Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Loreley - Bietigheim Bissingen - Birmingham
When last fall it was announced that Ritchie Blackmore would play three 'reunion shows' with Rainbow one thing was clear for the writer: the agenda in June would be fully adapted to these three shows. Here we had indeed been waiting for twenty years. Once it was announced on the various social media there was busy discussion or Joe Lynn Turner, whether Graham Bonnet or Doogie White would pop up behind the microphone. Blackmore came up with one Ronnie Romero, an unknown Chilean from the band Lords Of Black. The big questions previously was therefore: how would this Romero do and - above all - would Ritchie Blackmore still have it in the fingers? Superfan Ludy Wetzl was there.
FRIDAY JUNE 17
The Freilichtbühne, a beautiful outdoor amphitheater, located on a hill. Because all traffic has to go up on one single road and it does not go faster than walking, we miss in the real Aardschok tradition Thin Lizzy. At the last moment, Mr Blackmore himself apparently decreed that Manfred Mann's Earth Band must be moved a place up on the bill at the expense of Thin Lizzy. The site of the Freilichtbühne is turned into one big mud puddle and our eastern neighbors have not thought to throw down ramps or at least wood chips.
The prime location is changed into a mountain mud slide. About Manfred and his cronies I can be short: not Aardschok worthy. Moreover, the sound of the PA was so soft that it came barely above the clatter of raindrops. At half past ten finally it is so far: the intro tape of "Over The Rainbow" starts, the moment many have been waiting for twenty years. Opener "Highway Star" starts a bit more cautious rather than how we have the song in our memory. Also immediately noticeable drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau, both of the band Blackmore's Night, the two outsiders in our midst in this Rainbow lineup. Further there is Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) and two background singers, including Blackmore's wife Candice Night.
Keith and Nouveau are quite out of place. Carefully expressed: I've seen better rhythm sections. The set that follows is a balanced mix of Rainbow- and Deep Purple songs. The first time there are goose bumps is in the form of "Mistreated". Remarkably positive is that the songs from the Dio era are written perfectly for Ronnie Romero. Much more than several Deep Purple songs. Especially "Perfect Strangers" and "Black Night" are in my opinion not very good. Absolute highlight of the first day is "Stargazer", perhaps maybe the best made hard rock song ever . I never thought that after Ronnie James Dio anyone could sing this song so convincingly. If there are still doubters, Romero is the right man in the right place. Halfway through the inevitable encore "Smoke On The Water" we slink off. The game of singing in this song I've heard and seen too many times. After all, we still have a long way to go down the valley of the Loreley again.
SATURDAY - JUNE 18
With somewhat mixed feelings about the night before we drive on the German autobahn much further to the south to Bietigheim, near Stuttgart. The Loreley show, despite some goose bumps moments, still has not returned the feel as hoped. Is it because of the appalling weather conditions that we had to endure or was it the lesser good playing of Blackmore than expected - afterwards we heard from an informed source that he suffered a lot of cold fingers during the show. Most likely a combination of both.
Beforehand I looked with frown eyebrows at the location of today - an overpass ?! - But on arrival it appears to be a revelation. The sun is faintly shining and there are plenty of eating and drinking places without long waiting times. And that overpass, projecting high above the stage and where occasionally a train goes past, this just makes a beautiful backdrop. Now we have plenty of time and the first thing you notice is that virtually all merchandise is already sold out. Thin Lizzy we miss this time not and although there are more Black Star Riders on stage than Thin Lizzy, it can be described as a very pleasant best-of-show, also because of the great vocal performance by Ricky Warwick.
Manfred Mann accompanies us in the background while we are eating. At exactly nine o'clock there is what we have come for: Rainbow. Right after the opening salvo of "Highway Star" and "Spotlight Kid" we know this will be a very different evening than yesterday. Once again the sluggish rhythm section, we won't mention that again, but Jens Johanssen today is in top form and Blackmore himself, however, is much better than yesterday. but stealing the show is singer Ronnie Romero. An absolute world singer, especially like he shows in "Mistreated", "Catch The Rainbow" and Stargazer". Romero is not nervous, it seems, and his announcements sound much more confident. In the form of "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" there is also an additional number in the set.
Although it sound different than the live version that we know from the distant past, but who cares, this is also fine. Furthermore, the set list is no different to yesterday. The Rainbow songs "Man On The Silver Mountain", "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", "Since You've Been Gone" and Deep Purple songs "Child In Time"," Perfect Strangers","Black Night" and "Smoke on the Water" all over again and also here Romero sings these songs much better than yesterday. The only sleep moment, it is totally unnecessary drums / keyboard duel in the middle of "Difficult to Cure". It does not disturb me though for years. Rather, nice bathroom break. This time we did not leave the site before the end of the show, but we enjoy all and we see how the band is cheered massive and long after the show. With a big smile on our face we walk back to the nearby hotel, assuming this was just the show of the year.
SATURDAY 25 JUNE
With the fantastic Bietigheim show still fresh in our memory we get on the plane for a quick visit to Birmingham, where today the third show is scheduled in the Genting Arena. This show was sold out in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the two German shows, for which ordinary tickets were still available at the box office. After mild irritation about having to wait almost an hour before it was proved to go inside we see to have gotten a perfect spot fortunately. Sight and sound leave nothing to be desired. About the setlist I will be brief. "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" is removed again. Not a disaster, because in its place is "Soldier Of Fortune" which came one of the highlights this evening, and again an excelling Ronnie Romero. A certain David Coverdale can suck a very big point to this! Highlight this evening is however the entire venue is singing "Child In Time" along from beginning to end. Wonderful to see and hear! In the encore we get alongside the usual "Smoke On The Water" also "Burn". Told from the wildly enthusiastic response from the audience, no one is sorry about it. Was I last week still assuming likely to have seen the show of the year. Tonight I got that one seen clearly.
Conclusion after the three shows: Ritchie Blackmore played well, but nothing more than that. As in the 'good old days' it certainly was not. No shame for someone who already has already seen 71 springs. His backing band he should have chosen more carefully. Not a bad word about Jens Johansson, but the rhythm section left it severely to be desired. Especially drummer David Keith lacked the power of, say, the late Cozy Powell. Only the way he destroyed the legendary drum intro of "Stargazer" each evening.... my goodness.
Major surprise of these three shows was without any discussion singer Ronnie Romero. That boy is going to be a star, which Blackmore acknowledged again very well. Do yourself a favor and go see him when he goes on tour with his own band Lords Of Black and will play Weert The Netherlands) in September. In case there will be a continuation on this short adventure, I have a tip for my big idol: replace please some Deep Purple songs by a pair of Rainbow classics, so the set list is no longer in balance with both bands. The name Rainbow would do more justice to this. The Rainbow banner after all, was clearly on the posters for all three shows. Moreover, Deep Purple is itself yet around, so plenty of options to go and see these songs elsewhere.
© Ludy Wetzl - Aardschok no 8/9, 2016