RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW - Live In Birmingham 2016
June 29, 2017, a year ago
Now the complete '16 tour has been released on CD, this being the third, and final, date by last summer's reactivated Rainbow, with newcomer Ronnie Romero (Lords Of Black) behind the mic. Much like the earlier issued dual disc compilation, culled from the pair of June festival appearances, in Germany, these two CDs rely heavily on the Dio era of the band, as well as other Blackmore classics. That said, there was some disappointment with augmenting (dominating?) the setlist with non-Rainbow material, as that was the name advertised and the one fans undoubtedly hoped to see. What if Sting announced a Police reunion, only to predominately perform solo material? Sure, there's some fandom overlap, but it's not really the same. Only an abbreviated “Since You've Been Gone” comes from the Graham Bonnet days and “Spotlight Kid” (not “Stone Cold, nor “Street Of Dreams”, both huge North American hits) from Joe Lynn Turner's tenure. Back home in England, meant an even greater emphasis on Deep Purple, including “Solider Of Fortune” and “Burn”, as well as juggling the German running order, already stocked with five Purple gems.
While last November's release was also available as a concert DVD, there's precious little, in the way of visuals (and no liner notes), accompanying the Birmingham show: just four live photos, one with Candice Night (Blackmore's Night vocalist, who added backing vox here) barely visible in the background. The only other “known” player in the band was keyboardist Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, myriad more). Strange to hear a “new” voice handle tracks you've been listening to for 35+ years. That said, “Highway Star” is an energetic start (in the vein of historic opener “Kill The King”, unfortunately absent this night). The aforementioned “Spotlight Kid” always struck me as a bit of pop, not Blackmore's best, but “Mistreated” gives both the Man In Black and new boy Romero the opportunity to strut their stuff.
Granted Blackmore is now a generation older, but the fire inherent in some of the originals is now reduced to merely perfunctory. Witness the synth-pop Bonnet track faring, by far, the worst of the old chestnuts. Maybe that's why it lasts only 2:49! In the hands of a novice (witness his banal stage banter) like Romero, Dio's signature “Man On A Silver Mountain” comes across flat. In fact, the new singer is better adapted to the slower Coverdale/Gillan (i.e. Deep Purple) material, but few could ever hold a candle to the late great Ronnie James Dio. After an acoustic run-through, “Soldier Of Fortune” proves to be Romero's calling card (far from a hard rock/metal tune), the crowd adding their voices along the way. The instrumental “Difficult To Cure” (aka Beethoven's 5th) gives the band a chance to jam, including a drum solo, bass and keyboard spotlights (all unnecessary). At 14:32, it's the longest rendition of the 15 offerings.
The second disc commences with keyboard laden “Perfect Strangers”. Another song strongly associated with Dio, “Long Live Rock n Roll”, sees Romero defer to the audience, for long stretches of the repetitive lyrics. “Child In Time” sees Romero increasingly stretch his upper register, with each scream. The back-to-back pairing of “Stargazer” (with its extended guitar break) and a cappella crowd begun “Black Night/Woman From Tokyo” is the highlight of Disc #2. A blistering (if vocally strained) “Burn” ends the proper set, returning for obligatory “Smoke On The Water”, once again, audience singing first verse without any band accompaniment. When the instruments do kick in, they launch right into the second verse, Romero jazzed up, imparts a few leftover, “Burn” style caterwauls. Band is supposed to play another string of European dates, this June, so expect to see some more CDs (as well as continued vintage raids of the ‘70s tours) next year.