Camel
Farewell Tour 2003

October 23rd, 013, Tilburg, The Netherlands
October 26th, Oosterpoort, Groningen, The Netherlands
October 28th, Astoria, London, UK

By Martien Koolen, Rudy Offereins and Charlie Farrell


Tilburg, The Netherlands, 23rd October
By Martien Koolen

It is amazing that this band has been around for more than thirty years, and still they attract thousands of fans every time they go on tour. This will be probably be the last tour, as they call it the "Farewell Tour"; but you never know with these guys. The only original member is Andy Latimer and the rest of the band consists of Colin Bass(bass guitar), Denis Clement(drums) and Ton Scherpenzeel(keyboards). It really has been a long time since I saw a live gig of Camel(I think almost 15 years ago) but right from the start with the opener Lady Fantasy, I know what I have been missing... Even as this song dates from 1974, it still makes me shiver, as if I hear this track for the first time in my life.

Of course this last tour is packed with Camel highlights; such as Unevensong, Rhayader, Rhayader Goes To Town, Another Night, Hymn To Her and Drafted; songs that need no further comment. To me the biggest surprise was the instrumental Arubaluba, off the first Camel album from 1973; the improvised guitar orgasm in Echoes and the excellent bass guitar solo in the ultimate Camel track everybody knows Never Let Go. Andy brought two vox ac 30 amplifiers along to improve his guitar sound, and his solos sounded amazing as ever...

From the last album A Nod And A Wink Camel played the excellent, with "folky" influences, Fox Hill and as an encore we could enjoy For Today, from the same album.

After two and half hours the show was over and the only two disappointments were the setlist - much too short!: Spirit Of The Water?? - and the fact that I may never see or hear Camel live again. But, hey, their spirit and music lives on in their wonderful albums, which you can always enjoy.


Groningen, The Netherlands, 26th October
By Rudy Offereins

On 26 October 2003 Camel played its last concert of the Farewell-Tour in the Netherlands in the Oosterpoort in Groningen. For me it was the second Camel-concert, having seen them in 2000 in this same venue. The crowd of listeners contained age-classes varying from about 20 to close to 65 (I was standing next to one who was vividly 'air-drumming' to the intro of the opening song). To my surprise (although I could have read this on several websites) the band included not Guy LeBlanc on keyboards but our very own Ton Scherpenzeel, which was for me the first opportunity to see him play. Andy Latimer looked rather pale and as it turned out suffered from a cold ('I got it in Spain of all places') but it didn't seem to affect the vocals he did.

The band kicked of with the impressive epic Lady Fantasy, many a-time the encore of a concert! If they opened with this song, what else would follow? Compared to the former concert I attended the sound of the band seemed more powerful and indeed louder, which fitted fine with some of the more heavy songs they played. The band played tight and enthusiastic and very much enjoyed themselves, only Ton Scherpenzeel kept the same facial expression during the gig. Apart from Lady Fantasy every song was introduced by either Andy or Collin Bass. This resulted in some hilarious moments as Andy was halfway an introduction for a song when Collin came to tell him that another song was to be played and even handed Andy his glasses. At which point Andy sighed that 'getting old really sucks'.
The songs were a nice mix of rather complex and up-tempo one's like Unevensong and Echoes and songs with lots of room for Andy's brilliant guitar-playing (Lawrence, Ice). Hymn to Her was the only song which was totally new for me and it sounded great. The show had a lot of resemblance with the first disc of the Never Let Go double live-album and only Earthrise and City Live of that disc weren't played here. One could say that Rhayader is played too often by the band (I 've got it on three different live-albums) but to my surprise I was really enjoying it and the band played it with much (and contagious) enthusiasm.
The same for Drafted which still got me goose-bumps at the point where the drums joined Andy's guitar-playing. It proves for me that the music of Camel is really timeless and songs like this still stand after more than 25 years. Some songs included 'band-history'; Hymn to Her was the song they were rehearsing when Collin Bass joined the band and Spirit of the Water was played in honour of the late Peter Bardens, fellow-founder of the band who pasted away in January last year.
From the latest album 'a Nod and a Wink' they first played Fox Hill, with a starring role for Collin who gave his best on vocals which was quite amusing if you know the song. This song was followed by Arubaluba from their debut album ('hold on to your hats'), an impressive live song which surely showed the heavy side of Camel and in my opinion got the loudest applause of the evening.
This time the starring role was for Dennis Clement on drums... The last song before the encore was For Today from their latest album with very emotional guitar-playing by Andy and a standing ovation after the song was finished. Goose-bumps all over.
The only encore was the well-chosen song Never Let Go. This song is featured live on both 'A Live Album' and the aforementioned 'Never Let Go' but in quite different versions. This time it was played more close to the former, including solos from Colin and Dennis in the middle section. After this song the band members took the applause and left stage without further speech though you could see that especially Andy had a bit of a hard time.

Thus ended the last live show of Camel in the Netherlands after 2 hours and 15 minutes. It's ironic that their 30th anniversary tour is called the 'Farewell-tour', and it's a shame that a band who often used the outcome of an album as an excuse for intensive touring should stop doing so because of logistic and financial reasons. It was fun seeing them play and I will miss their live enthusiasm. But then again as Andy said during the concert: 'one may never know and that's a beautiful thing, isn't it?'


London, UK, 28th October
By Charlie Farrell

Penultimate date of Camel's Farewell tour

Camel had originally planned their farewell European excursion for the early summer, but were forced to re-scheduled it for the autumn instead. The London date was originally the final date of the tour, but the date sold-out in advance of the tour even starting and so further UK dates were slotted in, with Milton Keynes arranged for the day before this gig and the real finale at Sheffield the following day.

The lineup of the band has changed a great deal over the years and only Andrew Latimer of the original line-up remains. He is joined by long-time bass player Colin Bass, Canadian drummer Dennis Clement and Dutch keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel, but the band ensured that their equipment would produce an authentic 1970's sound by bringing with them a couple of Vox AC30 amplifiers for use with Andy's guitars and a Leslie cabinet for the keyboards.

The band made a good attempt at covering something from all of their albums, spanning around 30 years. They began with the awesome Lady Fantasy from Mirage. "Thanks so much for the fantastic welcome. Its great to be back in London after Spain" (where all the band got sick), declared Andy Latimer, clearly moved by the reaction from the sold-out Astoria crowd. He then introduced "A song from Rain Dances", namely Unevensong before telling the story of how the band first encountered Colin Bass, by way of introducing Hymn to Her.

The little stories and reminiscences (even if they had been repeated each night of the tour) were well selected and neatly tied the songs together while giving little insights into the changes and developments throughout the band's career. "Peter Bardens and I went to the hills in Devon, smoked loads of drugs and kinda eeked out this piece" said Latimer, by way of introducing "A couple of pieces from The Snow Goose", to the inevitable huge cheers. I don't think that the audience were terribly surprised by the fact that perhaps the band's most successful album was composed under the influence of mind-altering substances but the cheers which greeted the end of the Rhyader medley confirmed that the audience still have a great affection for The Snow Goose.

Having mentioned Peter Bardens while introducing the Rhyader medley, Andy continued by saying that he passed away in January of this year and that the band were dedicating part of the set to him. "It's a song he wrote, this is called Spirit of the water". It appeared that the crowd stood in quiet reverance while Ton Scherpenzeel playing shone throughout the song. He played some delightful piano and harpsichord-ish sounds while accompanying Andy and his guitar. Possibly the highpoint of the set for me.

After Ice, featuring possibly Andy Latimer's finest guitar solo of the evening, Andy had another dedication to an old bandmate. This time it was Andy Ward, the band's old drummer, (who was supposed to be in the audience) to whom Andy Latimer dedicated the jazzy Arubaluba from the band's very first album.

Having covered the band's 70's output, the band played some more recent material in the form of Mother Road and two tracks from the band's current album A Nod and a Wink, Fox Hill and the closing number For Today. Andy Latimer introduced the final song as follows, "This is a song about each man making up with each other. We don't know if we'll meet again I don't know". It began with some very sad sounding piano and Andy Latimer on acoustic guitar, but the mood brightened as the rest of the band joined in and the set finished to loud applause.

The inevitable encore followed. "Thank you so much for your support over the years. We could not have done it without you", declared a clearly emotional Latimer. "Excuse me sniffing," he added, "This is a song from our first album, called Never Let Go". This final tune gave the whole band an opportunity to shine and even allowed Colin Bass and Dennis Clement to perform short solo spots. Then after the usual bows, they disappeared from the stage with cheers ringing in their ears.

Given the success of the tour and the fantastic response that they have received from the european audiences, the band themselves appeared to be saying "never say never", so we'll have to wait and see whether or not this really was farewell to one of the grand old names of British Progressive Rock. I can understand that touring is very tiring and very expensive, but I, for one, hope that it is not the end.

Setlist (order varied throughout the tour)

Lady Fantasy
Unevensong
Hymn to Her
Echoes
Lawrence
Drafted
Rhayader - Rhayader Goes to Town
Spirit of the Water
Ice
Arubaluba
Mother Road
Fox Hill
For Today

Never Let Go

 

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2003 DPRP