The brief return of Ritchie Blackmore as a rock guitarist for three shows last summer having spent 20 years renouncing his former glories in favour of the renaissance stylings of Blackmore’s Night – to whom he returned immediately afterwards – was hailed as the Second Coming by all who witnessed it.
But shorn of the awe, the lights and the smoke this live album of the first gig (plus four bonus tracks from the second) reveals that Blackmore skilfully devised a show that packed in all the great riffs and solos while staying firmly within his comfort zone.
A wise move. It was always naïve to think that, at 71, Blackmore could recreate the fiery temperament that characterised his playing 40 years ago and more. The important thing was that he didn’t disappoint, and he doesn’t. So the issue of whether the rhythm section from Blackmore’s Night challenges him hard enough is irrelevant. These shows were not about breaking boundaries, they were about giving his fans what they expected.
Blackmore’s genius move was to find little known singer Ronnie Romero from Spanish band Lords Of Black whose voice copes effortlessly with the illustrious range of vocalists that adorn Blackmore’s career. He’s closest to Ronnie James Dio – who he namechecks during Man On A Silver Mountain to roars of approval – but he’s confident and in command from the first line of the opening Highway Star. He struggles a bit with Child In Time but then so does Gillan these days. Fortunately help is at hand from the backing vocalists who include Candice Night, aka Mrs B. It’s hard to believe Romero won’t be performing regularly at this level before long.
Likewise keyboard player Jens Johansson from Finnish band Stratovarius should reap the rewards of his short stint in Rainbow. Like Romero he is standing on the shoulders of giants but shows respect without ever being intimidated.
Blackmore divides his greatest hits show pretty evenly between Deep Purple and Rainbow but it’s noticeable that he takes his Rainbow heritage more seriously – toughening up Since You Been Gone until it sounds like You Really Got Me and peaking with an epic Stargazer – while the Purple anthems tend to be offered up as crowd singalong treats.
The clue is in the title. These are memories come to life. If you want what the memories are made of you can find them; Blackmore’s career is well documented. Memories In Rock is Blackmore live in the summer of 2016.