Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Genting Arena, Birmingham UK   June 28, 2017

Rainbow and Sweet at Genting Arena - reviews and set lists

Crazy dancing on stage ends Ritchie Blackmore's last Rainbow rock gig in the UK

At the end of a brilliant, three-hour marathon double bill of powerhouse rock, guitar legends Andy Scott from Sweet and Rainbow’s Ritchie Blackmore both left fans wanting more, more, more. Rainbow were the headline act, with Blackmore surprisingly back at the NEC's Genting Arena for the second successive June. Before that, the former Deep Purple classic line-up star had not played rock for years in order to concentrate on Blackmore’s Night, his Renaissance-style act which works best in intimate theatres, not Genting-sized arenas.

After three earlier June 2017 dates in London, Glasgow and Manchester, it is once again highly possible – but hopefully unlikely – that Birmingham could have been Blackmore’s last rock concert on home soil. While it didn’t top last year’s sole UK date, when the return of Weston-super-Mare’s finest moody maestro came with an inevitable frisson about what he had up his sleeve, this show was so engagingly disjointed it even ended with his band members doing some crazy dance moves with interlocked arms. Freed of the need to play it all a touch safe, it was almost as if the now 72-year-old Blackmore had earlier relished playing devil’s advocate again by being prepared to take extra risks on the fly.

He even seemed to have count himself back into the final song Smoke on the Water after it started with vocals only. But, hey, the band’s show did last two hours and 15 minutes, with no time wasted walking off for an encore, and there were moments when the set’s production values were slicker than last year. A case in point was Blackmore’s deft playing during an instrumental ‘Carry on Jon’ tribute to his late former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, lavishly illustrated with some classic photographs on the brilliant digital screen which collectively added layers of emotion to what was already a sweltering night indoors.

Other songs also featured a backdrop of archive video footage which enabled classic-era Rainbow warriors Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell to loom large from beyond the grave. Short-haired Chilean singer Ronnie Romero might not have full command of the audience, given Blackmore’s insistence on spending virtually the entire gig standing centre stage in front of brilliant drummer David Keith, but he is a great find regardless. After just six songs, he had already fully honoured five predecessors – Joe Lynn Turner, David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Ian Gillan – while the remaining numbers included at least one more song from all of them bar Turner.

The ability to be so adaptable is such a brilliant feat in itself, that it surely demands Blackmore should write some new material to give Romero his own part in the legacy. Highlights included Mistreated and Soldier of Fortune, which both evoked Coverdale at his bluesy best, before Romero then put his own stamp on Ian Gillan’s Child in Time. The best of Ronnie James Dio’s contribution came on the peerless Stargazer, though Catch the Rainbow had a delightful finesse in total contrast to the blistering energy of Coverdale’s Burn, played out at full throttle against a backdrop of orange-red flames devouring the giant screen.

The opening two songs reflected the more American-style Rainbow led by Joe Lynn Turner, while Since You’ve Been Gone and All Night Long recalled the pop era of Graham Bonnet, who’s short stint with the band coincided with Rainbow launching Castle Donington’s Monsters of Rock in 1980, the forerunner to Download. There was no Highway Star this time in a gig which felt more Rainbow than Purple – it was arguably the other way round last year – but the 1984 comeback song Perfect Strangers certainly stood up to be counted. Jens Johansson’s early keyboard solo bizarrely went on for so long it almost seemed as if he’d forgotten there was an audience – unlike Blackmore who kept exercising his knees by bending down to offer cups of water to fans at the front throughout the show.

In contrast, the drum solo was as entertaining as it was beautifully lit. While David Keith was sitting on the stool, Romero came along to join in on the toms. He then took over the stool and picked up the rhythm, while Keith carried on playing in sync all the way round the entire outside of the kit. Romero then got up to let Keith regain the stool and, between them, they didn’t miss a beat.

It was almost like a new entertainment show – Ritchie’s Got Talent – and proof that even after almost half a century as a Purple prince, Blackmore can still find ways to move forward. Meanwhile youthful wife Candice Night was one of two backing singers working hard at the rear – and she’s also the one who loves to send out all of the band’s tweets on Twitter from her site @TruCandiceNight

Earlier, Andy Scott’s Sweet finally played the kind of British arena gig they have long deserved. Lionised to this day in Europe despite guitarist Andy being the sole original member, the band played for almost an hour in what still felt like a rushed set. As with Rainbow’s Stargazer from the Rising LP, Sweet only played one track – Set Me Free – from their own best album, the seriously underrated Sweet Fanny Adams (1974). The rest of the set was jam-packed with their brilliantly-crated singles, all of them boasting the band’s edgy guitar riffs, exciting lead guitar breaks, watertight drum fills and the kind of soaring vocal harmonies that were only ever rivalled by Queen, who play Birmingham on November 30 and 16.

Frontman Pete Lincoln, drummer Bruce Bisland and local lad Tony O’Hora on guitar and keyboards, all contributed mightily to authenticating the Sweet sound without which there would have been no Kiss , Motley Crue, Def Leppard et al. Andy Scott, who will turn 68 on June 30, thanked his long-standing pal Blackmore for letting the band on to the support bill - having previously suggested that Sweet's November 2015 gig at the Town Hall could be their last appearance in Birmingham. And he told the best gag of the night, saying: "I’m normally the oldest person at these gigs – thank you Ritchie!"

Having only just had a "procedure" on his leg this week, Andy quipped that he was "drugged up to the eyeballs... just like the 70s!" It was also fair comment when he said Sweet "deserved" to be on such a big stage in front of a full house gathered for them at 7.30pm. "We’ve been in the charts all round the world again thanks to (Fox On The Run) Guardians of the Galaxy 2," he said.

"Everywhere except the UK." Andy added: "We never get to play venues like this in the UK, but we deserve to be playing here more often, we’re British!" After paying tribute to late founder members Mick Tucker (drums) and frontman Brian Connolly and delivering perfect versions of such complex hits as Action, Hell Raiser and The Six Teens, the band left to a fully-earned standing ovation. If Andy’s health holds up – and he touched his chest hoping that it will – they will surely be back in arenas before long and, one can only hope and pray, with a full plethora of unsung album material, too.

Rainbow - Genting Arena setlist

1. Spotlight Kid
2. I Surrender
3. Mistreated
4. Since You’ve Been Gone
5. Man on the Silver Mountain
6. Woman From Tokyo
7. Soldier of Fortune
8. Perfect Strangers
9. Keyboard solo
10. All Night Long
11. Child in Time
12. Stargazer
13. Long Live Rock n Roll
14. Lazy
15. Catch The Rainbow
16. Black Night
17. Drum solo
18. Carry on Jon
19. Burn
20. Smoke on the Water

© Graham Young - Birmingham Mail / Photos by Darren Quinton

Review: Ritchie Blackmore – Genting Arena, B’ham. 28th June 2017

What can be said about Mr Blackmore that hasn’t already been said ??

Last year saw his first live gigs as a Rock guitarist for 28 years and now, here we are again, 12 months later, playing to a sold out venue in the heart of the UK. Unlike last year where the Brum gig was the ONLY UK appearance, this year the tour has been extended to include London, Manchester and Glasgow also, the man is getting ambitious.....

So, last year we had UK Prog act Mostly Autumn as support, this year was rather more fun – SWEET, the Chinn/Chapman Soft Rock guys from the 70s, albeit with only one remaining original member – Andy Scott. We had the full treatment tonight – Blockbuster, Little Willy (no jokes please), Wig-Wam Bam, Teenage Rampage, The Six Teens, the hits kept coming – even a track from Sweet Fanny Adams. Nice they paid tribute to Brian Connelly and Mick Tucker with "Love Is Like Oxygen".

Their music might be considered twee these days, but they certainly got the audience up, dancing and in the mood for a good time so you can’t knock ‘em for that. In fact, Andy mentioned that they regularly sell out venues all over Europe and that it’s a shame they have to take their music abroad to get the recognition, unfortunately, typical of many bands and artists these days. At one point, he commented that he’d "had surgery on his left leg so he was drugged to the eyeballs, a bit like every gig back in the 70s!!". A great sense of humour, harmless fun and a nice way to get the ball rolling.

The evening was running about 20 mins later than scheduled so even though RB was due to take the stage at 20.30, when a huge Union Jack filled the video screen at the back of stage to the strains of "Land Of Hope And Glory" we knew the band were on the way and so, around 20.55, we were in the company of greatness !!

With a set that ran around 2 1/4 hours we were treated to a "Best Of Rainbow & Deep Puple" including – I Surrender, Long Live Rock & Roll (complete with video accompaniment from Dio-era Rainbow, a homage to Cozy & Ronnie), All Night Long, Since You Been Gone, the inevitable Deep Purple classics – including Lazy, Child In Time, Mistreated, Black Night, Woman In Tokyo (shoe-horned into Man On The Silver Mountain), Burn and (the inevitable encore) – Smoke On The Water.

Two nice acoustic numbers with a be-seated Ritchie, some (maybe unnecessary) drum and keyboard solos which seemed to go on FOREVER, although interesting I do wonder if they were used as "set fillers" – Even so, I have to admit, being a Proghead at heart, I did enjoy the keyboard solo !!

I suppose it is fully expected that the great man would surround himself with an exceptional set of musicians so we had the same line-up as last year’s gigs – Ronnie Romero (Lords Of Black) on lead vocals, Bob Nouveau on Bass, David Keith on drums (both ex-Blackmore’ s Night) and Jens Johansson on Keys (Stratovarius) . Let’s face it, a musician with such a high profile in the industry ain’t gonna use second rate people to accompany him on stage and they certainly didn’t disappoint....

Solos aside, the guys did the music justice and with the mighty Purple due to hit the road this November, it will be interesting to see how they compare to these boys, a hard act to follow !!

At 72, Mr B certainly holds his age very well, but admits himself that after a long period of time ensconced in Renaissance music, has found it a challenge to return to the Rock arena. I have to admit, I’m not a big time fan of Purple or Rainbow, but TOTALLY acknowledge their place in the annals of Rock history and Mr B’s reputation speaks for itself – up there with Page, Clapton, Iommi, Hendrix and the like, I did notice there was the occasional bum note, but as a registered pensioner I think we can make exceptions, although I will say his acoustic work was flawless......

With Ronnie Romero owning the front of the stage, Ritchie seemed more than happy to take his place at the back centre and it was nice to see a man who doesn’t rely on hundreds of effects pedals to "enhance" his sound, relying more on his mastery of the guitar.

Ronnie was a formidable front man and it was nice to see some on stage humour between him and Ritchie throughout, although the great man did venture to the front to pass the odd drink to what must have been a very appreciative fan hanging over the security barrier plus an (apparent) interest in what tracks people were calling for, although I suspect the set was pre-ordained.

Overall, I suspect everyone left the Genting Arena content in the knowledge that the man still has skills and bottle to deliver the timeless classics expected from him.

Mr B, you were the shit and I suspect his return to the Rock arena will continue to excite, enthrall and entertain for the foreseeable future, Long Live Rock ‘n Roll !!

© Steve Gould (The Progmeister) - Midlands Metalheads / Photos by Lisa Billingham (Billibee Creative)

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow – Genting Arena 28th June 2017

Last year Ritchie Blackmore returned to playing rock music playing just three dates with Rainbow including one in the UK. Now he’s back doing a UK tour including tonight’s show at the Genting arena. While he’s touring under the Rainbow name, the shows last year included a lot of Deep Purple songs so I was curious to see how the set list had changed as well as looking forward to seeing Blackmore and his band perform again.

In the 70s Blackmore wasn’t a great fan of the press and media, and one cameraman famously incurred his wrath for getting between him and the crowd and getting too close to him once too often and that resulted in Blackmore smashing his guitar over the TV camera breaking both. These days he seems to have mellowed as the first thing he did after walking on stage was to come to the front of the stage and shake hands with one of the photographers before taking his place and starting the show.

What to play or not play is a tough choice and one that will never please everyone – while some fans wanted more Rainbow, others love hearing the Deep Purple stuff too. Overall the setlist is largely the same as for last year’s show, but two notable additions were “I surrender” and “All night long”, both hits for Rainbow (although “I surrender” is actually a Russ Ballard song).

“Difficult to cure” is Rainbow’s version of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, and it’s such a great version, but tonight it’s extended significantly and includes a bass solo and a very long keyboard solo.

A Deep Purple song – Lazy, is another welcome addition to the set, with a nice bluesy intro to it. After that it was time to “Catch the rainbow” before “Black night”. Part way through, the song progressed into a drum solo and the rest of the band left the stage, return after the drum solo was over. With no stop between the main part of the set and the “encore”, this gave them all a break apart from the poor drummer.

While tonight was supposed to be all about Rainbow and Deep Purple, for me the highlight of the night was an instrumental from the last Blackmore’s Night album. Entitled “Carry on Jon”, it’s an absolutely beautiful tribute to Jon Lord. I wasn’t expecting it to be played, but when the first photo of Jon Lord appeared on the screen and the opening notes of the song started as the crowds cheers died down, I was over the moon. I love the song on the album, but with the photos of Jon Lord on the screen as the music played, this live experience was simply incredible.

After that beautiful piece of music, it was time to ramp up the volume and bring the show to a close – especially as the 11pm curfew had already come and gone, so “Burn” and “Smoke on the water” brought the show to an end.

Nearly two and a half hours of fantastic music made this a night to remember. Ritchie Blackmore is still a superb guitarist, ok there were one or two moments where things weren’t perfect, but that didn’t come close to spoiling things. His band are all very talented musicians and singer Ronnie Romero does a fantastic job of performing songs written for Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan and several other singers, all with their own distinctive voices. He’s also developing into a great frontman too, seeming far more confident than last year.

© Ant May - Planet Mosh

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow – Genting Arena, Birmingham
review with pictures

Wow, did that really just happen? Sometimes at a rock show you'll witness something quite unexpected - and seeing Deep Purple and Rainbow guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore utterly fluff his all-time most famous riff definitely falls into that category.

Having kicked into the rock shuffle that is Smoke On The Water, Blackmore suddenly appeared to be playing a completely different song to the rest of the band. A quick adjustment and all was well again, but on an otherwise triumphant night, it was a bit like seeing your star player score an own goal when you're about to chalk up a glorious 5-0 win or an ice skater tumble on the way to Olympic gold.

Wednesday night's gig was almost a year ago to the day that Blackmore plugged in his white Strat again, ending decades in what many fans see as his renaissance folk wilderness, and brought his reincarnated Rainbow to Birmingham. But it's fair to say that fan reactions 12 months ago were mixed - while many hailed the return of the king, others were left disappointed, especially those who were expecting a feast of Rainbow songs and found they instead had a buffet of that band's hits mixed with picks from the 72-year-old's tenure with Purple. This time round, hopefully, most people knew what to expect - even if many might want to think of this band as 'Purple Rainbow'.

The Rainbow hits were present and correct of course, from opener Spotlight Kid through to I Surrender and Since You've Been Gone. Singer Ronnie Ramero really shone on the Ronnie James Dio-era songs though, particularly on the outstanding Stargazer and utterly sublime Catch The Rainbow. What a find the Chilean is.

Blackmore himself seemed to ditch his glowering 'man in black' image of old, playfully interacting with the front rows and members of his band. His guitar tone remains unique, full of staccato stabs and fluid runs - often going off piste to improvise on a theme - although he unexpectedly sidestepped the guitar solo to Since You've Been Gone in favour of going straight into the riff for Man On The Silver Mountain.

Elsewhere, he returned to his Deep Purple glory days, powering through the mighty riff to Burn, the slow-burning Mistreated, a lovely acoustic reading of Soldier Of Fortune and an astonishing Child in Time. During the show the big screen at the back of the stage paid moving homage to dearly departed members of the Deep Purple and Rainbow family - Dio, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord - to huge cheers from the crowd. But the one nod to the past which wasn't entirely welcome was the insistence on keeping long, momentum-sapping, 70s style keyboard and drum solos in the show - queue a drift to the loos from many.

Earlier, 70s glam heroes Sweet, led by original guitarist Andy Scott, did a superb job in warming up the audience - most of who were on their feet by the end. "Normally I'm the oldest person here," Scott told the crowd. "But not this time. Thanks Ritchie!"

© Ian Harvey - Express & Star / Photos by Andy Shaw