Tag Archives: Rainbow

Rainbow rock band

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Sweet at Birmingham Genting Arena 28/6/17

When I was a teenager getting seriously into rock and metal in the early 80s I was lucky enough to see some of the biggest acts around: AC/DC, Sabbath, Quo, Ozzy etc. One band I never got to see, however, was Rainbow and one guitar wizard I never got to see (in any formation) was Ritchie Blackmore. For some inexplicable reason (and I am normally really on the ball with this) I failed to get myself a ticket when Blackmore revived the Rainbow name and announced a tentative return to rock ‘ n’ roll last year. So when a further tour was announced this year I made absolutely sure I was going to be there this time.

The evening was going to be made even more special when I found out the support act would be Sweet, who I have been following for as long as I’ve been following Rainbow. Unlike Rainbow, I have seen The Sweet many times before over the past twenty-odd years – but usually in small rock venues or provincial theatres, never in an arena with a 15,000 strong crowd. In some ways, both Rainbow and The Sweet summed up the music of the mid 70s: the albums-based rock was brilliant and the singles-based pop was brilliant, too. Perfection!

Tonight would give Andy Scott and co the chance to rekindle their relationship with many older rock fans as well as hopefully winning over some newer fans, too. ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ et al all go down an absolute storm. My only complaint was that the set was heavily weighted towards the old hits, with little time for the harder-edged album-oriented rock of which the band have an impressive, if less well-known, back catalogue. However, we did get stunning versions of ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and hopefully Andy Scott’s continuing version of The Sweet has a good few more fans after tonight.

“I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order,” Eric Morecambe once famously said. No-one in their right mind could ever accuse guitar god, Ritchie Blackmore, of that. But funnily enough I was reminded of the old Morecambe & Wise gag when I was thinking about Ritchie Blackmore’s set-list at Birmingham tonight. Pretty much all of the songs that I very much hoped he’d play were in there – but the set order seemed to be in random shuffle mode with little attempt at any sort of thematic approach. We jumped from the polished commercial rock of Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow, to Coverdale-era Deep Purple, to the infectious pop-rock of Graham Bonnet, to the heavy prog-tinged majesty of Dio-era Rainbow and so on and so on. I suppose the main message was: “I have been involved with creating some amazing music in different bands with different vocalists and different styles – and whichever order you put them in they are all amazing…” Which is true!

After years away from doing gigs of this type and making albums like this Blackmore’s stunning guitar skills have not dimmed. Never guilty of being flashy for the sake of being flashy or of putting technical prowess ahead of creating beautiful melody, there is an elegance about his playing that is a joy to see live. Ronnie Romero, too, I thought was a good choice of vocalist. Of all the iconic vocalists Blackmore has worked with over the years, Romero probably sounds closest to Joe Lynn Turner in style, but he handled all of the material well from Gillan through to Coverdale, Dio, Bonnet and Turner. Towards the end a keyboard solo seemed to go on forever but that is a minor quibble. At the age of 51, the teenage rock fan in me has finally got see Ritchie Blackmore live on stage and has finally got to attend a Rainbow gig. He is happy.

Set-list – Sweet:

Action
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Set-list – Rainbow:

Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
Mistreated
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Soldier of Fortune
Perfect Strangers
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Child in Time
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lazy
Catch the Rainbow
Black Night
Carry On… Jon
Burn
Smoke on the Water

http://www.ritchieblackmore.info/

ritchie-blackmores-rainbow-17

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

There is enthusiastic and generous applause for former Rainbow frontman, Graham Bonnet, as he takes the stage for the first night of the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend in Minehead this year. Looking as cool as ever (eschewing, as always, the 70s/80s heavy rock get-up in favour of the 60s spiv look) he launches straight into songs from the classic Down To Earth album he did with Rainbow: Eyes of the World and the unforgettable All Night Long. Later on we get to hear Lost in Hollywood and the inevitable Since You’ve Been Gone, as well as his 80s solo single Night Games. It is an absolute sheer joy to be singing along to those songs with a crowd of equally enthusiastic punters.

Some rock vocalists unwittingly, but nevertheless helpfully, make life easier for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery and a choice of songs they’ll forever be associated with that they can still pull off with ease several decades later. Mr Bonnet has perhaps not made life as easy as possible for himself in this regard. What I did begin to notice, however, was that his voice was much more at ease with the Rainbow material than with the harder-edged and more high-octane Michael Schenker Group and Alcatraz material from slightly later in his career. Those latter songs did appear to be placing more of a strain on his vocal chords.

There’s been mixed reactions to Bonnet’s live performances in recent years. I enjoyed the Butlins show and loved singing along with the crowd. However, if I were advising Graham Bonnet I would probably be urging him to centre his live performances mainly around the polished, commercial rock of Down To Earth (and perhaps his subsequent solo album Line-Up which is very much in a similar vein) rather than trying to represent all stages of his career. Indeed, the previous time I saw Bonnet back in 2014 this is exactly what he did.

Look, Graham, you made one of the most iconic and memorable rock albums of the late 70s. You still deliver those songs well and people definitely want to hear them. Plus you’ve got some great musicians. Let your live shows be a celebration of the wonderful songs on Down To Earth rather than unnecessarily straining your voice on material that it is less equipped to deal with these days.

Still a great night though – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

http://www.grahambonnetband.com/

2016-01-29 22.28.00

Previous review: Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Islington

 

Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Highbury 19/3/14

In the late 70s/early 80s every collection of hard rock/heavy metal would include at least a few records by Rainbow.  By 1979 the initial mystical/medieval-tinged lyrics had given way to more traditional rock content and original singer, Ronnie James Dio, had been replaced by Lincolnshire-born Graham Bonnet with whom they  recorded the album Down to Earth. This turned out to be Bonnet’s one and only album with Rainbow. As a teenager this is one of the first rock albums I ever bought and was played very, very frequently. Sadly, Rainbow was one of the few big-name rock bands I didn’t get to see at the time. So the chance to catch up with Graham Bonnet performing Rainbow classics at the Garage in Islington for a very reasonable £16.50 seemed like a tempting offer. Of course, of the rest of the band who created the Down to Earth album, bass player Roger Glover has long been back with Deep Purple, now joined by keyboard player, Don Airy. Rainbow guitarist, Richie Blackmore, is now performing with his wife Candice in a medieval style minstrel band and drummer, Coz Powell was tragically killed on the M4. The only connection to the original band on stage tonight, therefore, was Bonnet himself, although Cozy Powell’s drum kit was did make a welcome appearance on stage and was used throughout the gig. As they were on the Down to Earth album, Bonnet’s vocals were powerful and melodic and a strong backing band delivered superb renditions of classics from that album. Certainly, the crowd sang along to them, particularly when Since You’ve Been Gone made an early appearance as the third song in the set. It was great to hear other Bonnet-era Rainbow classics, too, like Eyes of the World, Love’s no Friend and, of course, All Night Long.

Good as Down to Earth as an album was, however, I did wonder whether there was enough material on it to sustain a whole gig, knowing this album was only a small albeit significant part of Rainbow’s total output. My fears were unfounded, though, firstly because the tracks on Down to Earth are so bloody good. And secondly, because Bonnet supplemented them with a couple of well-chosen Dio-era Rainbow classics: Catch the Rainbow and Long Live Rock n Roll. That nod towards Rainbow’s earlier history, presumably songs that Bonnet would regularly have performed with the band when he was in Rainbow, were very well received by the crowd, many of whom it’s fair to say looked like they had been followers of Rainbow through its many different incantations.

North London is blessed with some excellent mid-sized live music venues, the Garage being just one of them, and if they continue to have rock acts on of this calibre it won’t be long before I’m back there, I’m sure.

Setlist:
Eyes of the World
Love’s No Friend
Since You Been Gone
Bad Girl
Makin’ Love
Kill The King
Catch the Rainbow
All Night Long
Lost in Hollywood
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

2014-03-20 19.33.31