Norwegians lining up for
photo © Rasmus Heide
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway
by musical splendour
the Nidaros Cathedral the line of eager ticket holders lined up in
the pleasant evening snake its way from the cathedral doors, along
the 150 meter path to the street, describes a 90 degree turn and continues
further down the street.
Inside the atmosphere is devout. While we wait for the 10pm start,
members of Nidaros' own 'clerical security' - dressed in dark red
cloaks with a yellow cross on the front - assist patrons in kind,
There's a distinct feeling of Something Special in the air. Among
the international Jon Lord fan fraternity present tonight, the anticipation
is scaling heights akin to 1999's milestone Royal Albert Hall event.
The professional recording and filming crew are in place when the
Trondheim Soloists take the stage to polite applause. A couple of
minutes later the three girl backing singers, Miller Anderson and
Sam Brown shuffle on-stage followed by The Maestro himself. The show
is the conclusion of Hell Blues Festival 2003, imaginatively set some
33 kilometres from the village of Hell itself in Trondheim's 12th
century Nidaros Cathedral. It is an impressive building with towers
reaching for the sky, and all sides beautifully and ornamentally decorated.
A Jon Lord concert in a 12th century Norwegian cathedral is a tantalising
prospect. At Nidaros Jon Lord and his assembled group of musicians
will more than meet expectations.
From a Deep Purple fan's perspective the evening is quite an eye-opener.
Jon Lord's solo output is a magical world featuring not just the impossibly
beautiful and emotionally draining Pictured Within album (1998), but
also the rhythmical and orchestral exploration of Sarabande from 1976,
and 1982's Before I Forget, with its equal parts symphonic majesty
(albeit played on Mini Moog) and Hammond wailing. These are the three
high points from Lord's solo career, which will form the backbone
of this evening's musical offerings.
bated breath and a slight lump forming in the throat we watch as Miller
Anderson and Lord - as if connected by telepathy - deliver a note
perfect Pictured Within, free of the nervousness evident at RAH in
Thus the evening is off to an excellent start. An impossibly hectic
week-long schedule of rehearsals, score writing and press duties is
finally coming to fruition. The day before Lord worked 18 hours straight,
rounding off a long day with a wonderfully inspired and energetic
set of Hammond doused loose rhythm'n'blues jamming in Hell with Miller
Anderson and the Norman Beaker Band.
a victorious evening brimming and sparkling with musical joy and delicate
performances. An elated elegant mood prevails throughout the concert,
with the well dressed sell out crowd riding high on the waves of emotion
softly rolling out from the stage, engulfing everyone in the aural
sea of Jon Lord music where styles, musical instruments and nationalities
mix and mesh to create an enhanced journey through the best of his
eclectic solo career.
The desperately overlooked Before I Forget album is represented by
two songs. Recorded when "I didn't quite know who I was. I was
in a band called Whitesnake, maybe that tells you something!",
the title track is nonetheless a joyful reminder of just what a good
album that was.
The same goes for Where Are You, sung to perfection by a very well
prepared Miller Anderson.
The last Jon Lord solo show I attended was at the picturesque Thun
Festival in Switzerland in 1994. There Lord was daring enough to take
on the Hammond tour-de-force of Bach Onto This from the same album.
For the Nidaros concert he sticks to grand piano, displaying a technique
far too rarely exposed in the last 30-odd years. The name Jon Lord
may be synonymous with heavy rock Hammond organ, but his piano playing
ain't bad either.
Lord at Nidaros - photo © Jens Søraa
Sam Brown seduces us into the palette of sunset colours that is Evening
Song, Jon has finally loosened up. His face cracks open in a big smile
beaming with pride over the work he has accomplished with "the
gang", as he affectionately addresses the other musicians.
The Trondheim Soloists are an immensely capable ensemble of striving
young string players dedicated to their craft. They radiate skill
and a pleasure with being there. Particularly the cellist and the
oboe player leave nothing to be desired when compared to all the other
fine musicians who have played Jon's music over the years.
As lead violinist Alex Robson and lead cellist Øivind
Gimse take us through a mesmerisingly beautiful Music For Miriam
- for an about Jon's late mother - we realize she must have been an
especially elegant and delightful lady. As the song is performed without
piano, Jon retires to the side of stage from where he watches intensely
as the two soloists transport us to new levels of transfixing musical
bliss. It's that good and we're simply not worthy.
Jon also has a few surprises up his sleeve. "We played this one
for about 14 seconds this afternoon," is how he introduces the
show's first cover tune.
At the afternoon rehearsal he had explained that, as the rest of the
show could be a little melancholy and serious, he had decided to introduce
a mood breaker. Dave Brubeck's weird and witty Unsquare Dance comes
off as just that, with the girl singers clapping the 7/4 rhythm while
Lord, with accompanying keyboardist Kjetil Bjerkestrand and percussionist
Mario Argandona, shake off the sombre mood from the previous songs.
It is both an indication of the Lord's high spirit and a throwback
to the lyrics to Where Are you when, after Unsquare Dance's chopping,
hopping beat he comments, "As the president of a certain very
large country might have said: Yee-ha!"
Muttering under his breath he continues, "land where the mad
man rules indeed!"
Towards the end of the show Gigue becomes the evening's masterpiece.
Positively rocking(!), it sports its usual infectious groove, which
given the lack of a regular drum kit, is some accomplishment. Mario
Argandona proves a fabulously versatile and imaginative rhythm section
all by himself, alternating between exotic sounds from the jungle
and more traditional instruments in the colourful world of percussion.
of the stage at Nidaros - photo © Jens Søraa
unwavering thunderous applause is rewarded with an encore section
full of surprises, both melancholy and vivacious.
The first comes in the shape of a piece Lord has decided to do especially
for the Trondheim occasion. Titled 'Der Var En Gang' (Norwegian for
once upon a time), this is Lord's homage to local composer Edward
Grieg who was one of the first composers a young Jon Douglas Lord
was taught when he started taking piano lessons at the tender age
Then Lord left us "in the capable hands of Sam Brown." Taking
center stage with a small guitar, one would have been forgiven for
fearing an embarrassing moment of musical ineptitude after the evening's
smorgasbord of excellence - but not with Sam. Stating that she did
indeed feel uneasy trying to play an instrument in the presence of
such great musicians, she nonetheless proceeded to spellbind the cathedral
with a heart stopping version of a new song called Little Girl Lost.
A sad song with a sparse but effective acoustic guitar backing. An
unexpected highlight of the evening.
she'd not really wanted to play this song, Sam Brown then went
to the grand piano and blew everybody's ears out with a storming blast
through her 1980s hit Stop, complete with fierce backing from the
three Norwegian girls who seemed to enjoy letting their hair down
for a minute.
Quite a lot more energetic than the rest of the concert, Stop shows
that on an evening of musical exploration nothing shall be excluded
- and the audience affords Sam Brown a massive ovation for it.
The evening's final surprise - even for attentive followers of Jon
Lord's solo career - is the new arrangement for Bouree. The song has
grown a different ending with a brand new just days-old chord change
towards the end, which lifts its spirit even further.
Another exciting new aspect of Bouree is the girl singers' immaculate
Eastern inspired chanting and yelps, adding to the song's wealth of
universal musical inspirations.
After the last song the players are presented with flowers and an
unending standing ovation.
Flowers for excellence - photo
© Rasmus Heide
A happy man after the concert,
Knut Morten Johansen
photo © Rasmus Heide
the show is all over and we stand around drained but happy, festival
founder and PR chief Knut Morten Johansen (right), who has had a hard
week getting everything ready, cannot stop grinning. By arranging
the concert at Nidaros he has turned a dream into reality and put
lasting smiles on a lot of people's faces.
Fingers crossed that regardless of the work load involved, Jon Lord
(and promoters elsewhere) will take on similar shows in the future.
Jon Lord - piano
Sam Brown - vocals, percussion, guitar, piano
Anderson - vocals, percussion
Kjetil Bjerkestrand - keyboards & arrangements
Mario Argandona - percussion
Andreas Aase - guitar
Tom Erik Antonsen - bass
Oboe - Arnulf Johansen
Trondheim Soloists - musical director Øivind Gimse
Backing vocals: Kristi Huke, Siri Gjære, Anne Judith Wik
incl. interview with Jon Lord
down the equipment - photo © Rasmus Heide