Gig review: CAMEL – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

Get Ready to ROCK! Radio 9 September – Andrew Latimer of Camel Part 1
A two hour special celebrating the music of Camel – on tour in the UK 7-17 September. (Part 2, Monday 10 September, 16:00; Parts 1 & 2 Thursday 13 September, 22:00).
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CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

When we saw Camel in 2013 it was something of a minor revelation.  We thought they had shot their last bolt.  When they returned – a year later – in 2014 for a further UK tour we were really being spoilt.

Andrew Latimer hasn’t been in the best of health since the late-1990s and news on this latest tour that a couple of gigs had been cancelled due to Andrew’s pre-pneumonia condition didn’t make for good reading.  When you factor in, also, news on the website that he doesn’t now shake hands on VIP meet and greets after some cretin had squeezed his palm rather too hard previously, it seems he’s a fragile – if precious – commodity.

CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

With the news that for this tour the band would be performing the whole of 1976′s ‘Moonmadness’ even Camel fans might have pondered over whether there are stronger albums to perform in their entirety.  ‘Moon…’ sold well at the time but I wouldn’t personally call it one of the band’s strongest.

Of course, over 40 years later and with the benefit of modern technology this view can all change.  And also, given that the band dispensed with the album in the first half of 40 minutes it’s really no great issue, when the second half pulled out a wider selection of their history (although weighted towards the past two decades).

CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

But what a first half.  Camel reminded us just how good progressive rock can be, especially when played with a sympathetic band now consisting of Latimer with loyal lieutenant Colin Bass and empathic drummer Denis Clement.

But it was keyboard player/vocalist Peter Jones who was the real revelation, adding studied pizazz to the Camel Canon.  And where did that superb sax come from?  It was stellar on ‘Another Night’ and stratospheric on ‘Rajaz’. The keyboards, in particular, were nicely (and properly) up in the mix, the perfect complement to Latimer’s flighty guitar excursions.

CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

One observation of  previous outings was that they mainly focused on the earlier albums.  This time the setlist was refreshed with a dip into later albums from 1977′s Rain Dances (‘Unevensong’), to the 1990s albums well represented by  Dust And Dreams (a superb ‘End Of The Line’ and ‘Mother Road’ plus ‘Hopeless Anger’), the 1998 live album (‘Coming Of Age’) and 1999′s ‘Rajaz’.  The latter’s title track is impressive but not as much as Latimer’s show-piece, the wonderful ‘Sahara’, which regrettably they didn’t play.

And that really is the problem with Camel gigs.  They are as rare as hens teeth but you would always like to hear them play your own favourite.  ‘Echoes’ from Breathless would have been good; ‘Lies’ from Nude would have been even better.  However, ‘Ice’ from 1979′s ‘I Can See Your House From Here’ was pretty damn fine.

CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

On the 1990s albums there was a world-weariness in the vocals (perhaps understandably) and at times you wonder if David Gilmour is omnipresent, although Latimer has always had the melodic invention and fluidity of Jan Akkerman whom he also  cites as an influence.

To inhabit Latimer’s guitar-dom is to live in a better place, if only for a couple of hours.  An emotional journey that taps both into nostalgia and placates inner turmoil.  With Latimer in full flight, nobody, absolutely nobody, does it better.

1. Aristillus 2. Song Within A Song 3. Chord Change 4. Spirit Of The Water 5. Another Night  6. Air Born 7. Lunar Sea
Set 2: 8. Unevensong  9. Hymn To Her 10. End Of The  Line 11. Rajaz  12. Ice 13. Mother Road 14. Hopeless Anger 15. Long Goodbyes Encore: 16. Lady Fantasy

Review and photos by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

CAMEL - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7 September 2018

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.

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