Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Live In Birmingham 2016

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The return of Ritchie Blackmore to rock music after nearly two decades of playing exclusively medieval folk with Blackmore's Night was both a revelation and a let-down for fans. After the initial announcement got everyone's hopes up, the resulting string of dates turned out to be just two festivals in Germany and a single date in the UK. Reports from all three shows were generally the same: new singer Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black) is superb, Ritchie's new backing band (essentially the Blackmore's Night rhythm section plus Jens Johansson on keyboards) is average/restricted, and Blackmore himself is uncharacteristically sloppy, like he hadn't rehearsed anywhere near enough for these shows. For some, the sheer relief and excitement to be seeing any kind of Rainbow set again overcame that, for others it didn't, and that was certainly all true on this night in Birmingham - indicating little had improved over the course of the first two shows - all faithfully reproduced on this raw live album. As the back cover of the album states, this is a direct soundboard recording, which means virtually nothing has been done to it afterwards. The mistakes by all concerned are therefore here to be heard from the beginning, and there are moments where Blackmore sounds like he just doesn't know how to play the songs at all, but others where he's still scintillating. Somewhat tellingly though, he was at his best when switched to acoustic guitar for an outstanding Soldier of Fortune. The real stand-out on this recording is Romero, who sounds even better here than he did on the night in the cavernous Genting Arena, where he was often marginalised at the side of the stage while Blackmore and the band played in the centre. In truth, he rescues this album, even with a couple of slip ups on lyrics, and after a few songs, the sloppiness of Blackmore's playing starts to feel like the kind of rawness that can sometimes give live recordings their charm. The band were widely recognised as having improved significantly on the 2017 UK tour, so casual fans should probably wait for a recording from that tour to come out - which it inevitably will - to hear this line-up at their best (so far). This one is probably only suited to Rainbow collectors and people who were at the show.

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2017, Hard/Heavy Rock, Live Albums, Quickplay Reviews, , ,

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