Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany   June 18, 2016

A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

Rainbow return in Bietigheim-Bissingen as true Monsters Of Rock

With the most recent line-up of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow headlining in outstanding form and the good mood of Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Thin Lizzy the Monsters Of Rock festival celebrated after long absence a successful edition in the Fetzplatz at the Viaduct in Bietigheim-Bissingen.

In the last two decades of the last century the annual Monsters Of Rock festivals were a real institution in the rock and metal community. What could be closer than the very first headliner of the original event in the English Castle Donnington to revive the event when Rainbow leader Ritchie Blackmore after a long retreat seemingly has finally the desire to play hard again instead of the acoustic Renaissance realm?

As support, the legendary 'Man in Black' have brought his new lineup plus musical support from Thin Lizzy and Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The comedian Hans Werner Olm acts as warm-up act and occasional as announcer between the bands. Unlike various other festivals this summer the weather is good on the Fetzplatz at the Viaduct in Bietigheim-Bissingen, when the gates open and shows a picturesque setting terrain.

The sun is laughing

Although the rain of recent days has left on the ground here and there his tracks and mutating the meadows into slight mud landscapes. Under the clouds keeps popping out a bright blue sky, which provides the already numerous assembled spectators general amusement. It has been then also for Hans Werner Olm not too difficult to draw the audience immediately attention to his side and he gets them going with a mix of music and comedy.

On the one hand it gives the blues classic "Hoochie Coochie Man" with a whiskey impregnated organ for the best. On the other hand he can not resist, with Helene Fischer and Xavier Naidoo to take two well-known German-language acts on the grain and to pay on top of that the pensioners of this nation a little song. Later, he will then perhaps get his most famous character, the rugged Ruhrpott wife Luise Koschinsky from his previous TV shows, onto the stage.

In the spirit of Phil Lynott

The beginning of the actual festivals starts finally in the late afternoon with Thin Lizzy, presenting a well-mixed set with numerous classics of the band's history. They start with "Jailbreak", but logically neither should be missing hits like "The Boys Are Back In Town" or "Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In A Spotlight)". The end of an entertaining 75-minute program is the song that got famous through Metallica, "Whiskey In The Jar".

Naturally Thin Lizzy in this concert without their leader Phil Lynott, who died thirty years ago, nothing more than a cover band, but a very good. As new rhythm section provides the current members Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis and Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton. In addition, with guitarist Scott Gorham is at least one character, one who worked under this banner for four decades, for some time also in collaboration with Lynott.

So on musical talent the current lineup of Thin Lizzy lacks nothing. Also the second string man Damon Johnson has sufficient stage experience, he was previously employed, among other things with Alice Cooper. In singer Ricky Warwick, the band has also found a frontman who comes very close to Lynott's voice. The audience is impressed by the performance of the group as well as the in background acting keyboardist Darren Wharton.

Playful, but without wrong notes

After a brief renovation period with Luise Koschinsky then Manfred Mann's Earth Band enter the stage. The South African keyboard player and his four fellow mates give the audience a very different mixture than Thin Lizzy before them. Singer Robert Hart is unemployed for long stretches in the set because of the remaining quartet takes long, extended trips in the direction of progressive, jazz-heavy rock with sprawling instrumental passages.

The classics from Mann's long career as well as both Bruce Springsteen Covers "Blinded By The Light" and "For You" or it's the former no. 1 hit "Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)" written by Bob Dylan. They are the best songs, the Manfred Mann's Earth band skillfully use them to demonstrate their musical skills and their enthusiasm. As a special treat to admire the middle there is also "Hit The Road Jack".

All members of the band present themselves on this day in a good mood. Guitarist Mick Rogers clearly enjoys going to maltreat his axe again and again to the utmost and bassist Steve Kinch grooves deeply relaxed with drummer Jimmy Copley. Even the otherwise rather reserved Mann gets away from behind his keyboards rig, takes the Keytar in the hand and is dancing when soloing around. That he now is already 75, you just don't notice on him for a second.

While Thin Lizzy is representative for the fiery hard rock side of Rainbow, Manfred Mann's Earth Band is regarded as the more complex, more progressive approach of the headline. The up to now very Spartan light show inspiring is in every way for the support act on the Fetzplatz am Viaduct the perfect match for the highlight of the evening. Till then the entire stage set for some spectacular dimensions fails.

Full throttle from the first second

Then when the evening light slowly descends upon Bietigheim-Bissingen and the Tape Intro finally announce Rainbow, many fans in the audience are certainly curious. How will the handpicked new lineup by Ritchie Blackmore sell? Except for Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson the remaining band members are so far little known. Especially singer Ronnie Romero of Lords Of Black was in advance one of the unknown people in the new Rainbow line-up.

After the band hit the stage and a few bars long "Over The Rainbow" has intoned, the 'Man in Black', with his striking Blackmore's Night Hat takes the Stratocaster and the action into his own hands. He follows with the first big surprise of the evening. Rainbow not starts with a song from the band's history, but with "Highway Star" by Deep Purple, a classics from the repertoire of the first big band in Blackmore's illustrious career.

Ronnie rules

When Ronnie Romero smashes the first doubts to any concerns about his possible vocal abilities and prove them unjustified. Seemingly effortlessly, he is running about in the lofty heights of the young Ian Gillan, while Blackmore and the other three musicians already running behind him from the first moment in full swing. The following "Spotlight Kid" from Rainbow's Joe Lynn Turner phase prepares nor difficulties Romero and the band.

The third piece of the evening is then one of Blackmore so beloved, extended blues pieces. "Mistreated", at the time originally sung in Deep Purple by David Coverdale and later highly emotional thanks to Rainbow by Ronnie James Dio reproduced live version of "On Stage" reached great popularity, the guitarist offers plenty of space for his famous breathtaking arts as a soloist. This challenge is also for Romero no problem.

Dio lives on

After this first excursion into calmer but moving regions, the time for three faster numbers has come. Blackmore and his men get back deep into the Rainbow box and magic with "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" a first change compared to the appearance at the Loreley on the previous evening, it is enthusiastically received by the audience. The obligatory "Since You Been Gone", once the biggest hit of the band, can not be missing.

The final round in the shorter, faster pieces comes with "Man On A Silver Mountain", and this proves Romero that he is a real Ronnie who has the job as Rainbow singer deserved. He hits every note and has both vocal range and vocal range of his predecessor with the same name, though perhaps not the charisma. If you close your eyes, you sometimes feel Dio would be on stage.

The piece is a perfect way to pay tribute to the in 2010 deceased primordial voice of the band. Romero shouts in the middle suddenly that Ronnie Dio was "the man on the mountain". It almost seems as if the earlier eternally pugnacious Blackmore now made his peace with the singer, after his first exit in Deep Purple gave him a second creative spring and proved that the guitarist could accomplish great things without his old major colleagues.

It is classic

After this exhausting stint the new guy gets his first pause at the microphone. It is instrumental. With "Difficult To Cure" Blackmore and the Swedish Jens Johansson on keyboards show their preference for Classic. Initially the longest piece of the evening begins as fulminant rock version of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony", it mutates soon to become a vehicle for solo spots of the remaining band members on stage.

We start with drummer David Keith, actually a member of Blackmore's Night, who may go wild onto his skins for about two minutes, and going full blast. Then the otherwise rather inconspicuous, but very solid Bob Nouveau shows on bass and the help of the drummer that he makes as a soloist not a bad figure. Johansson agrees then on the Hammond organ with in the dance, while Blackmore as Romero have a break backstage.

The Swede at the keys then also gets the longest solo spot of the evening, in which he switch for several minutes between church organ and piano. With Johansson Rainbow's leader has found the absolute matching keyboardist for his musical direction. He's from the Finnish main band Stratovarius but also a big fan of Blackmore's work and has with Stratovarius already Rainbow's "Kill The King" and "I Surrender" released as cover versions.

A purple coloured rainbow

For relaxation of minds there then once is the big ballad of the evening, "Catch The Rainbow" from the first album of the band. The combination of the atmospheric performance of the band and the larger than life LED rainbow above the stage creates an almost magical atmosphere that brings the audience to revel. The otherwise rather stoic and grim 'Man in Black' even shows a small smile across his face.

Then it is Romero for whom the audience and the band meanwhile are no longer strangers anymore. Rainbow is completely wrapped in a blue and pink stage with "Perfect Strangers", perhaps the best Deep Purple-piece in the 80's. with the headliner everything fits this evening. Combined with a powerful, but at the same time transparent and not too brutal sound support, atmospheric light show and a consistently superb performance of the band.

Pure bombast

After that it gets epic. With "Stargazer" follows the probably most spectacular piece of the whole Rainbow catalog and possibly even in rock history. Here, too, it shows once again that Blackmore has with Ronnie Romero found a congenial partner for all his previous hard rock repertoire. He sounds like a young, energetic mix of Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan, clearly the two best singers that the 'Man in Black' has worked with in the past.

The performance of the new Rainbow in "Stargazer" puts the viewer in awe. Although certainly everyone in attendance had hoped the band was going to play this, no one had expected to hear such an ingenious version of the classic. At last at this moment everyone should be happy that Blackmore's wife and musical partner Candice Night has become a temporarily background singer and stands on the second plan.

Final fireworks

Final Rainbow song this evening is "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", because the band would not only convince the music, but also offer a show. The song is predestined for this, he still has a first order sing along chorus. During the middle part of the song we signaled even an improvisation by Blackmore, who normally prefer observes what's happening passively, he shows he would like to hear the voices of the fans. His wish was fulfilled.

The grand finale then forms a triumvirate of Deep Purple classics. With "Child In Time" initially is the second major test for Ronnie Romero, has he got to imitate the original high screams of Ian Gillan, the great singer who more than two decades does not touch the song himself? However, the new Rainbow-line-up completely convince even with this number. Rarely since the heyday of Blackmore's first major band this epic number sounded live better.

As might be expected, the end comes with probably two of the best known songs from the long career of the man in black. "Black Night", intended to be a short, crisp single stretched to a minute-long sing orgy. The audience as hoarse as euphoric in Bietigheim-Bissingen also in the final eternal classic "Smoke On The Water" with Romero sing together every single word from full throttle in a hellish sound volume.

That the end of the show a short firework is fired on the grounds seems logical, but it is symbolic for the power of all those involved on this day, in particular the new Rainbow. The first drops of rain that fall during "Smoke On The Water", it do no harm to the joy of the audience. The weather was on this day was as well as the three groups and the fully convincing organizing the event.

For eternity

As Rainbow leave the Monsters Of Rock stage after about two hours, the audience who were present that night are an incredible experience richer. Ritchie Blackmore. now over seventy, may perhaps no longer possess the fire of yesteryears. He has however not forgotten how to play the guitar, besides he still has not lost his knack for great musicians. With these performances he has only cemented his status as a living legend once more.

Together with the two support bands Rainbow have offered an impressive show for all fans of hard rock music from the 1970s. When the audience leaves the premises, one sees everywhere smiling faces. For those who have missed the spectacle, there is still hope. Because cameras have recorded the entire evening. A live release may therefore be expected.

© Torsten Reitz - RegioActive.de / © All photos: Rudi Brand
[translated from German language]

Original Review in German Language: click here