Rainbow reunion shows 2016
More reviews added July 1st:
Having rushed to get Birmingham tickets for the chance to Ritchie Blackmore one last time I had some trepidation that it may turn out to be like watching a tribute act. Thankfully I was wrong and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. In fact I have to admit it was a more enjoyable night than the rather flat last Deep Purple show in Birmingham, mainly due then to the lacklustre seated crowd and the lack of crowd engagement from Gillan.
Having avoided set spoilers from Germany I was expecting to hear a set that focused more on the Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner versions of Rainbow. I couldn’t have been more wrong; last night the emphasis was on Deep Purple classics and Dio era favourites like Catch the Rainbow, Man on the Silver Mountain and Stargazer with only Since You Been Gone and Spotlight Kid from the latter Rainbow days. After now viewing the set lists from Germany I can see we got a couple of extras in Soldier of Fortune and Burn.
Romero performed well, working the crowd and making it a night of celebration of the songs rather than a straightforward trip down memory lane. His voice was good and strong although it sounded to me that he was strongly electronically enhanced for the Child in Time screams, but that’s no surprise as he is no early 70’s Gillan. Throughout the show Ritchie looked in good spirits, conducting the band with hand signals, smiling throughout and having plenty of between song banter with Romero. The only negative was the unnecessary band solos in Difficult to Cure. This just lost momentum and I could see many people took it as a chance to sit back against their chairs and take a break from what was happening on stage. Overall a great night that I certainly would have regretted missing.
Very true about the break Carl; I can understand Ritchie needed a breather mind you. I stayed put but 60% of our row had vanished when I looked round!
When I heard last year that Richie Blackmore was considering playing live and loud music again for a limited time I thought that I’d have to take a look. I mean here is a guy I last saw in his prime way back in 1987 (I know!) when he ripped the National Exhibition Centre in England a proverbial new one, and in fairness that was on the back of the much less critically acclaimed House of Blue light tour (unfortunately Deep Purple did not tour the Perfect Strangers album in England bar the one Knebworth Festival in 1985.) I did see him again in Deep Purple during the Joe Lynn Turner era but really the less said about that the better (Turner’s only real problem was that he wasn’t Gillan/Coverdale) but Ritchie was, that night, not in the ‘best frame of mind’ I fear.
But what to expect? Well, I knew that Ritchie was having difficulties with arthritis, and wanted to do a limited run of gigs before the illness prevented him from playing electric again, so I had throttled back my hopes a little that he would be on blistering form and settled for the fact that it would be amazing to see my guitar hero playing at all – especially at the age of 71!
We arrived in good time and checked out the Guinness and then the stage. A very shiny (box fresh) Hammond B3 and 122 by the looks of it. The 122 was so far away I wondered why it was even on stage but at least they have the right starting equipment.
It was also good to see that the Hammond Organ had been pulled right in to the centre right of the stage and not way out on the wings and out of the way that is usual with most bands (and certainly was the case with Deep Purple and Rainbow in the past – I see that with Don Airey now at the Organ he has moved himself in a bit on a level with the drums. Still too much in the background for my liking).
The Organ sound was, okay to be honest. It seemed straight out of the box I think and exactly how Hammond-Suzuki had wanted it to sound, bubbling away at full throttle under a volume pedal – you know the sort of thing. Thing is, that is not how the Organ in Rainbow or Deep Purple used to sound and I think it would have benefitted from a ‘lively’ pre-amp stage instead of the factory bottled one. You know that dirty but precise sound that is 90% perfect for all things. Its obvious really but stick a Marshall in the pre-amp stage and all of a sudden it begins to grind in your face (and not quietly and neatly when asked to). It could have been down to micing and mixing however, it was hard to tell, but all I know is that it didn’t jump out at my like it would have at say a Deep Purple concert. A little tame. Still a great sound but it didn’t really ‘sing’ at all during the evening.
You know what, the gig was okay. It was a piece of memorabilia really, Ritchie wasn’t on fire but it was great just to be in his presence really, his guitar sound was not as driven as before in Rainbow – probably reflecting the more acoustic nature of the last 20 or so years – so any mistakes stuck out like a sore thumb especially as he was easily louder than every instrument on stage put together. Too loud in fact. I can accept a 71 year old’s tired fingers gracefully, as I said I enjoyed the gig a lot, but what was harder to accept were the band’s mistakes (more on that later). The singer (Ronnie Romero ) however was incredible, first class vocals and front man. Man he’s going places. Do make it a point to check this guys voice out.
There is no denying the talent of Jens Johansson on keyboards (yes he’s a little Jazz Odyssey at times and I am not sure I saw him change a drawbar registry setting all night) and I am sure that David Keith is a crackajack drummer but it all felt a little under rehearsed to me. The music didn’t flow correctly and each musical part seemed to be jammed together in the song with gaps in playing between verse and chorus etc. Poor old Jens screwed up the Organ intro to Perfect Strangers and the solo in Burn too. These are iconic pieces that really should simply be learned and played. Maybe three gigs isn’t enough to fully commit to learning all the songs mixed in with an already heavy schedule but hey this wasn’t a pub gig, this was the Genting Arena in front of something like 10,000 people!
Lighting queues were also missed all over the place and darkness prevailed; sound queues were also sloppy – in Stargazer (a fantastic highlight of the evening) the last chorus outro contains a string section on the album and Jens started to play this to good effect. It needed to be louder and the sound guy had this on his queue sheet but obviously turned up the Keyboard submix so just as you started to hear the strings they were drowned out by his backing (left hand) of the B3.
It was great to see a Hammond take (almost) centre stage however, and I am glad that I went to support Ritchie and his mates at the gig. Ritchie did the best he can and we had a great time at the gig. I cannot really excuse the people half his age on stage making such big mistakes however (David Keith nearly lost a quarter beat on the outro of Smoke on the Water, that would have been most embarrassing). More rehearsal needed to make this look, on balance, less like a cynical tour. I do hope that it is not. Am I glad I went, yes. Did I have a great night, yes. Was it worth £50, probably but most of all it made me want to play my Hammond, and for me, this is what live music is about. Long Live Rock and Roll!”
As you probably gathered, Nick is a Hammond man, and Jon Lord gets plenty of coverage on his Hammond dedicated website: http://www.hammondforhire.com
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at the Genting Arena Saturday 25th June
I admit that I was caught up in all the buzz when the Rainbow gigs were first mooted and was delighted to be able to get two tickets on the morning that the they went on sale. The last time that I’d seen Ritchie Blackmore live was in 1974 on the Burn tour; somehow I’d always managed to miss out on Rainbow.
The chance to see “the man in black” again was too much to miss and I really wanted my 22 year old son, who has grown up on a heady diet of Deep Purple and Whitesnake concerts, to see the master in action, perhaps for the last time.
My excitement was tinged when the line up was announced. Clearly Glover and Airey wouldn’t be available and we have lost dear Cozy Powell and Ronnie Dio, but there were surely others from Rainbow’s past who could have filled their boots to an extent. But I had faith in Ritchie picking quality musicians for such a prestigious and some might say, risky comeback to rock music after so many years away.
Then came news of the hand surgery and a sudden realisation that he was the “other side” of 70 and I was becoming worried; was this a giant folly and would his reputation as one of the great rock guitarists be tarnished.
As the two German shows approached I had almost resigned myself to disappointment and the films posted on You Tube hardly lifted my sense of impending doom. Whilst the singer clearly had a great set of “pipes”, the rest of the band sounded thin and lacklustre and even Ritchie sounded thin and sparse.
We travelled up from the west country with a selection of Rainbow’s greatest blasting from the car sound system, arriving three hours before the scheduled door opening. After a meal and a chance to catch a little of the footie on a huge screen outside, we made our way in. Surprisingly, security was very relaxed – last time for the Whitesnake “Purple” tour we had to wait so long in the rain to get in that we missed the Black Star Riders support set completely.
The arena was at its full size – no masking off areas with black curtains – this was the sell out that we had all expected.
The support act, Mostly Autumn played a short set, only just over 30 minutes, before departing the stage. The scene was set – the excitement was building.
For such a huge stage, the equipment for Rainbow seemed to be very cramped in a small space mid-stage. The keyboard, which looked more like a piece of furniture you might find in a maiden aunt’s drawing room than the massive rigs used by the like of Jon Lord, Tony Carey and Don Airey, was relatively close to the drums, which, as we had already been told, were surprisingly small.
After a lengthy gap, the music turned from the anonymously bland to instantly recognisable – “Moonlight Shadow” by Sally Oldfield and Focus by Focus and then “Pomp and Circumstance” broke through, louder and louder as the stage lights dimmed and the drums were picked out in a blaze of bright blue lights. The packed arena erupted as first the drummer than the bass and keyboard player took up their positions. As “Land of Hope and Glory” (any reference to the Brexit vote there?) reached its climax we got the first glimpse of the man himself on the far side of the stage, dressed in customary black with a white Stratocaster.
“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore …” and the whole place erupts. “We must be over the Rainbow … Rainbow … Rainbow”. We certainly are, sitting high up to one side. This is pure rock theatre and those pre show doubts are pushed to the back of my mind.
As the band play those opening chords all seems well. I admit that I would have liked “Kill the King” to but instead Ritchie sets the pace and rhythm for “Highway Star.” Ronnie Romero, the Chilean born singer, appears from the side and starts off a karaoke version of the Purple classic before the band picks up and starts to rock. Immediately we are aware that the thin and sparse sound from the German videos was either down to poor PA systems, or the limitations of modern phones when it comes to sound reproduction. This is full on power and the crowd are drawn in. Romero’s vocal have a tremendous range and great power. The drummer really pushed the song forward and the sound he’s getting from that small set is impressive. And Ritchie? I think everyone is urging him on as he approaches that guitar solo. Perhaps a few of the original notes are missing but he hits the majority, more than enough to raise a collective smile. Great start.
“Spotlight Kid” follows and the limitations of the band begin to show up here. The keyboards lack the precision that we’ve been accustomed to and the feel is a little “clunky”, but then those of us versed in Rainbow and Purple have high expectations of the keyboard player and Jens Johansson has enormous boots to fill.
If “Spotlight Kid” was slightly disappointing, we are lifted from our seats by “Mistreated”. Whitesnake had a real go at this masterpiece on their last tour but Rainbow really nail it, largely down to the vocal chords of Romero – he is a revelation. Broody and dark, the song builds and builds, Ritchie flicking up and down the fretboard as the pace increases. It is a triumph and they have the audience in their hands.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” is given a similar feel to the start of “Highway Star” – singalong time with Rainbow. It’s light and bouncy and a total contrast to what has gone before …. and what is coming up.
“Man on the Silver Mountain” has the band firmly back in the groove with Romero giving one of the best Ronnie Dio impressions that I’ve heard. Again, there are weaknesses in the keyboards as the song gathers momentum but the drumming and Blackmore’s guitar playing makes up for this.
It’s a roller coaster of a performance – up and down, quick and slow, bright and brooding. Next up is Ritchie with acoustic guitar and Romero for a very moving rendition of “Soldier of Fortune”. I now realise that I’m looking at and listening to a very, very talented singer. It’s not Coverdale, and it’s not someone impersonating Coverdale – this is Ronnie Romero and he brings something fresh to a classic.
“Difficult to Cure”, with its Beethoven’s 9th motif is driven along with some nice fret work from the master and enthusiastic drumming from David Keith, who continues to drag more sound out of a small drum kit than I would have expected. This leads into a good drum solo with variety, pace and rhythm. It all goes a bit to pot when the bass player, Bob Nouveau, joins – he’s no Roger Glover or Jimmy Bain, and it shows. Johansson joins with the keyboards and there are nice pseudo classical motifs which bring back memories of Lord and Airey. There’s even a hint of “Space Trucking” towards the climax before Ritchie re-joins to bring the piece to a suitable conclusion.
The pace slows with “Catch the Rainbow”, another tour de force by Romero. It’s impossible to hear this song without hearing Ronnie Dio’s voice and Romero clearly plays homage to the late, great Mr Dio in this song.
There was some criticism regarding the number of Purple numbers included in the German sets, with some claiming that since many were still included in Purple’s set, there wasn’t any need for them to be replicated here. Whilst I can agree that there is a sufficient backlog of Rainbow materials to fill two sets (and I would have welcomed “Eyes of the World”), the chosen Purple songs were clearly important pieces in Ritchie’s development. “Perfect Strangers” follows and doesn’t disappoint. The brooding keyboards and guitar drive the piece and Romero adds his own touches without ever deviating far from the classical rendition.
Up tempo again with “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Romero encouraging the audience to sing along, not that it took much effect to get all and sundry singing along.
The three note motif of “Child in Time” brought us back to our seats. A masterpiece not played for many years, probably since Ian Gillan could no longer hit those amazing high notes regularly, it is a show stopper if it works and a catastrophe if it doesn’t – there’s no middle ground here. With the crowd’s support, Romero builds the vocals and almost falters but then nails the screams – it’s spine tingling. The pace increases and, once again, the keyboards don’t match the original. But then we’re talking about matching the late, great Jon Lord, and in my humble opinion, there isn’t anyone alive who can do that. Perhaps Johansson would have been better to have driven his own lines more than trying to emulate some of Lord’s. Back again to the triple note motif as the song starts to build again and once again the vocalist nails it as the song concludes.
Time for “Stargazer”. Blackmore nails the introduction and the band push him on. It’s dark and brooding and magnificent. I expect Dio would have been magnificent with this masterpiece (he was. Ed) but Romero doesn’t disappoint. The crowd are with him, the Rainbow is flashing above the stage and when he cries out “I see a Rainbow rising” any doubts about whether Rainbow should have re-formed, albeit for only 3 shows, are dispelled completely. As we catch our breath as “Stargazer” reaches its final chords we are then bounced back into a lively, crowd sing along version of “Black Night” before the band leaves the stage. The crowd continue with the Black Night theme for some time before the band return.
I expected “Smoke” and was completely taken aback when Blackmore blasted out the opening of “Burn”. It’s long been a favourite of mine and it was the perfect song to show off the skills of Blackmore, Lord, Paice, Coverdale and Hughes back in the day. I was at the Albert Hall for the “Remembering Jon Lord” concert when Glenn Hughes and Bruce Dickinson lifted the evening with a rousing version of “Burn” and enjoyed Whitesnake’s live version last year but this was something else. Ritchie seemed as one with the song and it belted along at pace.
The evening ended with “Smoke” and we sang along before they all gathered at the front, together with the two backing singers, one of whom was Mrs Blackmore, to bow to the crowd and depart to the sound of “Snoopy versus the Red Baron”.
Was it a success? Musically, yes. Visually, perhaps less so. The rainbow was very effective but the poor lad on the spotlight had a real problem picking out individuals on stage when they soloed or were named and thanked and following Romero from side to side of the stage. The sound was great – loud enough to raise the hairs on the back of the neck but not distorted – way better than the wall of noise that Def Leppard gave us at the start of their set last year. It’s a real shame that this wasn’t filmed and that they didn’t use the big screens that the venue has to bring us into the band. The tight grouping of musicians may well have had something to do with the fact they’d only played twice before in front of an audience, but it did mean that when the bassist moved forward, he and the keyboard player masked Blackmore.
Was it worth it? Yes, we both really enjoyed it, although I was saddened to hear comments from those nearby who had failed to get tickets originally and had to source them, at greatly inflated prices, from unofficial sources.
And now for the grouches. I lost count of the number of times we had to stand up to let people come and go during the concert. By all means enjoy a drink while watching but if you must leave at least try to remember which row you were sitting on. Time and time again we had people in the aisle, pints of lager in each hand, trying to find their row in the dark. Up we’d get to allow back to their seats only to have to rise again ten minutes later when the lager had been consumed and they’d suddenly realised that they needed to loo desperately. And why do people decide that a solo spot means that they can engage in a conversation about their recent holiday to Spain at the top of their voices – we’re not interested in what you got up to in Benidorm! And finally, it’s great to sing along, but sing along with the singer and don’t spoil songs by singing the first verse out loud as the introduction is being played.
Wow, a long time between Blackmore shows Graham. I feat your final comments about the NEC crowd are all too familiar and one reason I don’t go to venues like this normally any more. Curiously Perfect Strangers was the one song I most took exception to, it needs much better musicians to pull it off. Glad you enjoyed it all though!
My first ever gig was Rainbow at the Free Trade Hall Manchester in 1976. I was taken by big brother Shaun who was very into Deep Purple, so much so he bought concert cassette tapes off some bloke in Sheffield (cough). Forty year on (ish) and we are back again watching Rainbow having watched every combination of Purple, Whitesnake, Gillan and Rainbow along the way!
I have for so long yearned to hear Rainbow tracks performed live again and to hear “Spotlight Kid”, “Mistreated (Rainbow style!) “ and “Since You Been Gone” played once more was fab.
Then add into the mix the classics of “Catch The Rainbow” “Man on the Silver Mountain” “Long Live Rock n Roll” and of course “Stargazer” then that is a dream come true.
Although we kind of knew it in advance, this was NOT a Rainbow gig though. This was Blackmore reclaiming his rock legacy, Ritchie stating very publicly that the Purple back catalogue is as much his as anyone elses. And that meant that out of the sixteen tracks played, nine were Purple (inc Mistreated)
Ronnie Romero handled all the vocals amazingly well. “Highway Star”, “Soldier of Fortune” “Perfect Strangers” all worked for me. The opening bars of “Child in Time” sent shudders down the spine – in equal measure excitement, worry about whether Romero could do it, and memories of JLT trying the same on the “Slaves and Masters” tour! I think Ronnie pulled it off and it was brilliant to hear that performed once again.
“Stargazer” ended the Rainbow part of the night and it was going to be hard to follow that. And it was because “Black Night” is great but we’ve heard it far too often in the intervening years. Also the clock was ticking and I think we realised they’d dropped “16th Century Greensleeves” to play it. But hey, we were on a high … and they’re going to play “Smoke” next … but they didn’t!
Oh no, it was “Burn” that set the house on fire again … then out with the greatest rock anthem of all time, “Smoke On The water”
In showbiz terms opening with “Highway Star” after the “We’re not in Kansas anymore” soundtrack felt odd and awkward …. And I think that as we have a “current touring version of Deep Purple” Ritchie could have played one or two more Rainbow songs and dropped “Highway Star” and “Black Night”.
The light show was fab, the new Rainbow very well done but to not have video screens in a venue the size of the NEC was I think a very poor decision by the promoter.
But I’m being nit picky. I’ve seen the best and the worst of Blackmore on tour and I love to watch and hear him play. This was a great night with a sensational new vocalist.
I hope Blackmore does a wider tour and, along with the rest of you, so long as he keeps turning up, I’ll be turning up too!
Cassettes? I deny everything m’lud! Great show at the Free Trade though.
Set list – (thanks to Gareth Toms):
Highway Star / Spotlight Kid / Mistreated / Since You Been Gone / Man On The Silver Mountain / Catch The Rainbow / Difficult To Cure / Perfect Strangers / Child In Time / Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll / Stargazer / Black Night / Smoke On The Water
Soldier of Fortune and Burn added at NEC
Thought. Ronnie 1 would always stop and credit THE rainbow. Someone should tell Ronnie 2 this if they do more gigs!
Updates : the German shows were recorded by Edel records, so it looks like they may do a set from all three shows. No filming at the NEC though. There is a pre-concert set-list doing the rounds which shows other titles have been rehearsed. An acoustic was actually spotted on stage in Germany too, and appeared at the NEC for Soldier of Fortune. The drummer has had a bit of stick for not using a massive kit, but replied that he wanted to get a Seventies vibe from a smaller rig!
Candice has already tweeted asking for song requests if they do some more shows, and the singer has also hinted, so the idea that they may do more in 2017 which we reported some time ago looks like a possibility.
Feel free to send us your comments and thoughts on the shows. If you do NOT want to see the set list, I have posted this right at the end of the page, so do not scroll down! There are lots of audio and video clips up on the web. Personally I am trying to avoid these so I can just take the show as it comes…
If anyone is after tickets I have been told resale prices are dropping fast as speculators cut their losses, and I know someone who has got them at close to face value on Vivagogo, one of the official reseller ticket sites.
For the build up to the shows, check the posts on the DTB Blog by searching for Rainbow. The two photos here are from deaf-angel.blogspot.co.uk which also has lots more pics and a long review of the event.
First up, a notice emailed to people attending the German shows:
Dear Monsters Of Rock fans,
We are looking forward to the concert at the Loreley and in Bietigheim-Bissingen .
Please find the running order below:
4:00 pm doors
approx. 5:00 pm Opening – Hans Werner Olm
approx. 5:45 pm Thin Lizzy
approx. 7:30 pm Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
approx. 9:00 pm Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Unfortunately, the weather forecast announces partially rain so we recommend you to wear rain gear and appropriate footwear. You should also bring much time and patience for the journey to the venues.
The band: Guitar, Ritchie Blackmore, singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboard player Jens Johansson, Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau.
Tonny Steenhagen ditched his NEC ticket and went to the show in Germany instead, and sent us his thoughts (before exploring the vineyards the day after!):
The main thing I’d say for those of you who are going to Birmingham is drop your expectations and don’t compare it with 40 years ago and you might actually enjoy the show! I am glad I swapped my NEC ticket for the great location that is Loreley on the River Rhine althought rain threatened to spoil the fun a few times. I had a great spot about 15 meters from the stage and as the theatre is sloping up a great uninterrupted view. OK, no Marshall stacks and no organic well oiled rock band at work, but given what Blackmore has been up to for the last 20 years this is sort of as expected. If you want an HM fest, don’t go. If you’d like to hear some of the old songs once more played by Mr B you won’t be disappointed. Vocalist sounded great to me on most songs. The old man made some slip-ups, but hey…. I didn’t mind.
As per Blackmore’s Night shows he was very happy and even talked to the audience! Great job done on the lights too. No, of course it wasn’t classic 70s Rainbow – how can it be? – but I left happy and am glad I saw this show. People from all over the world there: a family from New York, spoke to a guy from Israel, people from Japan, Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium… Won’t mention any songs for those who don’t want to know, but the show was about 2 hrs.
Mark Maddock has checked out some of the clips which are already filling up YouTube.
“Seems the singer handles the Dio stuff better than DP, sounds like Klaus Meine on Perfect Strangers (this is not something I would aspire to if I were a songster!)
Blackers has seemingly “had a listen” to a few albums and live tapes and is playing things that way and only that way. If you don’t do warm up gigs I guess you will stick pretty closely to the rehearsal version?
Maybe (he sounds) a more jazzy and not racing through solos as he used to, for example the Child solo, that one sounds of itself, not part of the song.
And the bassist wears flares…nice touch!