A placard at the front of the Birchmere gave fans a clue that Ritchie Blackmore's Tuesday gig wouldn't feature a whole lot of the former Deep Purple guitarist's rockingest riffs: "At the request of the artist," the sign said, "those dressed in Renaissance costumes will be allowed 1st seating."

Blackmore years ago traded in his heavy heydays with Deep Purple, perhaps the artiest hard rock combo of the 1970s, in favor of Blackmore's Night, a playful seven-member band. The guy who wrote "Smoke on the Water" now dresses like an extra from "Braveheart" and plays mostly old-school folk tunes on medieval-looking, vinyl-stringed instruments.

He's clearly having a good time with this melding of "This is Spinal Tap" and Dungeons and Dragons, and so is his corset-and-puffy-shirt-loving new audience. Candice Night, the group's lead singer and Blackmore's longtime paramour, kept the mood light. Introducing a reworking of the traditional folk song "Fires at Midnight," Night said, "This was written by King Alfonzo the Twelfth in the 10th century, or King Alfonzo the Tenth in the 12th century."

Near the end of the show, in the middle of yet another traditional reel, Blackmore redirected the band toward a brief version of "Child in Time," a song from Purple's 1972 double-live bombastathon, "Made in Japan." Both the costumed patrons up front and the aging metalheads to the rear gave that performance their biggest applause of the night.

-- Dave McKenna