The searing synthesized siren wail of opener Aristillus heralded a majestic first-half run through of their entire Moonmadness album. And judging by their ecstatic reactions, many of the audience who flocked to this rare concert this evening would agree with this seminal album being their favourite in Camel’s illustrious canon.
Moonmadness is an album that rivalled Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon for its sheer sweep of complex instrumentation and song construction. And at the centre of this musical maelstrom is founding member Andy Latimer.
When not putting on a breathless display of expert guitar playing on Song Within A Song, Chord Change and Another Night, Latimer becomes the pied piper of prog with his fine flute playing on Airborn as he combined his deft six-string abilities with Pete Jones’ softly delivered vocals.
But, it was the first set closer Lunar Sea which raised this magical start to the evening to supernatural levels of heavy, ambient musicianship. Portentuous synths and Apollo mission voiceovers built up to a crescendo as Latimer raised the roof on this venerable venue with another awesome jaw-dropping guitar solo.
However, this is no one band as the second half performance unfolded by further revealing the unique talents of keys-man and saxophonist Pete Jones. His wash of textured and detailed synth and organ playing elevated Hymn To Her, as the aptly named bassist Colin Bass rangily underpinned the song’s romantic undercurrent.
The musical nature and breadth of Camel’s repertoire require a drummer who can slip between rock, jazz and complex time signatures; Denis Clement effortlessly does just this. Rajaz’s hovering guitar and keyboard riff filled this packed auditorium with its arid Arabic soundscapes of desert travel as Bass and Clement produced an intuitive hypnotic rhythm. This enabled Pete Jones to blow a mistral like storm of echoing sax notes to the four rounded corners of Albert’s Hall.
In contrast to the warm musical evocation of the desert, Ice introduced the full showcase of Latimer’s ineffable qualities as a guitarist that once had Roger Waters chasing him to replace Dave Gilmour on his solo tours. Every emotionally wrung note from the neck of his guitar had Latimer resembling a man who had emptied his heart and soul to each individual mesmerised punter.
This Leonardo of the fretboard signed off tonight’s stellar set with the epic Lady Fantasy shaking the ears, floorboards and the rafters on Camel’s long-awaited and jubilant return to The Royal Albert Hall.