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The Midlands Rocks

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow @ Genting Arena, Birmingham – Wednesday, 28th June 2017

Reviewed by Angie K

For me, seeing Rainbow live was an item on my bucket list. This is not only why it was an extremely exciting experience I had been looking forward to for a long time, but what also made me apprehensive in anticipation of the event; would the idols of my youth deliver a show of the standard expected of them historically, or would it be a case of having revived the band just for the sake of it, and perhaps to raise some cash? After all, the only original band member left is Blackmore. The rest of the lineup is all young blood, and he has been known to have focused on his own projects for the past couple of decades anyway, which is why getting together last year seemed a little unexpected.

Another question that I guess I wasn’t the only one to ask myself was, who is this new guy, Ronnie Romero, and can he replace those who sang in Rainbow before him? Upon seeing the set list I cringed: he cannot possibly sing all this, the challenge is far too big! The list included songs across the whole Rainbow spectrum: from Dio‘s through the JLT era, featuring some of the most iconic songs of all times worshipped by a few generations of devoted die hard rock fans.

My concerns couldn’t have been less justified. The concert was a genuine once in a lifetime experience! Not surprisingly, shortly after, the news came out that the performance from this particular gig will be released on a CD – to capture a what turned out to be a truly unforgettable night. Birmingham‘s Genting Arena was nearly at capacity; the atmosphere was warm and friendly, as you would expect from a band with half a century‘s history. To someone not so well familiar with Rainbow‘s extensive heritage (there probably weren‘t too many of those but at least one, my partner) there was no way of telling that this wasn‘t the band‘s original lineup: they sounded as brilliant as ever, and seemed to have gelled perfectly. New frontman Romero was great at establishing rapport with the crowd who responded enthusiastically and lovingly. The band paid tribute to most of their well loved songs and the fans responded by giving it all.

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

What I couldn‘t help being amazed by was Romero‘s vocal abilities; not just his pipes which, admittedly, a fair number of vocalists on the metal stage have nowadays. What was particularly striking was how well he fitted into the band‘s image and how perfectly he nailed each and every song. He did Dio‘s (‘Man On The Silver Mountain’, ‘Stargazer’, ‘Long Live Rock’n’Roll’), Coverdale‘s (‘Mistreated’, ‘Soldier of Fortune’), Gillan‘s (‘Child In Time’, ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Black Night’, ‘Perfect Strangers’, ‘Lazy’), Turner‘s (‘Spotlight Kid’, ‘I Surrender’), and Bonnet‘s (‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, ‘All Night Long’) songs – all without batting an eyelid! At the opening notes of ‘Stargazer‘ I was nearly about to swear: No, this is impossible for anyone else to do but Dio! Turns out I was wrong: Romero managed even this, and he made it sound, and most importantly, feel, just like Dio would have, thus preserving Rainbow‘s heritage and, yet, adding an ounce of very appropriate and appreciated uniqueness.

This was an emotional concert for us all, bringing to live the whole history of not just Rainbow but Deep Purple as well. Hymns such as ‘Child In Time’, ‘Soldier Of Fortune’, ‘Smoke On The Water’, performed at their best and refreshed with Romero‘s own fresh touch sounded as close to the original as to make it appreciated by all those fans who came to pay tribute to the classic Deep Purple they grew up with. It sounded so authentic it nearly felt surreal at some point, especially during the prolonged keyboard solo. This is when my heart sank, as this is what John Lord used to do, alone on stage, under the spotlights, playing his magical interpretation of rock/classics/jazz medley. I felt sad, wondering if this was an ‘upwards and onwards’ message of some sort? Fortunately, no, as I realised towards the end of the gig when proper tribute to John Lord was paid with the instrumental track ‘Carry On… Jon’ and photo slide show on the large screen. Tribute was also paid to Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell, and all those years of history, with photos from Rainbow‘s olden days. It felt emotional and beautiful. It felt right. The show recognised that Rainbow are what they are: living history, rather than just an old band who have decided to get back together to earn some money.

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

This is perhaps the answer to the question I asked myself most of all, why so many Deep Purple songs at a Rainbow‘s gig? As a recognition that they, undoubtedly, are the same thing, just slightly different? Or perhaps as a gesture of friendship to Gillan who is about to tour the country in a few months? Whatever the answer, what cannot be disputed is that their fans are the same, and equally devoted to both bands. There was a guy cheering next to me who wore two t-shirts on top of each other and kept changing them: Rainbow‘s and Deep Purple‘s. Weird? Yes. But also summarising the essence of the atmosphere of the night. We are the generation who grew up with Deep Purple‘s music, and Rainbow are in our blood just as equally. Which is why I will always be grateful I had the chance to see them. Bucket list item ticked off.

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