European & UK Tour 1980
Newcastle City Hall 19 February 1980
It was now 1980, and Rainbow’s line-up had changed yet again. Blackmore had his eye on the commercial rock market, and wanted to move Rainbow’s music in the direction of more commercial straight ahead rock, away from their traditional “swords and sorcery” thematic. Ronnie James Dio was having none of this, so he was off, soon to join Black Sabbath. So the band morphed yet again. In came singer Graham Bonnet, last seen fronting The Marbles who hit the UK charts in the late ’60s with a Bee Gees penned pop classic “Only One Woman”. Bonnet has a great solid rock voice, with an amazing vocal range; although at the time I found it difficult to imagine anyone other than Dio singing Rainbow classics like “Man on the Silver Mountain”. But sing them Graham did, and he made a pretty good fist of it too.
The changing nature of the band didn’t seem to impact upon their popularity. If anything Rainbow were more popular, and once again sold out two nights at the City Hall. I attended the first night’s concert. Support came from NWOBHM band Samson featuring Bruce Dickinson (or Bruce Bruce as he was then). This concert displayed more shades of classic rock than the mystical dark elements on show during the Dio-era. It was a different type of gig, but no less enjoyable, and Blackmore was as on-fire as ever. The new formula had already paid dividends in the form of a massive hit single “Since You Been Gone”, which was followed by the almost as successful “All Night Long”.
Newcastle City Hall 20 February 1980
Since you've been gone, there's been a fair amount happening, Ritchie. The New Wave changed its spots when the leading contenders decided that rather than change the world they'd like to become rock and roll stars instead. And once people tumbled to the realization that basic punk and basic heavy metal are virtually the same thing a young breed of metallic bands came hurtling out of the closet and were promptly packaged up by increasingly nervous record companies as 'New Wave heavy metal'. Right now, everyone who's old enough to go to the toilet by themselves is bouncing up and down to the 2 Tone sound.
But you've nothing to worry about, Ritchie. You've just had the biggest hit single of your career over here and, in the context of the changes we've been going through, a few new faces at Rainbow aren't going to rock the boat, particularly when one of them is an old friend. Anyway, you didn't really think we'd expect you back with the same line-up twice in a row did you? ...
As Elgar's 'Pomp And Circumstance Overture' glides into 'Land Of Hope And Glory' the lights of the Newcastle City Hall cut out and the massed ranks of denim leap to their feet with a spontaneous roar of acclaim that could be translated as 'Those who are about to have their cake and eat it, salute you.'
A synthesised version of Holst's 'Mars' cuts through the noisy, steamy darkness and as the chugging guitar riff to 'Eyes Of The World' takes over the stage is suddenly bathed in fight Rainbow are strutting it in Britain again. Over on the right, there's Ritchie Blackmore looking exactly the same as he did on the last tour (and the one before that and ... ). And behind that pile of percussion with his head bobbing up and down between his flailing arms like a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke must be Cozy Powell.
Reassured, we can start taking in the new figures in the landscape. Next to Blackmore there's vocalist Graham Bonnet, looking positively suave in heavy metal terms with slicked back hair, dark glasses and a white suit. He's left most of the stock HM vocalist cliches for the so-called 'New Wave heavy metal' bands (ho ho). Instead he goes for the straightforward approach and relies on his powerful but pitch-perfect voice to make its impact. And despite the fact that his throat has turned yellow, as he admitted shortly before the gig, the impact is very impressive.
Further along to the left, wearing a sinister-looking Mafia hat, is Roger Glover, Ritchie's old Deep Purple mate and a much-needed source of detached inspiration to the band as his production job on 'Down To Earth' shows. His playing needs no introduction and he, like Ritchie, puts accuracy before flash.
And finally, there's Don Airey playing in front of his hometown crowd (well he's from Sunderland actually). Easily the most proficient keyboard player to have graced the Rainbow ranks, he's not quite as distinctive in the sound mix as he should be, but what's coming through sounds meaty enough.
By now we're roaring through 'Love's No Friend', also from the latest album, and Ritchie is beginning to get into his stride, performing various sleights of hand on his fretboard and scarcely bothering to strike the strings with his right hand - the actions of his left hand are setting up sufficient vibrations. Bonnet then dedicates the next song, 'Since You Been Gone' to the small cluster of journalists who've come up for the gig, telling us where the exit doors are if we're getting bored. As I consider calling up the Porton Down Germ Warfare Research Establishment to check out what other throat viruses they're working on Blackmore broods a while on 'Greensleeves' (have you noticed how there are more classical titles than rock titles in this set) before striking up the riff of their 'Big Hit Single'. And I'm forced to admit that it shows the band to be as sharp, tight and alert as I've ever witnessed.
From there Blackmore leads the brand into a trio of classic Rainbow songs 'Over The Rainbow', the grandiose, ponderous 'Man On A Silver Mountain' and the long drawn-out 'Catch The Rainbow' which is the launching pad for Blackmore's most potent guitar work of the evening. Over two solos separated by a brief burst from Cozy he works himself into a fair old lather until by the end the notes are pouring out of his guitar in an uninterrupted stream. "It always works," says Bonnet with evident satisfaction after the searing, climatic end.
The power spills over onto 'Lost In Hollywood' and Blackmore seizes another solo, this time much harsher with the feedback zipping back and forth between the PA stacks. He gives way to Don Airey who indulges in some pomp craziness as Bach's Toccata and Fugue jostles with snatches of 'Smoke On The Water' (teasing the audience dangerously) and 'Green Onions'. Cozy Powell follows up with his tour de force that is as outrageously over the top as ever, '1812 Overture' pyrotechnics and all.
The encores bring out another track from the new album, 'All Night Long', together with 'Long Live Rock 'N' Roll' which incorporated Blackmore's ritual guitar sacrifice (the lucky recipient of the remains was escorted out of the hall by security staff for his own protection) and a pulverizing finish.
As one who believes that Rainbow have not yet made a 'great' album (although they're getting closer every time) I found the new material more invigorating than the older songs because it reflects the current make-up of the band more aptly and offers a positive direction for them to move in.
Having said that, the more 'traditional' part of the Rainbow set with its extravagant solos was noisily appreciated by the crowd and would obviously be missed. But if Rainbow are to expand their following - which even Ritchie would probably admit is the name of the game - then they should start capitalising on Bonnet's arrival because he transforms the emphasis from the past to the future.
As to Ritchie Blackmore himself, he couldn't have failed any of his admirers and he remains a curiously charismatic figure on stage. Beyond what you actually see and hear on stage he is quite impenetrable. Towards the end of the show I waded down the front to see if there was some flicker or twitch close up that might provide a few clues.
I didn't get much; just an intuition that his love/hate relationship with his guitar is not unlike that of Pete Townshend and that the discrepancies in such a relationship are not easy for him to solve.
In the dressing room afterwards a shattered Cozy Powell (he'd spent the couple of days between the European tour and the British dates driving back from Germany, breaking down in Dover, catching a taxi straight to Heathrow (!) and hiring another car which was left looking somewhat the worse for wear by fans after the previous night's gig) said that the first night in Newcastle had been diabolical but they'd changed the set around for tonight's gig.
"Tonight was better. About a seven. But we've been doing a lot of nines on this tour. I'd have done a better solo too but I was exhausted and my hands just wouldn't obey some of the orders." He also felt that the band was having to adjust to playing smaller British halls from those they are normally used to. "We sound better in the bigger halls because we have room to move and we can control the sound levels more easily."
Later on back at the hotel the legendary, moody, unfathomable, unpredictable, etc. etc. etc. Ritchie Blackmore is feeling happy enough with the evening's proceedings to socialise a little. When I mention my feelings about the set he replies that he prefers a format that gives him room to manoeuvre. "I don't want to play a set of short songs because it doesn't give me the framework to take off as and when I want. I need that freedom because I want that challenge. I have a fear of getting stale on stage and I'm always looking for ways to avoid that."
In the past Ritchie has staved off boredom by keeping everyone else on edge. Hence the line-up changes which have held the band back. Thus hand already looks settled and Roger Glover is Ritchie's best songwriting partner yet. They've got a lot going for them if they want.
Hugh Fielder, Sounds, February 1980
Newcastle City Hall 20 February 1980
I had the feeling that this was going to be a rather special night as soon as the houselights faded and the taped intro of 'Land Of Hope And Glory' filled the hall. Then suddenly, Rainbow were on stage and the feeling hardened into reality as they sunk their teeth into a gritty version of 'Eyes Of The World'. Following this goodie came the slower almost bluesy 'Love's No Friend Of Mine', with Graham Bonnet's intensely emotional vocals sounding more effective live than on the album cut.
Things got progressively mightier as Blackmore produced a sensitive semi-acoustic solo rendition of 'Greensleeves' in traditional fashion that provided a strangely haunting entry into the superb 'Since You've Been Gone'. Having concentrated on material from the most recent album thus far, the mood then changed from the earthy to the epic as old favourite 'Man On The Silver Mountain' and 'Catch The Rainbow' rained down on the hypnotised audience.
However the coup de grace in the main body of the set was saved to last as the now-classic strains of 'Lost in Hollywood' were given the full pyrotechnic treatment, including scorching solos from Blackmore, Don Airey, and Cozy Powell. Encore interpretations of 'All Night Long', 'Blues' (with some good bass playing from Roger Glover) and 'Long Live Rock & Roll' were duly dispatched before, in a lit of old-fashioned savagery, Blackmore decimated his axe against one of the balcony walls, during an instrumental version of 'Kill The King', throwing the wounded 'sacrifice' into the crowd to provide an instant collector's piece for one lucky worshipper, so with a last reprise of 'Long Live Rock & Roll' they were gone, the lights came on and the fans shuffled reluctantly out into the Geordie night air.
Malcolm Dome, Record Mirror - March 1, 1980
Ingliston Exhibition Hall, Edinburgh 22 February 1980
The Faceless Man of Heavy Metal
The headaches have been getting worse. This time it was dark when I came to. There were parked cars stretching off in every direction and, amidst hundreds of other shapes I was walking between the rows, stumbling through mud and puddles. The air was filled with the thrumming of mighty engines.
There was a ticket in my hand. Rainbow it said, and then it listed all the famous people who play with that group. Rainbow were playing at something called Ingliston Royal Highland Agricultural Exhibition Hall, presumably on one of the rare occasions when Highland-born Royalty weren't staging an Agricultural Exhibition. The noise was coming from a chicken canning factory. It wasn't Rainbow tuning up.
The hall was packed. It was like a rock festival crammed into a huge ice-rink. When the lights went out there were thousands of silhouetted arms flashing peace signs. A huge cheer went up as 'Land Of Hope And Glory' came on very loud, followed by vast, rumbling, rocket take-off sounds, an imitation storm on keyboards, voices, then flash bombs between the eyes.
It was like being hit from behind with a shovel. Rainbow came on then, of course. It was very impressive. The backdrop was of the Earth with a huge rainbow shooting out from the atmosphere and curving down behind the band as if they were on the end of the rainbow, playing while hurtling through space.
That's what the rocket noises were about: Rainbow blasting into interstellar overdrive, aided only by the latest technological achievements of five continents. Rainbow were like the bit in Star Wars where it took five minutes for a starship to move past the camera. Something colossal and sophisticated to gape at. A display of power, high-level organisation and spectacle too immense and unwieldy to attempt anything but the most specious forms of subtlety.
The band's name, or trademark, for instance, is so unimaginative and laughably simplistic it could be a paint company (though the logo is simple and easily identifiable to build a merchandising company around). The music has exaggerated and simplified all the most mass-marketable aspects of early hard rock without retaining any of the spirit or substance. (I'm sure 1970 hard rock was never as hollow arid— condescending as the majority of 1980 heavy metal).
It's as if the members of Rainbow decided it was about time they started using their considerable talents to do some making-up for all those years of hard work and debt, then hired a market-research company and started a corporation based on the findings.
And, of course, nobody ever lost any money overestimating the bad taste of the public. Graham Bonnet even spoke to the audience politely — as if they were shareholders. Rainbow did their imitation of Sky briefly, then Ritchie Blackmore started to play 'Greensleeves', an old Henry VIII number, and a crowd favourite judging by the reaction. That merged into the recent hit 'Since You've Been Gone' before Blackmore finished it off, twisting the knife with (cringe) 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow', to further roars of approval.
This kind of thing was taken to extremes later with the advent of a Don Airey Keyboard Solo. He started with a Phantom Of The Opera steam-organ classical dirge, then the band piled in briefly before leading into Blackmore's Rolling Feedback Solo, which eventually collapsed into another Popular Classical Melody, then onto the kind of endless keyboard solo I thought had died out with The Nice — bombastic crashes, whines and stereo swirls between numerous chances to Name That Tune! (special applause for the inevitable Scottish tune and the synthesizer motif from Close Encounters), ending with an impersonation of a helicopter landing.
Then there was a drum solo. And a cavalcade of buses began to appear out of the night to take everyone away.
Glenn Gibson, New Musical Express, March 1, 1980
All Night Long? You must be joking...
RAINBOW UPRISING AS BLACKMORE THROWS A MOODY (again)
Wembley 29 February 1980
LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL (but only for 70 minutes): the aftermath of the Rainbow gig at Wembley
RAINBOW's Wembley Arena concert last Friday ended in a near-riot when the band refused to come back for an encore.
The band played their current set, which lasted a mere 70 minutes, but despite the clamour of the full house they failed to return for an encore. After a few moments the house lights were put on and it was announced that the show was over. At this point the crowd began throwing scarves, programmes and chairs towards the stage and the Arena had to be cleared by police who made a total of ten arrests - some for drunk and disorderly, one threatening behaviour, three for criminal damage, two for assault and one for assault and criminal damage.
The damage amounted to about £10,000 and included damage to doors and fittings as well as seats. There were no serious injuries reported, however.
Rainbow publicist Jennie Halsall told Sounds this week: "There was no reason at all for what happened. If you want one you can say that Ritchie went off for a pee and when he came back the audience had gone."
Blackmore's habit of 'throwing a moody' is well known in heavy metal circles and it would appear that he didn't want to play an encore. This is backed up by a quote made to a source the following night in which he said: "I played brilliantly but the audience didn't appreciate it." However, several Sounds correspondents maintained that the crowd reaction on Friday night was "everything the band could have hoped for" and it's believed that the rest of the band were keen to play an encore.
It had been rumoured that the encore might consist of a Deep Purple reunion with fan Gillan joining in on vocals but there was no sign of any ex-Purple members apart from Blackmore and bassist Roger Glover.
Saturday night's gig passed off without a hitch and with an encore after security men had spent the night repairing the damage to the hall.
Another casualty from Friday night was new wave HM band Samson, who supported Rainbow and played an encore themselves. But when they arrived at Leicester on Sunday night they found another band, Katchis (a European band who've supported Rainbow on the Continent), setting up and they were told they were no longer required on the tour.
Samson's manager told Sounds: "We were given no reason for this. Graham Bonnet had even given us a round of applause during our Wembley set on Friday." When asked if the reason might have been Samson's good reception at Wembley he replied: "You'd better draw your own conclusions."
Rainbow's management claimed that there was no permanent support band for the tour and that Samson were only confirmed up until Wembley. Samson's manager flatly denied this and said they were confirmed to play both Leicester and the Rainbow Theatre date this week.
Sounds March 1980
RAINBOW's 'No Encore' Riot
Wembley 29 February 1980
A chair gets airborne during the fracas [photo: © George Bodnar]
Rainbow's opening concert at the massive Wembley Arena on Friday ended with a front-page riot resulting in £10,000 worth of damage and a backstage battle between petulant Ritchie Blackmore and the rest of the band.
It was Blackmore's decision not to respond to the audience's demands for an encore that seems to have sparked off the violence, which ended in ten arrests and the massive bill for around 500 seats and other fittings damaged when the fans' enthusiasm turned to trouble. They ripped up seats and threw them at the stage, and, as the trouble grew, started throwing fire extinguishers and other fittings.
It is understood that as the fans at the front row demonstrating their displeasure, Blackmore was facing the anger of the other four members of Rainbow who were anxious to go back on stage to play an encore, and the confrontation ended in acrimonious exchanges as Blackmore refused to change his mind.
Wembley Police arrested ten fans, three of them under 17, for offences including assault on police, threatening behaviour, criminal damage. One policeman was slightly injured. The following night Rainbow played a full set including an encore, and there was no trouble.
Melody Maker - March 8, 1980
Wembley Arena 29 February 1980
The law of show business has always been: "the show must go on." And on long enough to make the fan who has spent £4.50 for a ticket, bought souvenirs, and possibly travelled some distance, feel that it was worthwhile. No entertainer, no matter how great his talent, should ever forget this. I'm talking specifically about what happened at Wembley last Friday when Ritchie Blackmore gave his public the cold shoulder.
The 70-minute set had been completed and Rainbow left the stage. The ecstatic crowd clamoured for an encore. Rainbow, however, didn't come back, the houselights were switched on, and promoter Paul Loasby informed the fans that it was time to go home. There was more than simply a feeling of disappointment and the audience displayed their anger by hurling chairs at the stage. Equally irate were the rest of the band who had been keen to play an encore. But nothing could be done to ease the situation - Ritchie had refused to play, and that was that.
Ritchie Blackmore is without a shadow of doubt one of rock's most mercurial characters who delights in doing precisely what is unexpected of him, but his behaviour last Friday night left much to be desired. Why had Ritchie decided to act in such a fashion? He will come out of the incident unscathed - this time at least, while fans will continue to buy the records and come to the shows, overlooking his rough treatment. In a way, Blackmore has to be credited for the manner in which he can pull such a stunt - and get away with it!
Ironically enough, before this incident the gig had been a total success. From the moment Rainbow launched into "Eyes of the World" the audience erupted into frenzy. They cheered non-stop as the band delivered an electric performance centred around the "Down To Earth" album.
"Since You've Been Gone" drew a tremendous response, and equally enthusiastic were the reactions to "Man On The Silver Mountain" and "Catch The Rainbow" - two classics from the past. Don Airey provided a grand keyboard intro to "Lost In Hollywood" which also featured further solo spots from Ritchie, Cozy and, again, Don. "Animal" Powell's drumsolo was magical.
Blackmore may still feel that his final action was justifiable but his fans have stood by him in recent years and certainly deserved better treatment than they received.
Steve Gett, Melody Maker - March 8, 1980
Wembley Arena 29 February 1980
Angry Rainbow fans caused an estimated £10,000 worth of damage at Wembley Arena on Friday . . . after the band refused to play an encore. The stamping, jeering crowd remained in the auditorium after the lights went up and, as stewards watched helplessly, began breaking up the seats and throwing them towards the stage.
"It was just like a riot," said Terry Emment from Ealing. Kids were running about and there were chairs flying all over the place."
It was over half - an - hour before stewards were able to control the crowd and evacuate the arena, by which time whole rows of seats had been wrecked. Afterwards group leader Ritchie Blackmore, whose desicion it was not to play an encore, was too shaken to comment. But Rainbow went on yo play a second nightat Wembley on Saturday. With an encore — and with no riot.
The troggs, due to appear with Rainbow on Friday, had to switch their gig to Saturday; as they missed their plane from Germany.
John Shearlaw, Record Mirror - March 8, 1980