It was the moment Rainbow fans had waited nearly 20 years for. After an intro of Land of Hope and Glory and some brief dialogue from The Wizard of Oz movie, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow were back on a UK stage.
Apart from the guitar legend himself, it was a completely different line-up to the one that had performed the band's 'final' concert in 1997. But from the moment Ritchie played those well known notes from Over the Rainbow and singer Ronnie Romero launched into Deep Purple's Highway Star the sold-out Genting Arena knew it was in for a very special night.
Special: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow on stage at Birmingham's Genting Arena
This was the third, and reportedly last, show by the new Rainbow – the other two took place at German festivals the week before. These gigs are remarkable because for the last 19 years Ritchie has concentrated on making Renaissance and medieval-style folk music with Blackmore's Night, largely ignoring his Hard Rock past.
The gig sold out straightaway and the venue was buzzing as support band Mostly Autumn exited the stage and the appearance of Rainbow was anticipated by the fans. It was a 40 minute break but good things come to those that wait and for the next two hours the years were rolled back as the band powered through Ritchie-related material from both Rainbow and Deep Purple.
Two songs not played at the German shows were added to the Birmingham set – Soldier of Fortune and Burn. Both are Deep Purple numbers and both proved to be highlights.
Relaxed: Guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore
Ritchie was relaxed and seemed to relish the way the crowd took over vocal duties on the likes of Long Live Rock 'N' Roll and Child in Time. His lengthy rock guitar solos were a treat – a reminder of what we've been missing for the last two decades.
Ronnie Romero is a real find – strong vocals and good stage presence. The songs were originally performed by a number of different singers, each with their own style, but Ronnie mastered them all, from the lyric-heavy mysticism of Ronnie James Dio and difficult to reach high note screams of Ian Gillan to the American Rock of Joe Lynn Turner and bluesy groove of David Coverdale.
Real find: Ronnie Romero fronting Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Completing the line-up was Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, Blackmore's Night drummer David Keith and ex-Blackmore's Night bassist Bob Nouveau. Keeping a close eye on proceedings was one of the two backing singers, Candice Night, aka Mrs Ritchie Blackmore. She seemed to be having a great time – can she be persuaded to encourage Ritchie to keep the band together for a full UK tour?
In the meantime, it's back to Blackmore's Night for the duo who have a German and American tour lined up over the next couple of months. Let's hope they Catch the Rainbow again soon.
Over the rainbow: A sign of a tour to come?
Since You Been Gone
Man On The Silver Mountain
Soldier Of Fortune
Difficult To Cure
Catch The Rainbow
Long Live Rock 'N' Roll
Child In Time