Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Monsters of Rock: at the Loreley

Loreley Freilichtbühne, Sankt Goarshausen, Germany -   June 17, 2016

During the morning of June 17 all hotels are booked in Sankt GoarsHausen over the Rhein River in Germany. Crowds of Hard Rock fans started to appear on the streets of the beautiful, ancient castle-like town. The Monsters Of Rock Festival 2016 has begun. The tension could be felt in the air, even the Rhein River is high and rough, which doesn’t happen often in this season. The ferry had been going through the river every 20 minutes and carried Rock fans to Loreley, which lies on the right side of the river, on the top of the mountain. I shared the hotel with a bunch of Blackmore’s Rainbow Belgium fans, and they stick with me for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, we took the ferry to the other side and continued to travel by bus to Loreley Amphitheater.

There was sun and rain all day; wicked weather with rainbows frequently seen in the Loreley sky. It looked like Heaven’s promotion of the event. My free passes, courtesy of Ritchie Blackmore’s manager Carole Stevens, have been waiting for me at the box office. Through the mud and pouring rain, I was there, along with a huge crowd, wanting a magical heavy experience.

The event started with Thin Lizzy, and the applause was rocking out Loreley. The clouds gathered, and the thunderous delivery of ‘Jailbreak’ cracked the sky. Thin Lizzy, with legendary original founder Scott Gorham (guitar); Damon Johnson, an American guitarist of Black Star Riders; Darren Wharton, original Thin Lizzy keyman founded in the ‘80s by legendary Phill Lynott; Tom Hamilton, of Aerosmith (bass); Scott Travis of Judas Priest (drums) and incredible frontman Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders, who is a Northern Irish musician with vocals that hold a similarity to Phill Lynott’s voice. They had tremendous sound and volume. Songs such as ‘Angel of Death,’ ‘Rosalie,’ ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ and ‘Black Rose’ with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ for the encore made the soaking wet Loreley audience dry and hot.

After a short break, Manfred’s Man Earth Band delivered excellent Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, which cooled down the atmosphere. They presented a bunch of well-known world hits by various artists and an excellent Bruce Springsteen cover of ‘For You,’ along with a funky Blues version of Davy’s on the ‘Road Again’ by John Simon.

Suddenly the scene totally changed as the crowd frequently screamed for Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow. The dark curtain dropped down, and we saw the huge, LED modules constructed with rotating spotlights monster – the computer-driven electronic Rainbow. The blast of light and dry ice exploded together with the first notes of ‘Highway Star’ – a No. 1 Deep Purple hit from the ‘70s. Rainbow deployed its rocket: Ritchie Blackmore’s stratocaster sounded just like it did in the late ‘70s, along with the added modern solutions of the dynamic.

The rest of the band is quite new, comprising Bob Nouveau (Curiano), ex Blackmore’s Night on bass; Jens Johansson of Stratovarius on keys; David Keith of Blackmore’s Night on drums; Christine Lynn Skleros and Candice Night of Blackmore’s Night on backing vocals; and the gorgeous, thunderous vocals of completely unknown singer Ronnie Romero, of Lords Of Black, on lead vocals.

The band opened with Rainbow’s ‘Higway Star’ with marvelous shredding from Blackmore. The band sounded tight, and the rhythm section was perfect. However, there was too little volume on guitar and organ, but the solo was unbelievable good, with spaces between the notes that were magical. The slow guitar part was just not from this Earth. At 71 years old, Blackmore was excellent. Next was a Rainbow hit from Graham Bonnet era called ‘Since You Been Gone,’ which was quite good number for singing together. With a great connection with the audience, they sing together on almost every song, and ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ was dedicated to late Ronnie Dio – nice move. It is followed up by ‘Difficult To Cure,’ an instrumental interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th, with the exceptional sound and solo from Blackmore.

Rainbow performed a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ and ‘Child In Time,’ which was sung with way more freedom, expression and belief than Deep Purple’s current live versions. The young, strong voice of Ronnie Romero backed up with Christine Lynn Skleros high ‘C’ singing through the climax ‘Child In Time’ screaming just knocked down. ‘Long Live Rock’n’Roll’ and ‘Stargazer’ were slower than they were performed in the ‘70s, but it had a lot of emotion and freedom, with the crowd singing backup to make you feel like you were riding the rainbow in a magical kingdom of Man In Black. ‘Black Night’ and ‘Smoke On The Water,’ with overwhelming Ritchie solos and fireworks, ended the show for the day.

The crowd was red-hot in spite of the rainy weather. The walking home thing, in a deep mud after a few days of pouring rain, will be long remembered, along with a historic concert of Rainbow, which has not been on the Hard Rock scenes of the world for 19 years.

Christopher Willow - Hardrock Haven / Photos: © Clemens Mitscher