Ever since Ritchie Blackmore speculated about doing a couple of Rainbow shows in 2016, hopes and expectations have lead to very emotional disucssions between fans. To the disappointment of those hoping for one of the former lineups to reunite for the gig, Blackmore didn’t go the easy way and - as often - assembled a new team of musicians to accompany him on this adventure.
The band finally announced consisted of current Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith, former Blackmore’s Night bass player Bob Nouveau, Blackmore’s Night contributor Jens Johansson and LORDS OF BLACK singer Ronnie Romero, which lead to even more discussions between fans and even former Rainbow members with Joe Lynn Turner claiming the planned lineup will be “a Ritchie Blackmore band, but certainly not Rainbow” overlooking the fact that RAINBOW has always been what Ritchie Blackmore wanted it to be.
Three shows took place, two open air shows in Germany at Loreley and Bietigheim while the third show was staged at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, UK. While the two German shows were recorded on audio and video for a later (November 18, 2016) release, the UK show wasn’t recorded, which is unfortunate as it did not only feature the most consistent band performance of all three evenings but also was the only show featuring “Soldier Of Fortune” and “Burn”.
Sadly, the CD booklet doesn’t explain which song has been taken from from Loreley and which song has been taken from Bietigheim which is odd as the second CD contains some bonus tracks from the “alternative night” (which one?) and introductions like “You wanna sing with me, Loreley?” are still included.
Despite all the discussions about the musicians on stage, the setlist had been the major point of criticism, including way too many DEEP PURPLE songs while leaving out a bunch of Rainbow classics. I won’t repeat details about the performance which have been already covered in my review of the Loreley show, but one of the major surprises on the CD is Jens Johansson which - now being clearly audible - does a far better job than my memories of the show suggested. For a current release, the CD offers an enjoyable sound with clear dynamics and a well-balanced mix between each instrument.
Is “Memories in Rock - Live In Germany” an album worth buying? That’s a question hard to answer. It’s a good live album, but for a band as Rainbow, good just isn’t good enough. There are more impressive live versions of almost every song out there which leaves the group of potential buyers to completists, people being curious how Rainbow sound in 2016 and those who attended at one of the shows now being offered a perfect souvenir.
It has been quite a while since the last “Monsters of Rock” festivals and so the Rainbow rising again seems to be a perfect opportunity to bring the trademark back to life. Originally advertised as “Ritchie Blackmore´s Rainbow and Guests” the guests revealed shortly after were Thin Lizzy and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
According to German newspaper FAZ, about 15.000 fans attended at Loreley which brought the location to its limits: people had to wait for more than half an hour to get into the festival area while slipping on a muddy something that might have been a green field a few days ago and had to wait for ages until being able to leave the parking areas with their cars.
As there’s no “real” Thin Lizzy these days, the band performing the songs consists of the two authentic members Scott Gorham on guitar and Darren Wharton on keyboards, accompanied for quite some years by Ricky Warwick on vocals and Damon Johnson handling the second guitar. While Aerosmith is on hold for quite some time, the band members seem to look for interesting side jobs and so the bass spot is taken by Tom Hamilton while the originally announced Mikkey Dee, currently helping out the Scorpions, is replaced by Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis.
Thin Lizzy concentrate on playing well know stuff including “Jailbreak”, “Dancing In The Moonlight”, “Bad Reputation”, “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Whiskey In A Jar”, surpassing most visitors expectations and leaving quite an impression on the majority of the crowd.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Second band of the evening is Manfred Mann’s Earth Band featuring the still “new guy” Robert Hart (although being in the band since 2011) on vocals and a drummer who doesn’t look like Jimmy Copley who’s still listed on the bands official site as being their drummer.
The Earth Band plays a solid set with no big surprises – neither in the songs they choose nor in the solo parts. Especially the first half of the set feels way to relaxed and laid back for being a “Monster of Rock” and so the vibes need until “Blinded By The Light” to catch most of the audience. This might also be caused by the lack of a real frontman. Robert Hart is a good singer and team player, but lacks some of the positive aspects of the lead singer’s disease which you need to enthuse such a large audience.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
The announcement of “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow will be performing the music of Rainbow and Deep Purple” should have already told people there will be some Deep Purple material in the setlist – however using “Highway Star” as first track following the classic Rainbow intro feels like an awkward choice. Singer Ronnie Romero does an OK job on the vocals, but his voice might not fit too well to the MKII vocal parts, a problem Joe Lynn Turner also experienced during the “Slaves and Masters” era. The instrumental section also scores nothing higher than an OK, with especially Jens Johannson staying behind expectations.
Things improve with “Spotlight Kid” as second track, a classic Rainbow tune and the vocals being a perfect match for Ronnie Romeros voice. Same goes for “Mistreated” and “Since You’ve Been Gone”, followed by “Man On The Silver Mountain”, a song which Ronnie Romero dedicates to the original man on the silver mountain – Ronnie Dio.
During the first chords of “Catch The Rainbow” it is already clear that one of the highlights is about to come and the performance offers nothing less than the highlight of the evening. “Difficult To Cure” opens the solo section which ends with “Perfect Strangers”, another Deep Purple tune showing the same weaknesses as “Highway Star” at the beginning of the set.
Next in line is “Child In Time”, a song not played for quite a while by Deep Purple, followed by “Long Live Rock’n’Roll”, a Rainbow tune including some heavy sing-along with the crowd. During an interview prior to the shows Ritchie Blackmore had already announced that the set would include “Stargazer” which follows as the second highlight of the show.
Sadly, when the majority of the audience still is close to heaven on top of the wizard’s tower, a crash landing starts with the final tracks, “Black Night” followed by “Smoke On The Water” – songs played way too often by Deep Purple themselves and any cover band on this planet.
This ends the evening with some mixed feelings.
The lineup consisting of Ritchie Blackmore on guitars, Ronnie Romero on vocals, Jens Johansson on keyboards, Bob Nouveau on bass and David Keith on drums created a memorable night seeing the Rainbow rising again. Besides some glitches and instrumental weaknesses (which are IMHO perfectly normal for a band that is standing together on the big stage for their first show) the time flew and the concert was quite enjoyable.
The setlist on the other hand was disappointing. Leaving out a couple of Rainbow must haves (“Temple Of The King”, “Street Of Dreams”, “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”, “Kill the King”, “Stone Cold”, …) and playing stuff that Deep Purple still include in every single show feels like a waste of time.
However – being able to experience “Catch The Rainbow” and “Stargazer” live was alone worth the trip to Loreley.