Rainbow was an influential heavy rock band during its' heyday in the late seventies and early eighties. Led by the enigmatic Richie Blackmore, the band reached its' commercial peak with the vocalists Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. Some might say that the latter albums aren't on par with the early Ronnie James Dio-sung albums, but for me, the "radio-friendly" Rainbow of the eighties is just fine. Songs like "I Surrender" and "Since You've Been Gone" had a major impact on me while I was getting into rock music. When this tour was announced, I promised myself that I'd see these legends of rock.
"Back To The Rainbow"-concept started initially as a Graham Bonnet-tribute project put together by Daffy Terävä, a well-known Finnish guitarist and his musician friends. Since they couldn't find a singer suitable to fill Bonnet's shoes, they asked the man himself, and he agreed! Later the tribute-idea was expanded to include Joe Lynn Turner, the singer of many classic Rainbow tunes and a former Deep Purple/Malmsteen/Brazen Abbot/whoknowswhatelse vocalist.
Before the gig in Turku, the BTTR band had played a few gigs all over Finland. Although me and Mira attended Sauna Open Air, we missed their show there as we were in town for one night only. We did have a chance to chat a little with Mr. Turner and Daffy over there, as they were hanging around in the backstage area. Both guys were really nice, and we discussed the possible setlist for this gig. I requested that they'd play something from the first Joe Lynn Turner solo album "Rescue You", but they said that it would be unlikely... a shame, since a song like "On The Run" or "Losing You" would've been a real treat for us long-standing "JOLT" fans. Oh I know, there would've been probably less than 5 people who would've known those songs in the audience!
There wasn't a long que or anything on the door of the venue, but once we got in, we noticed that there was a really nice-sized crowd in there. My trained journalistic eye (yeah right!) noticed that the average age of the gig goers was probably closer to 40, and in a way, it was nice to feel that we were actually some of the younger people in there. Anyway, this good turnout hopefully results in more quality hard rock gigs in the venue and in the area in general. In addition to the ticket sales, I believe that the venue sold very decent amounts of various beverages...
Graham Bonnet took the stage first, well-dressed in a blazer (which he took off after the first song) and a pair of sunglasses. He's always been a bit of an oddity in the world of rock, choosing to stay true to his "business look"and the fifties' hairdo, no matter which band he was fronting. One might expect that a gentleman looking like that wouldn't be much of a shouter, but nothing could be further from the truth. Bonnet put on a very energetic performance and sang like a man possessed, belting out each line with the passion of a dozen lesser vocalists. Okay, maybe his antics looked a bit over-theatrical at times, but what wouldn't a showman do for his show?
The set consisted of familiar tracks from Bonnet's sole Rainbow album "Down To Earth", and a couple of tracks from MSG's "Assault Attack" album, on which Bonnet also sang. An Alcatrazz song "God Blessed Video" was thrown in too, but unofortunately Impellitteri's "Stand In Line" wasn't in the set. No "Night Games" either, despite the several requests by an enthusiastic, intoxicated fan... The Rainbow-hits got the biggest reception of course, but even the less familiar songs were warmly welcomed. I guess the crowd had listened to their "Down To Earth"-albums.
Bonnet's part of the show was most probably quite exhausting for him, and he did look like he could've used a bit oxygen or something when he left the stage. He certainly didn't hold anything back, and his commitment has to be applauded.
Joe Lynn Turner made his grand entrance with a drink in his hand, sunglasses and a more of a "rock star"-styled appearance with leather gloves, studded belt and other accessories. Turner is a rather small guy, and next to the towering band members Daffy and Jukka Lewis he could've looked like a dwarf, but thanks to a strong presence he didn't.
Joe's set was a good selection of Rainbow tunes, a couple of Deep Purple tracks and one song from his latest solo album. I was happy to hear the solo song "Blood Red Sky", and surpringly for a new song, it didn't cause an exodus to the bar and/or the toilet, instead it got a well deserved round of applause. The Purple songs ("Perfect Strangers" and "Highway Star") got a rousing reception, but I found their inclusion a bit odd - Turner may have sung them live for a few years, but he didn't record them. I think that songs from "Slaves And Masters", the one DP album Turner sang on, would have been a more logical choice.
Turner himself was in good mood, handing out compliments to the band, the fans and the popular Finnish drink "Fisu", which is apparently his new favourite. When he took off his shades, his eyes suggested that he might have stayed up having a Fisu or three the previous night, but thankfully that didn't reflect on his performance that much. His vocals a bit rough though and he might have missed some of the high notes, but all in all his performance was okay... his prancing was a bit embarassing at times though - some young glam rocker might have gotten away with it, but not a 50+ "geezer rocker" with a few extra pounds. But hey, most men look corny while attempting to dance...
The backing band did a good job performing the classics quite faithfully. Daffy and Mika Lamminsivu shared the guitar duties, taking turns on lead guitar, while Jay Lewis (currently in Yö, formely of Princess Bang and Oz) played bass and sang backing vocals. Lacu Lahtinen (ex-Hanoi Rocks, currently in Finnish rock machine Popeda) played drums and his playing is always fun to watch. Pate Kivinen was on keys, and Päivi Lepistö (of Finnish technopop act Movetron) and Miina Mikkonen provided backing vocals. The girls seemed to be having a good time and while their vocals weren't always that audible, their presence added to the visuality of the show.
The grand finale of the evening was the old Rainbow classic "Long Live Rock'n Roll", featuring both of the vocalists on stage. The original was sung by Ronnie James Dio, but since it's one of the most famous Rainbow songs, the show wouldn't have been complete without it. It became a big singalong, and why not - "Long Live Rock'n Roll" is something worth shouting along.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen, kimmo [at] rock united.com