Sun. Mar 7th, 2021

13.4.2018 Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow @ Hartwall Arena, Helsinki

A couple of years ago I went to see Ritchie Blackmore‘s son Jürgen who was then in a tribute band with among others Joe Lynn Turner and some other old Rainbow members. The band was called Over The Rainbow. I always thought that I’ll never experience anything closer to the real thing like that. Up until Ritchie Blackmore announced that he had formed a new Rainbow and they’d play a couple of shows. Well you never really know with these new formations, but then I saw who’s in it and it caught my attention: Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) on keyboards,  David Keith on drums (Blackmore’s Night), Bob Nouveau on bass and Ronnie Romero (Lord of Black) as a vocalist. I waited for a couple of years, up until they finally announced they’d play at Hartwall Arena at Helsinki. Just my luck!

I usually never do reviews without visuals, unless it’s a gig I coincidentally attended. I was too late to get a photo pass unfortunately, but I decided to solve it this way. No photos means more crappy videos to somehow be able to grasp the atmosphere of the concert with me. First of all, again, I arrived a little late, so again, I missed the support act. But I was right on time for Rainbow, unfortunately like me, Rainbow was a little late as well. Anxiously I was waiting until it was time for them to begin. “Land of Hope and Glory” started playing and marked the beginning of an amazing night. Ritchie Blackmore came a bit early to the stage, which was surprising, as he wasn’t really playing. Maybe he wanted to feel the audience’s excitement? Because wow, the crowd really was. After two intros, “Spotlight Kid” kicked in with a lot of energy. We get acquainted with Ronnie Romero as a vocalist. First thing that comes to my mind is the resemblance to Paul Rodgers in his essence. Romero has an amazingly powerful voice, but he doesn’t go around running along the stage. He doesn’t have to. His voice is impressive enough, which reminds me a bit of Paul Rodgers, who has the same kind of glow over him. Romero seems like the appropriate choice to sing for the band, his voice can handle most of Rainbow’s respective singers. After a very strong beginning, the audience was really excited and immediately got answered by their cheers in form of “I Surrender”. The song was followed by Deep Purple‘s “Mistreated”, a song from “Burn”. “Mistreated” is a very bluesy song. It kind of stood out for me in the setlist. Romero doesn’t have that full-bodied voice that Coverdale has, but his voice sounds good in the lower registers as well and in general he can handle Coverdale very well. The band sounded really tight in the song, which is really important.

From a mentally heavy song to something lighter again, “Since You Been Gone”, one of Rainbow’s classics from he 80s. Whole Hartwall Arena was going out of their minds, people were singing along, dancing along, jumping, whatever they deemed fit. The setlist is all over the place, it goes from the very beginning to the very end, and then somewhere in the middle, from vocalist to vocalist. I love every era of Rainbow and its history, but I definitely prefer the Ronnie James Dio time, those songs being more neoclassical, they sometimes just stand out. So when it was time for “Man on the Silver Mountain” I couldn’t be more excited. And yes, what great rendition.

After that it was time for some Deep Purple, “Perfect Strangers” started playing. This is where I somehow started comparing to Deep Purple, not a good plan. All in all, of course the sound was super tight and energetic, but it somehow felt like a light version of Deep Purple. I don’t know where and how, but I felt like something was missing. This was only really the case in “Perfect Strangers”, the rest of the Purple covers, were performed extremely well, often leading to magical moments.

After “Perfect Strangers” it was time for some instrumentals and some joking around. Bassist Bob Nouveau was joking around, telling that no one was waiting for another bass solo. That’s kind of you Bob. What however was quite impressive was Jens Johansson‘s keyboard solo. Well, I play keyboards myself, I have an affinity for everything related to keyboards and I always love solos. Jens Johansson‘s sounded very refreshing and well, let’s be honest, is there anything that Jens can’t play?
The solo got followed up by “Soldier of Fortune”, for me personally one of the highlights of the evening. Ronnie Romero especially shined here, he used a lot more clean vocals in here, which also suited him. After all that melancholy, it was time for “All Night Long”, from the Graham Bonnet-period. A song the audience clearly had been looking forward to. Flawless. Then it was time for “Child In Time”. It often breaks my heart that I was born too late to see Deep Purple play it live, I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts when I was a kid, so I missed out on the experience. So yes, this is as close as it gets and it was a very impressive rendition. Romero reaches the most difficult parts of the song with ease and it sounded close to perfect.

“Stargazer” was the next in line, which was something I had been looking out for. The song has been my personal Rainbow favorite and I was really happy and excited that they played it. Together with “Soldier of Fortune”, this was just the best moment of the whole show. It felt like the whole show basically was leading up to this moment. “Stargazer” started off with drummer David Keith showing some of his licks and kicked in with power. Romero is no Ronnie James Dio, but comes quite close. In fact during “Stargazer” there were moments that if I would have closed my eyes, I would have been sent back straight to seventies.

After that it was time to get the crowd active again with “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Which started off with the audience clapping and shouting very loudly. Quite impressive, if you know that Finns usually are more of a quiet audience. They were having the best time. The atmosphere was clearly top-notch. The band tore down Hartwall Arena with “Burn”, another Deep Purple classic.
Unfortunately the crowd was left with a hunger. It seemed like no one could ease the crowd. For at least 10 minutes after the show, the audience still was there hoping for their heroes to return. But no such thing happened, which was a little bit unfortunate. Well, 13 songs is quite a bit, but at least they could have come back and waved a little bit at their fans, but well who knows, maybe they were on a tight schedule! Even though a bit of a unhappy ending, the band definitely was worth the while to go see. The new Rainbow has as much of a top tier level than the older versions of it. The band involves great musicians and in addition their new song sounded really amazing. Hopefully this generation of Rainbow will stick around and do even more shows. I’d definitely go back to see them over and over again.


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