The return of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

First post at my new home for music-related musings, and it comes in the week when legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore finally announced a -solitary- UK date for his first show under the Rainbow name in twenty years, at Birmingham’s Genting Arena (a venue I continue to refer to as the NEC Arena).

Blackmore is my all-time guitar hero, the albums he made with Deep Purple and Rainbow are still favourites in my record collection and although I have respect for anyone who knows their way around a fretboard (especially since I had a go at it myself, and found myself badly wanting!), he remains the player I still think of first when thinking of rock guitar.

Of course, he has been going in a totally different direction than rock since the mid-1990s, when he formed the folk-rock outfit Blackmore’s Night with his partner (now wife), singer Candice Night. She had contributed backing vocals and some lyrics on the last album Blackmore issued under the Rainbow name (‘Stranger In Us All’) and toured with the band, however on completion of those dates Blackmore walked away from his illustrious rock past and did what he had been threatening in interviews to do for some time, play Renaissance-inspired folk music complete with period costume for himself and all who performed alongside him.

He has since issued ten studio albums to date, and gained a following among fans not necessarily familiar with his previous work. He has also retained some of his old fans but lost many more, as those fans could not get to grips with seeing one of rock’s premier league axemen suddenly eschew the instrument in favour of a hurdy-gurdy or mandolin. I count myself among that latter group; I once saw Blackmore’s Night when they called at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall some years back and found the experience frustrating. Only when he broke out the Stratocaster for a rendition of ’16th Century Greensleeves’, complete with a stunning lead solo with THAT unmistakable guitar tone filling the room, did all seem right with the world. I have not kept up with his work since then, save for the occasional remake of an old Rainbow song, until now when he confirmed that he would play a short series of rock shows one last time.

Tickets went on pre-sale on 4th November before a general sale on 6th November, and there has already been tremendous interest in this solitary British date. It is likely to sell out very quickly, so it remains to be seen whether any further dates will follow. I am not holding my breath, since the man will be 71 years old by the time this gig happens, and has already made clear it is a one-off return. However, for those (myself included, who saw Rainbow for the only time in September 1983) who have waited decades for this, it is an unmissable event – regardless of who actually lines up alongside The Man In Black.

The big question of who will be the vocalist has still to be revealed; all Blackmore will say is that he is “a cross between Freddie Mercury and Ronnie James Dio” –  a mouthwatering prospect for a still-unknown singer. He has confirmed that the set will include both Rainbow and Deep Purple favourites, so whoever this singer is, he has a big task on his hands.

UPDATE! The line-up for the upcoming shows has now been revealed; joining Blackmore are bassist Bob Nouveau, drummer David Keith (the only member of Blackmore’s Night to be involved; he is known as ‘Troubadour of Aberdeen’ in that band), Stratovarius keyboard player Jens Johansson (cue a few raised eyebrows as he has played previously with both Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen), and the vocalist is Ronnie Romero of the band Lords of Black. With the exception of Jens Johansson, these players are virtual unknowns to most fans, so there has no doubt been some YouTube ‘research’ going on since this announcement was made (!)

I’m very excited at the prospect of seeing my favourite rock guitarist once more, playing the very music that continues to shape my tastes to this day. Many bands I follow today are directly influenced by Ritchie Blackmore; indeed the entire European Power Metal scene can be traced directly back to the material found on ‘Rising’ and ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

Long Live Ritchie Blackmore, and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Rainbow – Kill The King (live)

Rainbow – A Light In The Black

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