Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, National Nightmare in Helsinki
Memories in Rock Tour, 13.4.2018 Hartwall Arena Helsinki, Finland
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow!!! That should be enough to rush to the nearest ticket dealer – and thousands of Finns shared my opinion because Hartwall Arena had been sold out for a while until they decided to open another slightly-restricted-view section just to fulfil the demand. Or you could browse social media for ticket offers for decent prices.
All those fans from all over Finland and even neighbouring countries and the therefore, errr, difficult traffic situation might explain why the arena did not look sold-out when support National Nightmare entered the stage punctually. Admittedly I had never heard of this band before although featuring Finnish legends: Jimi Sero, bassplayer from the legendary Smack, guitarist AceMark, known from Californian classic rockers Bigelf, lead singer Sami Haxx, formerly of the Species, and drummer Teddy T. Rexx, also known from Dingo among others, plus Göögä (e.g. Wankers of The Zoo Crew) as live-percussionist. Their Blues-based rough Rock’n’Roll/Hardrock appealed to quite a lot of people. Bandwebsite
Well, to those in the pit at least, as the seats filled slowly during and after their set. Shortly before the headliner was due, it looked like this:
During the changeover I had time for observations: There were fans “since the band’s early days” and very young people; e.g. a dad and his teenage son wearing Rainbow shirts in the front row – who was the die-hard-fan, who the “Plus-One”, or were both equally thrilled? A gothic girlie right besides a gathering of “grey panthers” – hey, that one looks like Matti Nykänen? Later, near the mixing island, a group of mid-20ss, all enthusiastically clapping and singing along … Rainbow is indeed a band that unites generations of fans.
Generations are bridged on stage too, which became obvious when with a 10min delay Ritchie Blackmore and his RAINBOW crew entered: Over here the legendary Rock veteran Ritchie Blackmore and colleagues close to his generation (Bob Nouveau on Bass, Jens Johanssen on Keyboard), over there the youngsters Ronnie Romero (Vocals) and David Keith (Drums), plus the Backvocal-Duo Candice Night (Ritchie’s wife) and Lady Lynn – who had grown up with the music of this already famous guitar wizard. What else needs to be mentioned was the casual unspectacular look and attitude of the whole band. No fancy costumes / pyro overkill. The fantastic show effect was provided by a huge digi-wall where e.g. Rainbow record cover motives were projected, and of course the lighting.
Naturally the band mastermind drew most of the attention. Ritchie proved once again his particular talent for detail and nuances in his guitar performance, rather as underlining interludes than lengthy solo parts. Other band members had their short soli to shine – Jens honoured the Finnish audience with a “Finlandia” rendering before returning to Beethoven, Difficult to Cure and a – luckily only virtual – blast of fire works.
Yet this agile and vocally flawless front man Ronnie captured the attention too – he ran across the stage, smiled, chatted with the audience and inspired everyone with his passion and charm. He mastered heavy stuff like Man on the Silver Mountain (interwoven with Woman from Tokyo), Pop-style hits like I Surrender or soft acoustic arrangements – e.g. of Soldier of Fortune (Video) – equally well. Chapeau.
Yet – I had noticed that on the Live CD/DVD already – the voice of Ian Gillan seems to be more difficult for him to assimilate than all the other Rainbow- or Deep Purple-vocalists. At this show it seemed he struggled a bit with the chorus of Perfect Strangers. Child in Time however was performed flawlessly, just like Gillan in his prime – and the audience got to scream along a bit too. That was a nice warm up for “Long Live Rock’n’Roll” where the audience sang their hearts out. When it came to “Burn”, it described the state of my feet by that time quite well…
Well and then – they just left the stage, no statements nothing, therefore everyone assumed they will be back for encores…. and then there was almost 15min of cheering and shouting – and then the lights went on. What happened? Was it because of Bassist Bob’s “Solo” – rather a Stand-up Comedy then serenading Ritchie’s 73rd birthday and presenting a present – which was not accepted, Ritchie even left the stage – did he put both feet into it, does he even still have a job? Mr. Blackmore is not quite the person you would associate with a cheerfully silly sense of humour. Or was it for strict local curfew reasons, like “no more noise after 23h” – and it was 10 past already when they had stopped playing?
Unfortunately several fans were so upset about this unusually casual wrap-up of a concert they started booing – which I found totally uncool. Hey, sure, I would have liked to hear encores too (e.g. Black Night and Smoke on the Water, what they did in Moscow), and I would have loved to have Temple of the King on the Setlist. Still no reason to shout BOOOO at a band that just gave you a fantastic, stunning 2-hour gig – and that spoiling of a good-evening-out is the only thing for me to complain about.
Summing up: Don’t miss Rainbow on tour, only two gigs left: 18.4. Velodrom Berlin, GER and 20.4. O2 Arena Prag, CZ