Veteran guitarist Ritchie Blackmore took the stage in Loreley, Germany this Friday at the Monsters of Rock festival, debuting the new lineup of his classic band Rainbow and delivering his first set of hard rock music in nearly two decades.
Sporting his signature Fender Stratocaster (with scalloped fretboard, an innovation that the guitarist is credited with bringing to mainstream attention) and dressed head-to-toe in his namesake color, Blackmore blazed through a 13-song set that touched upon material from the back catalogues of both Rainbow and Deep Purple, the band with which he first ascended to fame in the late 1960s.
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Surprisingly, Blackmore and his new band opened the show not with a Rainbow tune, but rather with Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” a song revered among fans for Blackmore’s incendiary and revolutionary solo. The setlist closed with “Smoke On The Water,” arguably Blackmore’s most famous composition, which is built around one of the most iconic guitar riffs in modern music history. In between, the band delivered a set that could have come straight from Rainbow’s classic period, touching upon some of the biggest hits from both of Blackmore’s iconic acts.
Though he has long been celebrated among guitarists for his prowess on the instrument and his contributions to the world of electric rock guitar, Blackmore hasn’t performed an exclusively hard rock concert under the Rainbow moniker since May of 1997, as Rolling Stone reports. Since that time, the guitarist has focused his efforts on composing and performing renaissance and baroque-inspired music with his wife, Candice Night, in their band Blackmore’s Night.
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The current lineup of Rainbow consists of one active member of Blackmore’s Night, drummer David Keith, and one former member, bassist Bob Nouveau (a.k.a. Robert “Bob” Curiano), according to Blabbermouth. Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson rounds out the instrumental section of the band, supporting Lords of Black singer Ronnie Romero, who fills a role previously held at various times by Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White.
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Though he has admitted that several years ago he considered a return to rock music, it is Romero that Blackmore credits with fully re-invigorating his interest in the style.
“It was not until I found out about Ronnie that the whole idea came back again and when I started realizing the idea. He has a great voice and his fresh input is what gave me the final push. I am quite demanding when it comes to singers, but with Ronnie it absolutely feels good. This guy has a great future in the scene.”
While he had the option of hiring a more well-known singer to front the current incarnation of Rainbow, Blackmore revealed to Dutch magazine Aardschok that he enjoys bringing musicians like Romero to a wider audience.
“Of course, there were many familiar names around, but this idea didn’t appeal to me. Unlike many others, I prefer to discover new musicians who can add a fresh approach to my music. It’s great to present new musicians to the public.”
Blackmore, who was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Deep Purple, as the Inquisitr previously noted, has not ruled out the possibility of continuing with the current incarnation of Rainbow. Due to prior commitments with Blackmore’s Night, however, the guitarist allows that the next round of dates will likely not take place until 2017. Whether or not those concerts happen depends not only on the reaction of audiences to this current run of shows but also on the chemistry among the musicians, according to Blackmore.
Two more Rainbow shows are scheduled for this month, both in Europe. On Saturday, June 18, Rainbow will perform at the Monsters Of Rock festival in Bietigheim-Bissingen. The band’s sole U.K. show will take place on Saturday, June 25, at the Genting Arena in Birmingham. All three shows are set to be recorded for a possible release in the future.
Check out Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as they return to the stage for the first time in 19 years below.