Friday, 1 November 2013

Camel - The Barbican Centre, London, 28th October 2013

For the first time on Astounded by Sound! I have a guest scribbler, in the guise of my good mate and long-time gig going companion Phil W, who knows far more about Camel than I do, so...take it away, El Phillipo....

Never underestimate the power of music to inspire, embolden and to heal. As Camel return to active service for the first time in a decade, there is huge cause for both celebration and relief. This is, after all, a moment many had feared would never come, not least due to Andy Latimer's well documented battle with ill health. If anyone can doubt the restorative power of music, then let this legendary musician and the extraordinary music he has created stand as powerful evidence that even when it seems that hope is fading, the call and allure of the creative process wields a unique potency.

Perhaps there is something quite magical about the timing of the return of Camel to the live arena. For fans who have long cherished this band and its remarkable achievements, the opportunity to experience The Snow Goose being performed in it's entirety for the first time since the mid 1970s seems to represent a wondrous collision between past and present, serving to emphasise the timeless nature of music of quality and passion.

It would seem that, with his typical humility, Andy Latimer has expressed his absolute delight to discover that not only has his loyal following from 'way back when' remained with him during some very dark days, but that their enthusiasm has not faded in any way. It's been a long time since the goose has flown!

Early indications that this was indeed going to be a very special evening became evident as I joined the pre-concert throng surrounding the merchandising stall. A group from Argentina had built a short holiday in London around attending the concert. Fans had arrived from various parts of Europe, the USA, but the long distance travel medal must surely go to a couple who hailed from Australia and saw this as maybe their one chance to see the group in such a special setting!

The merchandising van had only just arrived having been delayed due to the stormy weather, and a feeding frenzy ensued as the devoted wrestled to get their hands on the new re-recording of The Snow Goose. "The concert will begin in five minutes", heralded the announcer. Decision time; should I get the new CD now or risk it being sold out at interval? Fortunately a window of opportunity presented itself as a gap in the crowd opened up between two fans anxious to claim their seats, so the goodies were acquired.

In the auditorium the charged atmosphere was almost palpable. A man next to Christine and I declared that he felt almost sick with excitement and anticipation. The lights dimmed and the band took to the stage to a roar that would have raised the dead! Then.....and then......Andy Latimer strode out from the wings, guitar held aloft. He was greeted with a volcanic eruption of acclamation that showed no sign of abating after several minutes. Seizing a slight drop in the decibel level, he announced, "We'll, it's been quite while! Thank you. It's good to be here. At my age, it's good to be anywhere!"

The stage was set, the signal was given and the band launched into the familiar first notes of The (re-visited) Snow Goose. Would it simply be an exercise in 'spot the different notes?' Certainly not! We were treated to a sometimes comfortably familiar but by no means treading water expanded version that seemed to take on a new energy as its flight progressed. I am sure no one would have been surprised if Andy Latimer had levitated during any of his masterful solos during the piece.

The other members of the flight crew brought their own special talents into play and surely exceeded any previous expectations that this would be a very remarkable performance. Almost before it had begun the flight was over and the audience had but a short interval time to come to terms with the reality that they were indeed witnesses to an event that was so much more than just a gig.

The second set had to be very much a guessing game of not just what they would play but what they would omit from what is a huge catalogue of songs. The band opened with Never Let Go from the debut album, followed by Song Within A Song from Moonmadness. Then we were treated to a selection covering the group's entire career, ending with two songs from the last studio album, these being the very amusing Fox Hill presented with great humour by Colin Bass and an exquisitely rendered For Today.

Following this collection the band may have thought it was "Thank you very much and good night", but it was never going to end like that. Their reception onto the stage over two hours earlier was itself upstaged by the huge outpouring of love and joyous acclamation that was released by the audience, and our reward came earlier with Never Let Go that opened the second set, dedicated to the much missed Peter Bardens, and with the final hurrah in the form of an absolutely wonderful Lady Fantasy. Many of the audience seemed completely overwhelmed by what they had been part of as they filed out of the auditorium, and the air was heavy with emotion.

"Never give a day away. Always live for today." This had not been nostalgia in any form, but surely the rebirth of a proud legacy.

The Flight Of The Snow Goose: On board crew - Andy Latimer: electric, acoustic guitars, flute, lead and backing vocals; Colin Bass: bass, acoustic guitar, vocals; Denis Clement: drums, bass; Guy LeBlanc: keyboards, backing vocals; Jason Hart: keyboards, backing vocals.

The Snow Goose
The Great Marsh
Rhayader Goes to Town
The Snow Goose
Rhayader Alone
Flight of the Snow Goose
Fritha Alone
La Princesse Perdue
The Great Marsh (reprise)

Second Set
Never Let Go
Song Within a Song
The Hour Candle (A Song for My Father)
Tell Me
Watching the Bobbins
Fox Hill
For Today

Lady Fantasy


  1. Great review.Just enjoyed the band again at Birmingham town hall and picked up the Dvd of the Barbican gig. Get your copy now.Brilliant.10 March

    1. well chosen words, bravo. those not in attendance might be tempted to put this account down to a fan's enthusiastic exaggeration. they would be wrong.


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