There was a lot of expectation in the capital of Spain to see Latimer and his friends. Although the media mixed up the bands Camel and Camela (techno-flamenco trio), we, authentic prog-heads, got together at the door of the hall La Riviera, in order to enjoy more than an hour and a half of the most classical symphonic sound. Unfortunately, there wasnt as much public as for the Yes or Dream Theater shows, but ¾ of the hall were packed. Conclusion: in Madrid, there are actually people who still like symphonic rock (or not, youll read my Arena chronicle).
Post-hippies, families with children, distracted heavies, quite a few couples and all of us who are used to gathering into these kinds of events were together on the halls Dance Floor until approximately 21:45 p.m., when the first chords of Three Wishes started sounding. People were excited and showed their happiness at seeing in flesh and blood Colin Bass (at the bass of course), Andy Latimer (at the guitar) and two unknown people called Guy LeBlanc (keyboards and leader of Nathan Maal) and Denis Clement, a young drummer with long hair and very friendly who would later be a surprise. In Three Wishes, a lamentable mistake was made by the sound engineer. The keyboards couldnt be heard, something quite tragic if we take into account their importance in this particular track. Luckily, the other musicians perfectly did their job and modified some parts at the end of the theme. After this beginning, it seems that they played The Sleeper. I say It seems because LeBlanc, who was very unlucky that night, still couldnt be heard, and this certainly contributed to the fact that the song sounded quite confused and certainly dull. The sound problem was solved during Earthrise and we could then notice that LeBlanc is a good keyboard player, but that he cant be compared to Mickey Simmonds, someone that was quite missed during the concert. However, and as well report later, he had his moment of glory at the end of the concert, playing with a Hammond organ. The band didnt stop playing classical tracks one after another, and so now, it was time for Song within a Song. Latimer showed his sensitivity at playing the guitar and the song was modified (in a good way) in its final part, during which Bass changed the rhythm structures and this added complexity to the music. The first global moment of glory was Echoes, given that the group had a chance to show what they could do: from the omnipresent guitar of Latimer to a weird Hammond solo by LeBlanc, and to get to what would become the biggest surprise in the night: Clement, who seemed to be very happy and gave the Camel sound an impressing unity, making it really compact. This unity materialized completely in Watching the Bobbins, track during which Clement ended up becoming one of the most commented upon elements of the whole show. To finish off, a groovy version of The Hour Candle gave way to a little 15-minute time off for band and public.
After drinking a few beers as expensive as petrol, the band went back on stage to offer an acoustic set that included two tracks of "Stationary Traveler" (Refugee and Long Good-byes, the latter having a great vocal duo between Latimer and Bass); a great song Latimer presented as composed many years ago and that no-one could identify; and Eyes of Ireland and Send Home the Slates, both from "Harbour of Tears", during which the whole band used great voice combinations that made the public really enthusiastic. In this last piece, the group also modified the last part.
Then, back to electricity with Rajaz, in a masterful version during which the acoustic guitar gave way to fights between the bass and the Hammond to end up in a progressive apotheosis greatly rewarded by the public. After that, a great version of Sahara and Colin Bass announced that they were going to perform three tracks of "Dust and Dreams". Those were Mother Road, in which Latimer and Bass started to joke, taking a typical pose of bands like Iron Maiden; Little Rivers and Little Rose, with a delightful bass line; and the genius Hopeless Anger to finish the show, during which the musicians had to stand the publics ovation and the choir of their names for quite a while.
Two minutes later, the band came back to perform Lady Fantasy, which led to an amazing reaction from the public that didnt stop jumping around (I remember a 25-year old couple that got really excited) and the band really did their best. If during this show, the applauds directed to Clement were the same as the ones to Bass, ..... he thanked us by playing a masterful percussion performance, full of versatility, power and pleasure, combining dry rhythm with imagination. Guy (this man didnt get quite as many applauds) did a terrific job playing a Hammond organ that he finished almost kicking it in the style of Keith Emerson, while Bass and Latimer started to do all kinds of blinks to the public before the final apotheosis got us back to real life, even though the reward for Latimer and Co. came with the next 10 minutes of uninterrupted ovation !! All that time, the whole band kept on sending kisses, greetings, picks, towels, and I even think that Andy Latimer cried of emotion. Truly impressing.
Camel is now in a phase of a second youth. However, Latimer still hasnt given us his best. His giving, professional attitude and the sympathy of Colin Bass, who always stays behind but who gives a special touch between English class and sympathy, and the additions of Denis, a TERRIFIC drummer who can give a lot to talk about given that he is one of the best drummers ever heard, and in a lesser way, Guy LeBlanc a good and nice keyboard player but who is a bit under the level of Camel- make us foresee that the best is still to come. Camel showed that they are capable of throwing out of the stage any band of 20-year olds. An impressing night. A dream.