When asked who is the greatest rock guitarist of all time most people will hold Ritchie Blackmore as the ultimate. His talent is immense and all those that have followed his career through Deep Purple and Rainbow are under no illusion of the amount of awesomeness this guy possesses.
However, after a break from playing Rock concentrating on Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie reformed Rainbow last year for three shows not using any former members of either Rainbow or Deep Purple of which there are numerous and playing just one show in the UK.
Last year’s Birmingham show was no doubt a success but at 72 and just after surgery on a finger in the run up to the show, his performance had been criticised by some but applauded by others. True purists were saying he couldn’t play rock anymore and were disappointed, whereas many fans thought it to be the gig of the year, more for memories and hearing the such well-loved songs again than for the guitar playing itself.
So when a series of 4 shows in the UK were announced for 2017 it was again met with mixed views. At 73 and keeping the same line-up as the 2016 shows, would the magic return or was this going to be yet again controversial.
Footage from the O2 show and early reviews hit the internet on the night of the 17th and comments were predominately good.
Glasgow show was good – few missed endings and a not so up for it crowd but enjoyable nonetheless and a return to almost top form.
So to Birmingham. The atmosphere in the arena was electric, a big crowd with big expectations. Sweet had started the night off well with a very sound set of glam rock classics which had the crowd clapping along, singing at full volume and boogying in their seats but then it was to the main event….
Land of Hope and Glory started proceedings before the well-known rendition and opening riff of all past Rainbow gigs – Judy Garlands voice stating we must be over the rainbow and then the magic riff that has all Rainbow fans from yesteryear remembering their first time.
‘Spotlight Kid’ and ‘I Surrender’ showed that the band had improved on the 2016 shows with a bigger sound and Mr Blackmore showing that the dust had well and truly dropped off his Strat and the dexterity to his playing had returned. Ronnie Romero does an adequate job of these songs live but I feel his voice is better suited to the other Rainbow eras.
One hit after another – Rainbow mixed in with Deep Purple classics. A simply stunning performance of ‘Mistreated’ – this suited Ronnie Romero’s voice and was simply breath-taking. ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ had the crowd singing along with every note, ‘Soldier of Fortune’ a beautiful haunting vocal from Ronnie. ‘The Man in Black looked as though he was in the zone, noodling along and seemingly totally enjoying himself and this was reflected in his playing. The band were tight and criticism aimed at David Keith (Drums), Bob Nouveau (Bass) and Jens Johansson in 2016 was long forgotten as they played well and seemed to be comfortable throughout. David’s drum solo – ably assisted by Ronnie Romero delighted the crowd and showed the fun side which had not come across in other shows.
‘Perfect Strangers’ was played well however I think Ronnie struggles with this – a hard song to sing that maybe should be consigned to the history vault even now for Ian Gillan and the Deep Purple of 2017.
‘Difficult to Cure’ was clean and well performed. ‘All Night Long’, ‘Child in Time’ was spinetingling – a true gem. Blackmore modifying the intro to ‘Stargazer’ which was undoubtedly a firm favourite with the crowd, thousands of people singing along, fists in the air and playing many improvised sections and riffs through songs as he used to in the 70’s and 80’s ‘Long Live Rock & Roll’ was another crowd pleaser and the backdrop was ever changing playing homage to Ronnie James Dio, Cozy Powell and other members of Rainbow. ‘Lazy’ next, the hits kept on coming all masterfully played.
In Glasgow the guys performed a lovely rendition of ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’ which I would loved to have heard again but was not to be. ‘Temple of the King’ which was simply beautiful but had an uncomfortable car crash ending and this was dropped from the Birmingham show and replaced by ‘Catch the Rainbow’ which was sung with power, emotion and a clarity Mr Dio himself would have been delighted to hear I’m sure.
‘Black Night’ and then the highlight of the show, a simply stunning ‘Carry on Jon’ in tribute to the late great Jon Lord which moved many to tears including myself. Ritchie’s playing, crystal clear and precise reminding everyone that he truly is the best guitarist ever.
‘Burn’ had the crowd in raptures as did ‘Smoke on the Water’ even with the timing miss which was also often the case in many shows of the 70’s and 80’s but no one actually minded.
I have followed Deep Purple and Rainbow since 1976 and love each of the Rainbow line ups, vocalists Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White have brought a different dimension and great chapter every time. Ronnie’s versatility in performing the songs from all these era’s has been great although he doesn’t have the chat and connection with the crowd of the former singers, often looking a little uncomfortable but when all said and done – it is his vocal that’s important. Mr Blackmore has always found the right musicians, right vocalists, right songs and this tour has been a phenomenal reminder of how good each and every song is.
Would I have liked to have seen a spattering of ex Rainbow singers / musicians to give the Rainbow reunion an authentic feel – of course but did I enjoy it as it was – Of course!!!
The show closed and all of us were left feeling like Mr Blackmore was saying goodbye or is it just farewell for now…ever unpredictable I would not even hazard a guess…..