Spectacular charge by The Man in Black and his motley crew of merry gentlemen.
The spring of 1981 found Ritchie Blackmore’s band at their tightest, with former flash reined in for a slick performance of non-progressive or panache-strutting sort. Still, the pop element Joe Lynn Turner was supposed to bring into play seemed to be seeping through guitar riffs and vanish on-stage, where the new singer had to inhabit not only the pieces from the recently released “Difficult To Cure” album but also ones originally voiced by his predecessors in the ensemble. He did that gloriously, allowing along the way the guitarist to have fun – something which couldn’t have happened in a heavier atmosphere of previous years yet is fully manifested on this recording.
Despite the band’s improvisatory bent, taken to the fore with a fiery solo on the extended coda of “I Surrender” and Bobby Rondinelli’s fist-battering of toms during his showcase at the end of Beethoven’s Ninth’s solemn swell, the concert is a set of rather concise emotional statements. The “Smoke On The Water” finale hinting at Blackmore’s eventual embracing of the past he’d tried to break out from, only to be grounded by Roger Glover’s steady bass now, there’s also a new sense of purpose to Gothic fantasies as “Catch The Rainbow” and “Man On The Silver Mountain” get stripped of grandiosity in favor of more frivolous rocking, prince-to-pauper way.
The group’s fresh approach is best felt in the difference between “Can’t Happen Here” and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”: a sociopolitical rocking, so joyous in a live situation, and a rousing anthem to the woes of rolling down that hill – sped up and controllably loose. Whatever tapestry-like finery was left in the ensemble’s DNA – Ritchie’s delicate “Greensleeves” aside – is given to Don Airey here to combine it with cosmic jazziness on opener “Spotlight Kid” and then pass it with “Lost In Hollywood” to Turner who, on top form without female vocal support of the following tours, pours lyricism into the belting of “Love’s No Friend” as if to soften the blow. The impact of this album can’t be softened, though, as it writes another chapter in RAINBOW’s official concert history, and does that without a single dull moment.