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Legend returns to rock
It was one of the more surprising announcements of last year – rock legend Ritchie Blackmore planned to once again plug in his electric guitar in 2016 for a handful of shows featuring the music of Rainbow and Deep Purple.
After years of preferring to perform Renaissance-influenced music with Blackmore's Night, Ritchie's decision to return to the world of hard rock delighted his millions of fans around the world. The only UK gig is at Birmingham's Genting Arena on June 25, 2016. Alongside Ritchie will be Lords Of Black singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, Blackmore's Night drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau.
Ritchie was a founder member of Deep Purple in 1968. The band recorded albums now regarded as classics – the likes of Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head. Ritchie quit Deep Purple to form Rainbow in 1975, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals.
Over the years Rainbow had something of a revolving door policy in regards to personnel. Graham Bonnet took over vocal duties in 1979, only to be replaced by American Joe Lynn Turner in 1981. Rainbow disbanded in 1984 and Ritchie joined a reformed Deep Purple until 1993 when he resurrected Rainbow with Scottish singer Doogie White as frontman.
Rainbow played its final concert in Esbjerg, Denmark, in 1997 as Ritchie's passion for Renaissance music won the day and he formed Blackmore's Night with future wife Candice Night.
Initial reports claimed that Ritchie had completely turned his back on rock music, refusing to even discuss Rainbow or Deep Purple with the press. However, audiences at Blackmore's Night gigs were sometimes treated to a Rainbow song or two, with Ritchie strapping on an electric guitar in the encore to tease with a classic rock riff. Selected Rainbow tracks were also re-recorded by Blackmore's Night for inclusion on albums.
Renaissance: Blackmore's Night
Ritchie says of the new Rainbow shows: "I just felt like playing some rock 'n' roll for a few days, of just playing the old rock stuff, Purple stuff and Rainbow. I'm doing it for the fans, for nostalgia.''
Referring to singer Ronnie Romero, he adds: ''He's a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Freddie Mercury. So this will mean exposing a new singer to the masses, and I'm sure he'll become pretty famous because of his voice."
So what of the future? It seems that Classic Rock fans will be disappointed because Ritchie says there are no plans for a Rainbow tour or album. He returns to touring with Blackmore's Night on July 1, with dates in the Czech Republic, Germany and America, to promote their most recent album,All Our Yesterdays, which was released in Britain last September.