Ritchie Blackmore

Young at Heart

Blackmore picks youthful Rainbow lineup


Ritchie Blackmore is a delightful anachronism. Not merely because he would put words to Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" on a 1997 album, but also because he would recruit a young band to play it old-school metal style. Asked why the young guys in the new lineup of Rainbow drifted his way, rather than him looking to youth for currency - a la David Bowie hooking up with Nine Inch Nails - the 51-year-old guitar god was refreshingly clueless: "I have no idea about Bowie or what he does, or Nine Inch Nails. That wouldn't be a good example for me. I wouldn't know them if I fell over them."

Blackmore, who visits the Huntridge Performing Arts Theatre, 1208 E. Charleston Blvd., with his new Rainbow today, is also an iconoclastic exception to a classic-rock trend. He refuses to get in line with so many '70s bands that are forced to pretend they don't hate each other so they can preserve whatever remains of their drawing power. You won't see him with Deep Purple on a summer tour schedule likely to include reunited "classic lineups" of Journey, Yes and Fleetwood Mac.

"I've rejoined enough," the guitarist says of the group that had its last strong album with "Perfect Strangers" in 1984. Blackmore recorded the musical tracks for a 1991 reunion album called "The Battle Rages On," but when he heard Ian Gillan's vocal tracks, "I couldn't stomach his singing." Guitar whiz Steve Morse took his place in Deep Purple for last year's "Purpendicular" album. Blackmore instead relaunched his long-running side group Rainbow with the independent release "Stranger in Us All."

He recruited the new band - fronted by Scottish singer Doogie White - near his adopted hometown of Long Island, N.Y., rather than hunting down any Rainbow alumni, which include heavy-metal wailers Ronnie James Dio and Graham Bonnet (who sang Rainbow's hit "Since You've Been Gone") or drummer Cozy Powell.

"The old faces were still around, but I didn't see the point in that," Blackmore says. "If I liked the older guys, I would have stayed with them." It's clear who's boss in this outfit: "The democratic thing never works in a band," he says.

Any kid who first picks up a guitar can master the famous lick for "Smoke on the Water," but Blackmore has always given his classical leanings a fair hearing alongside the dirty blues. "If we didn't do (the classical licks), nobody else would do it," he says. "A lot of bands steer very clear of that. When you start incorporating classical, it's guaranteed not to get radio play. We would like to be on the radio too, but the bottom line is we've got to play what we want to play."

He praises the Internet - "radio can't manipulate that" - for spreading the word of his current club tour. "It reminds me of the old days, way back," he says. "A little bit of nostalgia." A little nostalgia too for Huntridge operator Richard Lenz, who recalls it was an early '70s Deep Purple concert that caused county officials to adopt a stringent and convoluted rock concert ordinance that almost kept him from reopening the theater in 1992. Lenz says a band member passed out, and the promoter skipped town with the ticket money in those days before the concert industry became big business.

"It seems to ring a bell," the soft-spoken Blackmore says, "but that tended to happen quite often."

Caroline's Spine opens at 9 p.m. General admission is $26 at the door.

Mike Weatherford, Las Vegas Review Journal 14 March 1997