Rainbow (O2 Arena, London)

We’ve all lost count how many iterations of Rainbow there have been since 1975, and this current line-up came together over twenty years after the last one: since that time, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, now aged 72, has made several albums with his Renaissance project Blackmore’s Night (featuring his wife Candice on lead vocals, she appears as one of the backing singers here tonight).

Ronnie Romero fills the large shoes of big former voices of both Rainbow (Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner) and Deep Purple (Ian Gillan, David Coverdale), and does admirably well, with a set list which opens with ‘Spotlight Kid’ and then goes through ‘Mistreated’, ‘Soldier of Fortune’, ‘Since You Been Gone’ (featuring writer and musician Russ Ballard on guest back-up vocals and guitar), ‘Stargazer’, ‘Child In Time’, ‘Burn’, ‘Black Night’, ‘Long Live Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘Catch The Rainbow’ and (of course), ‘Smoke on the Water’.

Supported by the Sweet, who, like Deep Purple, formed fifty years ago next year, and retaining just one original member (Andy Scott) entertained with a mix of glam and hard rock numbers from ‘Hellraiser’ to ‘Little Willy’.

But Rainbow, and the return of Blackmore to rock, was the main event here, and they didn’t disappoint: I was also really pleased to see Dio and Cozy Powell remembered by video footage in the background during ‘Long Live Rock ‘n Roll’, a lovely moment.  I hope this isn’t the last hurrah, but if it was, I’m going away happy.


All Our Yesterdays – Blackmore’s Night (CD review)

The tenth studio album in eighteen years from the folk-rock team of Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night (and friends) follows the now familiar formula of crowdpleasing singalongs, powerful rock-influenced instrumentals, wistful ballads, and cover versions (in this case, of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’ and Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’).

It is a strategy which has served the team well in Germany and Austria in particular, where they now have their biggest following, while, ironically for a couple based in Long Island (although Blackmore is British-born) they seem to have eluded success in the United States.

For me, I have been following the now married couple since their first album in 1997, ‘Shadow of the Moon’, which represented the twenty-six year old Night’s first leading vocals in a project, after providing back up on the album and subsequent tour of Blackmore’s reformed Rainbow two years earlier.  Blackmore at that time was fifty-two, trying a new musical path away from the hard rock he had been involved in since the early 1960s (although throughout his work with Deep Purple and Rainbow there had always been hints at a softer and perhaps more romantic side than he could indulge).

Now Night is forty-four, Blackmore is seventy, and they have two young children under six, so ‘All Our Yesterdays’ would seem to be coming from a very different place to ‘Shadow’.  The opening track, the title one, though, is fairly standard for the team, Night’s vocals taking the lead into a plantive ballad which opens into ‘hey hey’ type chorus.  This is followed by a couple of instrumentals, of which I liked ‘Darker Shade of Black’ and its – maybe overproduced – soaring melodies the most.

‘Long Long Time’ has some nice musical touches, while ‘Moonlight Shadow’ is a rockier version of what was a classy ballad with Oldfield’s style of guitar playing back on its release in the early eighties.  I am not sure about the changing of the fade-out coda though.  As for ‘I Got You Babe’, Night sings this well with the accompaniment to bells and the now ubiquitous drum machine, but the fact this was written as duet makes it fail at the last, despite attempts to muddle through.

In other tracks, 2003’s ‘Where Are We Going From Here’ is given a new, revised version (something the team have a habit of doing), and it has a pleasingly rocky feel, while the standout album track for me is ‘Will o’the Wisp’ with its pounding chorus and musical vibes.  ‘The Other Side’ seems throwaway, with pipes, drums and double-tracked vocals in Mary Ford-style.  ‘Queen’s Lament’ is a typical Blackmore guitar instrumental, musically beautiful and technically accomplished, but all too short.

It seems clear with the progression of this team’s work that Candice Night is taking more and more centre stage, and she has certainly vastly improved as a singer in both vocals and confidence since she started out.  However, the last couple of albums have started to weaken a bit against their predecessors and the formula, for what it is worth, may now need a shake-up so as not to make work feel stale.

Track listing:

All Our Yesterdays
Allan Yn N Fan
Darker Shade of Black
Long Long Time
Moonlight Shadow
I Got You Babe
The Other Side
Queen’s Lament
Where Are We Going From Here
Will o’the Wisp
Earth Wind and Sky
Coming Home

Music film review: California Jam (1974)

Deep Purple’s appearance at the California Jam on 6th April 1974 was the fiery finale to an open-air concert that also included Earth Wind and Fire, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, and Emerson Lake and Palmer (who has the misfortune of going on after their co-headliners had raised havoc).

It was the first American show for the new line-up of Purple, who now had a new singer from Redcar, David Coverdale, and a new bassist/singer from the Midlands, Glenn Hughes.  Coverdale at 22 years old was a raw talent with a rich bluesy voice and in this show he really stands out – the highlight being ‘Mistreated’, a blistering song of lost love that he co-wrote with the band’s guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore.

The DVD we have today comes from the live broadcast on the ABC network, although a version released to laserdisc and VHS in the 1980s had different camera angles and a far more satisfying view of Blackmore demolishing one of the cameras that got too close.  However the most recent release has included ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, missing from the 1980s releases, and has an alternate cut of ‘Burn’.

In their 117 minute prime, Deep Purple show themselves to be a vibrant and passionate band, totally focused on delivering the best of their catalogue to a huge and enthusiastic audience.  Coverdale in embryo before all the Whitesnake silliness is a delight, and Hughes’ soul vibrato rounds out the new sound.  After two albums, though, Blackmore walked from the band to join and rename Elf, which became Rainbow, and another chapter of music history was born.

Deep Purple – Live in California ’74 is available on DVD from Amazon and all other online retailers.  The print isn’t that great, and where the laserdisc had stereo sound, the DVD is mono … but it is still terrific, and their version of Smoke on the Water here can raise a goosebump or two.