Ever since Rainbow gave way to Blackmore's Night in 1997, fans of Ritchie Blackmore have wondered if he would ever return to the melodic hard rock that earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple. In the summer of 2016, fans' prayers were answered when Blackmore decided to resurrect Rainbow with an all-new lineup, playing three well-received concerts, two in Germany and one in England. The German shows were filmed and make up the new Blu-ray/2-CD Set Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Memories In Rock: Live in Germany.
While the band's lineup is new to Rainbow, it is not entirely new to Blackmore. Drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau, both of Blackmore's night, make up the rhythm section while Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson and Lords of Black vocalist Ronnie Romero round out the lineup. Candice Night moves from Blackmore's Night front woman to Rainbow background vocalist, and is joined by fellow Blackmore's night singer Lady Lynn.
Of the new members, Romero has the toughest job of all, having to perform the vocals of Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner, Graham Bonnet and his namesake, Ronnie James Dio and, for the most part, does so admirably. He certainly has the range to match those singers, though a bit edgier on the high notes. Still, his performance is impressive and one imagines that with more shows under his belt, they'd be even more so.
Amidst spectacular scenery of the German countryside, the band takes the stage to thunderous applause. The Deep Purple classic "Highway Star" opens the show, with the band delivering a slightly slower, more groove-oriented version. Romero offers a gritty vocal while Johansson and Blackmore shine on their respective solos. The band keeps the tempo high with a raucous "Spotlight Kid." Where "Highway Star" may have been a bit tentative, here the band cuts loose with Blackmore and Johansson shining once again with their intricate, classically inspired solos.
Romero gives a heartfelt vocal on the blues workout "Mistreated," doing the original version by Coverdale and later version by Dio justice. He hits some high notes not present on either of those for good measure. Here and throughout though, he is respectful to the legendary singers he is representing, never trying to over sing the songs. He does his best Dio on "16th Century Greensleeves," even flashing Dio's trademark devil horns. Blackmore gives a killer slide solo on the track.
The group's pop side shows up in a strong "Since You Been Gone," with Romero pushing his vocal range on the track. Romero also adds a gritty performance to a powerful "Perfect Strangers" from Deep Purple's comeback album of the same name.
The show ends with a quartet of Deep Purple numbers. Romero is brave enough to attempt the Gillan signature song "Child In Time," and while he doesn't match the original's incredible heights, he does a good job all the same. After a brief bit of "Woman From Tokyo," the band closes with excellent versions of "Black Night" and "Smoke On The Water." The hyped-up crowd, which was into the show from the opening notes, could have easily handled another hour.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 Widescreen, looks great and is well filmed. Audio options include DTS-HD master Audio and LPCM Stereo. The audio mix is full and powerful, befitting the music. Four songs from the other night are included as bonus tracks, including an intense "Stargazer," which also features in the main performance.
Blackmore has stated that future shows would feature less Deep Purple and more Rainbow songs and the group has committed to a handful of dates for 2017. Whether they record new material is another matter, but this show proves that Rainbow, and Blackmore in particular still have it. Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Memories In Rock: Live in Germany is worth the wait. Welcome back.