It may have been mid-July, but that didn’t stop the good old British weather doing its best to put a dampener on proceedings.
Approaching Blickling by car, the roads were treacherous, with water pooled on the back roads. The rain seemed to intensify the closer to Blickling you got.
Descending into the park you were greeted by an almost comical sight. Thousands of people hadn't been put off and a sea of multi-coloured umbrellas, tents and gazebos showed that the weather was no match for good old British ingenuity.
Like Glastonbury for ladies of a certain age, all sorts of methods for keeping dry were employed.
Support was provided by the Irish sounding singer-songwriter Beulah. Hailing from the Peak District, her dulcet tones were reminiscent of Norah Jones or a toned down Joss Stone. Her songs are undoubtedly well-crafted and she can sing but it was all a bit lost on a wet Norfolk evening.
The PA didn’t do her any justice. The subtle sound of her tracks didn't carry well and would perhaps have been better suited to a small, intimate setting. Of course, if the weather had been more fitting her laid-back summery sounds may have gone down a treat!
|Beulah did her best to warm up the fans|
Beulah is undoubtedly talented and could become this summer's Norah Jones. Expect her debut album Mabel And I to steadily climb up the charts.
The weather finally started to ease up and the rain stopped – just as Ronan came on stage. Co-incidence? He would have you believe otherwise!
"Sorry about the weather," he apologised to the crowd. "I tried to get through to the Big Man but couldn’t so I called Bono instead. He said he’d see what he could do." Is there nothing the U2 front man isn’t capable of!
He opened with several of his lesser-known songs, but the gig really warmed up with a superb performance of If Tomorrow Never Comes. He did attempt to include the crowd with the chorus but they failed miserably – may be they were yet to warm up.
People began to abandon their make-shift bivouacs and venture out. The expanse of umbrellas was soon replaced with a bobbing tide of sparkling Ronan cowboy hats and flashing glow sticks - all available from the merchandise stall, of course.
Funnily enough the concessions which seemed to do the most business were the tea stall and the wandering pac-a-mac sellers!
The contrast with the previous nights crowd couldn’t have been greater and Ronan unintentionally picked up on this with his recounting of a gig he played to an audience intent on eating their picnics. He wasn't happy apparently! Perhaps it was a good job it rained.
The highlight of the night, as far as the crowd was concerned, came when he played three songs from his Boyzone days.
Still promoting his 10 Years Of Hits album, he took the time to justify his inclusion of these tracks.
|Ronan's fans shelter from the rain|
While undoubtedly a great performer, he is not yet a showman and there were lulls which slowed the evening down.
However, he soon picked it up again with accomplished renditions of Words, Baby Can I Hold You and the ever-poignant Father And Son.
The highlights though were the amazing voice of backing singer Trisha, used to good effect on the duet We’ve Got Tonight, and the bizarre and enjoyable cover of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl.
Despite forgetting the lyrics halfway through, Ronan showed he can cut it as a solo artist by laughing it off and recovering without losing a beat.
Ronan was backed throughout by an accomplished band and by the time he played Life Is A Rollercoaster it was easy to see why his career post-Boyzone has lasted.
Sure, he missed a few cues but it was a fun performance: the crowd was entertained and despite the weather people were dancing and happy. With a new album out early next year, it’s easy to see why Irish eyes are smiling.
Ronan Keating and Beulah played at Blickling Hall on Sunday 24 July 2005.
Picture credits: Woo Back.