Earlier this year it was announced that legendary Deep Purple/Rainbow/Blackmore's Night guitar god Ritchie Blackmore would reform Rainbow for a select group of shows in Europe, signaling his return to heavy rock for the first time in nearly two decades. The big question was, who would he tap for the line-up? Of course, it was too late to invite the late Ronnie James Dio or Cozy Powell, but there are plenty of former members still around, such as Joe Lynn Turner, Graham Bonnet, Bob Daisley, Tony Carey, Bobby Rondinelli, and Don Airey among others, but as the speculation grew, it turned out that Blackmore instead opted to go with a few members of Blackmore's Night (drummer David Keith, bassist Bob Nouveau, backing vocalists Candice Knight & Lady Lynn), Stratovarius/Rising Force/Dio keyboard veteran Jens Johansson, and newcomer Ronnie Romero, vocalist with little known metal act Lords of Black. Hardly a legitimate Rainbow in the eyes of many, but when it came to showtime, all questionable thoughts were laid to rest.
Two shows on this brief tour were scheduled for Germany, the first at Loreley and the second at the Monsters of Rock at Bietigheim-Bissingen, both of which are featured here. This live set starts out with a selection of tracks from the Monsters of Rock show, and at first things are a little shaky. Surprisingly kicking off with Purple's "Highway Star", the band seems a little tight, Romero's vocal style not fitting too well with Ian Gillan's original vocal, Blackmore a tad tepid on the guitar solo and even hitting a few wrong notes. Ronnie fares better on Rainbow's "Spotlight Kid", though again, the arrangement is somewhat lukewarm. "Mistreated however sees the band start to really settle in, Blackmore's lead guitar work finally starting to gel and Romero singing up a storm. In fact, the singer truly shows his mettle on a fiery "16th Century Greensleeves", as it's instantly apparent that he's meant to shine on the Dio era material more than anything. "Since You've Been Gone" gets the crowd chanting along, and by now we've moved over to Loreley footage, and it's plainly obvious that the band were much more comfortable and at ease at this performance, the dark setting and larger crowd perhaps playing into it. "Man on a Silver Mountain" is furious, Romero really delivering this early Dio classic with all the fire of a young Dio, even giving a great tribute to the fallen 'man on the mountain' with the crowd going nuts. "Catch the Rainbow" is just lovely, one of the highlights here, again with the singer truly shining, before leaving the stage to let the instrumentalists take over for a rousing "Difficult to Cure" before returning as Johannson plays the familiar Hammond tones of "Perfect Strangers". Again, it's the Mk. II Purple songs that seem to be the weakest of these performances, but it's more due to Romero being a better fit on the Rainbow material, as his style just doesn't work as well on the old Gillan sung hits.
"Stargazer" is up next, and the crowd is at their zenith along with the band, the close up shots of various fans in the audience singing along and crying with joy enough to give any longtime fan a lump in their throat. Blackmore and Romero are the stars here, and the duo continue their stellar work on a great sing-along version of "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", which gives away to the Purple gem "Child in Time", the guitarist sizzling on his extended solo while Ronnie screams to the heavens. More Purple classics close out the set in the form of "Black Night" and "Smoke on the Water", both generating a huge response from the crowd who clearly didn't want the show to end.
Ironically, though this was billed as the return to the hard rock stage for Blackmore, he almost takes a back seat here to what is otherwise a huge coming into the spotlight party for Ronnie Romero, a vocalist that we are surely to be seeing & hearing a lot from going forward. Ritchie is fairly reserved, standing in one spot for much of the show and showing little emotion, which is not uncommon for him, letting his guitar skills do the talking for him. While he's not the young, unpredictable gun slinger of days gone by, he still can run circles over many guitarists half his age. The rest of the band are solid, Johansson occasionally contributing some blazing keyboard solos, but both Night and Lynn have little to do other than some backing vocals on some songs and adding their female charms to the stage. This nice little package includes 2 CDs that house a selection of tracks from both shows, and all of them on a Blu-ray disc. The hi-definition quality of the Blu-ray is pretty decent, but I've seen better from Eagle Rock in previous releases, and the sound is actually stronger, nice and robust for a thrilling experience on your home theater system. It's all housed in a nice triple gatefold digipack complete with a thick booklet filled with liner notes and photos. Overall, a great document of this long awaited return from Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.
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1. HIGHWAY STAR
2. SPOTLIGHT KID
4. 16TH CENTURY GREENSLEEVES
5. SINCE YOU BEEN GONE
6. MAN ON THE SILVER MOUNTAIN
7. CATCH THE RAINBOW
8. DIFFICULT TO CURE (BEETHOVEN S NINTH)
9. PERFECT STRANGERS
11. LONG LIVE ROCK N ROLL
12. CHILD IN TIME / WOMAN FROM TOKYO
13. BLACK NIGHT
14. SMOKE ON THE WATER