Ritchie Blackmore made a return to London on Saturday night (17th June 2017), for a show at the O2 Arena that celebrated the past, remembered the fallen, and featured a one-off special guest. The current incarnation of Rainbow featuring a number of Ritchie's Blackmore's Night band mates were the headline act at the Stone Free Festival.
Now in its second year Stone Free festival goers were treated to an array of acts across a number of stages in the run up to the main event inside the O2 Arena. Those arriving inside the venue were met with some of the rock's brightest hopes, as Australians Massive and Tequila Mocking Bird, as well as a host of others, put in impressive performances on the Orange Amps Stage.
Over in the IndigO2, Scottish rockers Gun, Ireland's The Answer, and god of hell fire Arthur Brown turned up the heat in the already sweltering venue ahead of final act Blue Öyster Cult, whose in-demand status meant that many couldn't get in to see them.
With the sun in the sky on the hottest day of the year, the atmosphere was palpable as the main event grew closer. With Glam heroes setting The Sweet setting the stage with their bubblegum rock anthems, it was to a packed house that the intro tape rolled to the sounds of 'Land Of Hope And Glory', with Dorothy from 'The Wizard Of Oz's infamous "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto" line signalling the arrival of Rainbow.
Kicking off with 'Difficult To Cure's 'Spotlight Kid', before following up with one of their biggest hits in 'I Surrender', singer Ronnie Romero greeted the capacity crowd telling them; "We've been waiting for this moment a long time".
Proving to be a revelation throughout the night, Romero seemingly effortlessly tackled tracks originally performed by some of rock's greatest vocalist including Ian Gillan on a truly mesmerising 'Child In Time', David Coverdale on a similarly atmospheric 'Mistreated', and most strikingly, Ronnie James Dio on a host of classic tracks.
Joined by a special guest in Russ Ballard - writer of both 'I Surrender' and 'Since You've Been Gone' - for a truncated run through the latter, it was also a night of remembrance, as Dio received a nod via a poignant black and white image of Blackmore and the late front man towering over the band during 'Man On The Silver Mountain'.
However it was Blackmore who was rightly the focus throughout, playing some of rock's most famous riffs, soloing as only he can. Leading the band who were performing without a set list, it was Blackmore who decided the running order as the show proceeded, with more than one on-stage huddle throughout the evening.
Peaking with a sublime and delicate 'Catch The Rainbow', the band finished off the night with a brace of Deep Purple cuts in a celebratory 'Burn' and an obligatory 'Smoke On The Water', with Blackmore proving that no matter who else is on stage with him, there is simply nobody else that can play those songs like he can.
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow play Glasgow's SSE Hydro on 25th June, and Birmingham's Genting Arena on 28th June. Their 'Live In Birmingham 2016' album is available now.
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