In the mid-90’s I hadn’t discovered the breadth of the internet. I didn’t have cable and was sort of in a bubble. I had purchased The Battle Rages On and enjoyed it tremendously but didn’t know Ritchie would soon leave Deep Purple and come up with another incarnation of Rainbow which would only produce one album. Thankfully, one of the concerts of the tour was recorded by Rockpalast and now has been released.
The album they were supporting, The Stranger in Us All, was a bit of a throwback thematically to the days of Dio. It was considerably darker than the Joe Lynn Turner era. The concert reflects that theme pulling largely from the album, the Dio era and some Deep Purple classics.
The concert opens with Spotlight Kid, a song that is probably about Ian Gillan and an appropriate way to begin since he was the reason Blackmore left Purple one last time. This was the most acrimonious and bridges have not been rebuilt as in the past (they were still on friendly terms in the late 70’s with Blackmore even asking him to front Rainbow after Dio left). This song shows that Blackmore is in top form and Doogie White is more than capable as a singer. The mix is a bit off, and you can not hear the keyboards very well. Of course we are here for Blackmore, not Paul Morris.
Toward the end of the solo and the final chorus, my copy (both the CD and the ripped version from Amazon) has a strange voice (Candace?) that is a bit disconcerting. I have no idea what was going on but I find it annoying.
Next is the first song from the new album, Too Late for Tears, which is one of the few that could pass for a love song. It is a good but not great song. But up next is a good rendition of Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll that has allusions to Strange Kind of Woman and part of Black Night in the audience participation section. They then slide into the dark Hunting Humans which has some good guitar work. That dark theme continues with Wolf to the Moon (I’m still not sure what it means or how they got it).
The song slides into Difficult to Cure, one of Ritchie’s concert standards since the early 80’s. As with Deep Purple, this shifts into a keyboard solo.
Next they go way back to the first Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album for Still I’m Sad. After a solo by Blackmore there is the drum solo by Chuck Burgi. Chuck was not on the album, but returned to Rainbow for the tour (he was previously on Bent Out of Shape). It was a good solo but nothing like Powell or Paice.
Still I’m Sad begins a section of songs from the same album. Up next was Man on the Silver Mountain. In many ways I appreciated this more than the Dio versions because there wasn’t all the ranting at the end which made no sense to me. After some banter to introduce the song they do a very good rendition of Temple of the King.
They returned to SiUA for two songs, Black Masquerade and Ariel. Ariel is haunting and one of the stronger songs from that album. This is a great version of the song and one of the highlights of the concert in my opinion. It reminds me of Anya for some reason.
They do a quick version of Since You’ve Been Gone as the sole representative of the Graham Bonnet era. They only played one verse, which is unfortunate because I like that song.
After this short piece they move on to the longer Deep Purple standard Perfect Strangers. It is a very good version of the song as Doogie does a good job with the vocals. So far he’s handled material originally done by 4 different guys. While he’s forgotten a line here or there (or lost his breath or timing) he’s done a very good job with the other guys’ material.
They pull an odd move with Greensleeves. No, not 16th Century Greensleeves (which would have been a fantastic move) but Greensleeves (a hint of things to come?) with lyrics about being alcoholics. By far my least favorite song. Perhaps they didn’t have time to do 16th Century Greensleeves. But it puts us in the frame of mind for Hall of the Mountain King, a new song in the style of Dio material. It is a good up tempo song with all that medieval imagery.
There is another unexpected turn as they play Burn (yet another singer’s material). It is a good rendition of the song which maintains that darker theme being about a witch and all.
When you burn, you might get Smoke on the Water which is the closing number.
One of Gillan’s (irrational??) complaints about the end of Blackmore’s time with Deep Purple was that the shows were getting shorter (about an hour, he claims) and the crowds smaller (did they suddenly explode in popularity when Ritchie left?). This is not a short show. As you might expect, Ritchie doesn’t retread solos. There is some good improvisation here. In an interview years earlier about what he thought people would like to hear Blackmore replied Stargazer. Sadly nothing from Rainbow Rising is here though most of it would fit right in. There are just too many great Rainbow songs to choose from but Ritchie was obviously in a more medieval mindset in his song choice (Doogie said that Ritchie gave them the set list).
This was a very good show aside from Greensleeves. It does belong in any Rainbow fan’s collection. It serves as the farewell piece for a great band, and Ritchie’s swan song for hard rock and roll. There are rumors that there may be a few Rainbow shows in the future (not a tour). We’ll see. But here Ritchie demonstrated the chops that gave him the reputation as one of the greatest rock guitarists.