Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Genting Arena, Birmingham, UK   June 25, 2016

Years have passed since I last went to a big show at the NEC, Birmingham, (I think it was MEGADETH in ’92), so what a band to make it back there for, arriving for the gig of the century on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, to see The Man In Black’s return to rock! The area was packed full of happy looking RAINBOW fans wandering around the Resort World complex, eating, drinking and watching Euro 2016 on the big screen outside.

Walking into the Genting Arena, we were faced with a great band playing on a small stage, going by the name of DAYLIGHT ROBBERY, with quite a crowd watching their set. After of course buying TShirts to mark this legendary event, we went to find our seats, on the side block next to left of the stage was a pretty good view. I hadn’t heard of English rockers MOSTLY AUTUMN prior to them being announced as support for this show, but they put on a great performance at what must have been the biggest show they have played. It’s easy to see why they were chosen for this gig, they fitted in very well with the whole theme of the night and went down really well with the packed out arena.

Slightly later than scheduled, at 8.45pm, the lights went down and ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ then ‘Over The Rainbow’ started blasting over the PA, signalling the entrance of the band and guitar GOD Ritchie Blackmore! So many fans have been waiting for this ‘return to rock’ moment for the last twenty years and they greeted the band and of course main man Ritchie with deafening cheers as they launched straight into ‘Highway Star’, setting the excellent tone for the night.

I’ve known vocalist Ronnie Romero since the return of RAINBOW was announced last year and his work with his own band LORDS OF BLACK. Ronnie was a great choice to be the new singer, his voice is exceptional and suits all the material, whether it be DEEP PURPLE or RAINBOW. Ronnie is also a commanding front man and interacted well with the crowd throughout the show.

The other musicians supporting Ritchie consisted of Bob Nouveau on bass, David Keith on drums and Jens Johansson on keyboards, along with two backing singers, one being Candice Night. Even though I know all the previous incarnations of RAINBOW well on recordings, I had never seen the band live before and it did not matter one bit to me that there were no other original musicians playing these shows. I feel the band worked extremely well as a unit and though not very animated (except for Ronnie) that was okay, the musicianship shone through. Not sure if it was just me, but I couldn’t really hear the backing vocals much. After a few DEEP PURPLE tracks, the band launched into ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’, one of my favourites of the show. Of course nobody could or even wants to replace Ronnie James Dio, but I’m sure would he have loved Ronnie Romero’s vocals on this song, absolutely excellent!

Let’s just get this bit out of the way – as we all know, Ritchie is now 71 years old, so of course combined with his recent surgery, has slowed down since the days of RAINBOW past! Personally, for me it was unbelievable to see such a legend up on that stage, it felt like a momentous and historic occasion where every moment had to be savoured. And Ritchie looked in fine shape, he made his Strat sing all night long! (no pun intended ;)). There were some very cool moments – not once, but twice Ritchie suddenly lay down at the front of the stage and passed a drink to a lucky member of the front row and we heard him speak just once, to introduce Ronnie. He really looked to be having a great time throughout, waving his arm sometimes. The only tiny criticism I have (which isn’t really!) is that he didn’t go to the other side of the stage so I could get a decent photo ;)

‘Soldier Of Fortune’ was another shining moment, full of emotion from both Ronnie and Ritchie, with the crowd singing along in fine voice. ‘Difficult To Cure’ was up next, followed by brilliant bass, keyboard and drum solos. ‘Child In Time’, what can I say, it was absolutely outstanding! Ronnie could easily match Ian Gillan’s voice, this song particularly showcased his amazing vocal range and he has one hell of a scream on him!

Last month we had a special tribute week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the RAINBOW “Rising” album and as I had listened to it so much recently and gathered other artists thoughts on it, it seemed to make it even more special when the drum intro to ‘Stargazer’ kicked in, then that riff! A definite favourite of the whole show, Ronnie delivered the vocals with all of his heart and soul and Ritchie’s slightly changed solo was brilliant. The icing on the cake was to see this classic performed under the 21st century rainbow lighting rig, just stunning! The night ended all too quickly (unfortunately without ‘Gates Of Babylon’, maybe next time!) with two more DEEP PURPLE classic tracks for the encores, ‘Burn’ and ‘Smoke On The Water’, I’m sure leaving most people feeling the same way as me – we would love to see more from Ritchie Blackmore’s RAINBOW!

© Alison Booth - Metal Shock Finland