of the set list when he played with the band in 1984, 1991 and in 1999. I must admit, that I missed some of the sounds of the vintage keyboards like the Moog, but overall Ton did a really fine job and is entitled to his own interpretation of the songs. On other occasions long time bass player and vocalist Colin Bass had a slightly more important role in the band but the bearded Bass seemed to be perfectly at ease with Latimer doing the major part of all vocals.
Next one this evening was Mother Road, one of the best songs on Dust And Dreams, followed by Hopeless Anger, another track from the same album and also one of the most superb tunes Latimer has written through the years. It was the perfect prologue to Whispers In The Rain, the third song from the same album. Melancholy all the way and almost a saddening ending of the show.
Fortunately there were encores and like many, many times before Lady Fantasy, from the album MIrage, proved to be an ultimate classic favourite, only this time just solos by Andy, no explosive organ soloing. Entirely dedicated to the two members of the Camel family who recently passed away: Guy Leblanc and Chris Rainbow was the song The Long Goodbyes, taken from the album Stationary Traveller, originally sung by Chris Rainbow. With their images projected behind the band, the current line-up of Camel payed a homage to these two former members of the band. It seemed the perfect way to end the show, but that would have been a rather melodramatic ending. The audience demanded one more song for un unforgettable finale and obviously the band felt that too so another encore was performed: Rhayader Goes To Town, a classic song from The Snow Goose. The perfect conclusion to a perfect show. A highly memorable concert by one of the greatest prog bands ever!
Andy, please call again and preferably with a new album...
Never Let Go
The White Rider
Song Within a Song
Spirit of the Water
Whispers in the Rain
Long Goodbyes (dedicated to Chris Rainbow and Guy LeBlanc)
Rhayader Goes To Town