This page last updated September 18, 2003

Norwegians lining up for bliss
photo © Rasmus Heide

September 14, 2003
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway

Seduced by musical splendour

by Rasmus Heide

Outside 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, hushed voices.
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 can begin.

This 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.

With 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 99.
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.

It's 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.

Jon Lord at Nidaros - photo © Jens Søraa

When 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.

But 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.

View of the stage at Nidaros - photo © Jens Søraa

The 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 of five.
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.

Stating 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

When 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.

The players
Jon Lord - piano
Sam Brown - vocals, percussion, guitar, piano
Miller 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

Press reviews:
NRK incl. interview with Jon Lord
Trondheim Puls
Trønder Avisa

Tearing down the equipment - photo © Rasmus Heide

Nidaros Cathedral website

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