Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - live review
Venue: Birmingham Genting Arena
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow live dates deliver an unashamedly nostalgic, no-holds-barred trip back in time
Even after two decades of self-imposed exile from hard rock, Ritchie Blackmore has not forgotten how to make a grand entrance. Reactivating the classic Rainbow brand name for the first time since 1997, the veteran guitar legend arrives in Birmingham to a storm of torrid classical riffs, a rousing blast of Land Of Hope And Glory and a scorched-earth version of Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. The overall mood feels somewhere between The Last Night Of The Proms and a bell-bottomed, bong-smoking, rowdy student house party circa 1975.
On a short break from his medieval folk-metal outfit Blackmore’s Night, the 71-year-old routinely hailed as the finest Britrock guitarist of his generation surprised us all when he announced this rare live return to his bluesy prog-metal 70s roots, revisiting tracks from both his Rainbow and Deep Purple days. This mini‑tour takes in just two German festival shows and one night only in Britain, then Blackmore returns to his goblin-fiddling day job. Understandably, ticket sales were brisk and the Genting Arena is heaving.
Reconvening under the full band name Blackmore adopted after leaving Deep Purple in 1975, this rebooted Rainbow have no connection to previous line-ups, besides their guitarist and founder. Drummer David Keith and bass guitarist Bob Nouveau are both veterans of Blackmore’s Night, while authentically hairy Jon Lord-ish keyboard player Jens Johansson is on loan from Finnish power metal troupers Stratovarius, and Chilean-born singer Ronnie Romano from his own Spanish-based group, Lords Of Black.
Purists might argue that this glorified tribute act have scant claim on the Rainbow name, but let’s face it, Blackmore is Rainbow, and vice versa. After all, even at their commercial peak in the late 70s and early 80s, they never recorded two albums with the same line‑up. And more than any other genre, old‑school metal seems to have the flexibility to adapt and survive in the face of constant personnel changes. Band members are temporary; great songs endure.
But first things first: opening for Rainbow are Mostly Autumn, whose proggy, folky, knowingly nostalgic take on hard rock is a good match for Blackmore’s various musical identities. Normally an eight-piece collective, they are slimmed down to a trio in Birmingham, with Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn sharing vocal harmony duties.