Live Review: Rainbow–“Attack On Titan”

Date/Location: 1980-05-08 at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan

Bootleg cover. Retrieved with it in my own collection.

Tracks

  • 101 Pomp And Circumstance March No.1 (Elger) [sic]
  • 102 Countdown
  • 103 Over The Rainbow
  • 104 Eyes Of The World
  • 105 Love’s No Friend Of Mine
  • 106 Band Introduction
  • 107 Guitar Solo
  • 108 Since You Been Gone
  • 109 Over The Rainbow
  • 110 Man On The Silver Mountain
  • 111 Catch The Rainbow
  • 201 MC
  • 202 Keyboard Solo
  • 203 Lost In Hollywood
  • 204 Guitar Solo
  • 205 Lost In Hollywood
  • 206 Guitar Solo
  • 207 An Die Freude (Beethoven #9)
  • 208 Keyboard Solo
  • 209 Drum Solo
  • 210 1812 Overture
  • 211 Lost In Hollywood
  • 212 Guitar Solo
  • 213 Lazy
  • 214 All Night Long
  • 215 Long Live Rock’n Roll
  • 216 Kill The King – Guitar Clash
  • 217 Long Live Rock’n Roll
  • 218 Over The Rainbow
  • 219 Announcement

Personnel

The lineup of this particular concert. From left to right: Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Don Airey, Cozy Powell, and Graham Bonnet. Retrieved from here.

Review

I already took a short look at this concert, which you can read here. In that coverage, I stated that it is the Rainbow bootleg to have if you can only have one. In honor of its fortieth anniversary, I will finally review the concert, giving some of my thoughts and pointing to standout moments. I spend a significant portion of this review on one solo in particular, which is emblematic of its performer and shows him at his absolute best.

First of all, I want to reiterate the masterful job done on the recording. There are actually multiple recordings of this concert, but the Mr. Peach version which I draw on here is the absolute best. Every note comes out clearly and audience chatter is present but never draws attention from the performance; listening to this makes one feel like they are actually sitting in the Nippon Budokan Hall in May of 1980. If Rainbow is considering releasing more live concerts from this era, then they should seriously consider this as a candidate. Its sound alone easily qualifies it–to say nothing of the performance captured by this taper!

Alternative bootleg cover. From my own collection.

This particular lineup of Rainbow had had its fair share of fits and starts. At least two members of the band had fallen ill during the first American leg. A physical fight between multiple members broke out during one concert. Roger Glover collapsed onstage during another. A riot had occurred at a concert on February 29, just two months prior to this night. These are only a short list of the difficulties the band faced; presumably there was even more and even worse going on behind the scenes.

This night, though, made it all worth it. The band is relentless from the moment the ominous Holst-esque synthesizer comes in and “Eyes of the World” begins. Each and every performer does his level best. Unfortunately, I have less to say about Roger Glover than I should, as his performance is less audible in the mix than his four bandmates’. Even so, when he comes through it is with brilliant, steady sound. He can briefly be heard during “Love’s no Friend” in particular, as well as during the solo which I discuss later. Despite the wild energy of the night, Glover remains steady, and the group does with him.

Graham Bonnet deserves a special mention here, as he is one of the first to make himself particularly noticed; Bonnet is the shortest-tenured singer of Rainbow with only two years and on only one album with the multicolored band. As such, he is often overlooked in discussions of Rainbow’s singers compared to the universally beloved Ronnie James Dio or the more controversial Joe Lynn Turner and Ronnie Romero.

However, this concert shows exactly how and why he managed to build this short tenure into a career as one of heavy metal’s foremost voices. His vocal performance on this concert is second to none, from the moment he jumps into “Eyes of the World” with incredible power and athleticism. He keeps in perfect command of his voice throughout the rest of the concert masterfully. There isn’t so much as a note out of place. A few words come out of order, but there’s nothing particularly glaring.

Portion of the bootleg collection showing Rainbow onstage, quite helpfully labeled.

Bonnet also deserves kudos for his delivery of Dio-era songs, which are sprinkled through the setlist along with Rainbow’s new material. His voice is different enough from Dio’s that he puts his own spin on the songs for sure. As he shows, “different” doesn’t always mean “bad”! Especially notable is “Catch the Rainbow”, which later singers would struggle to deliver with the right dynamics. Bonnet, however, makes it a screamer when need be, while softening his approach for the beginning. “Long Live Rock ‘n Roll”, by contrast, he keeps pushing forward to the end. The song sounds as if it were written just for him–even if he does mix up the lyrics during the first verse!

Also notable is Bonnet’s easy camaraderie both with the audience and his bandmates throughout the concert. While he doesn’t tell any jokes and relies on no amusing anecdotes (which may have been lost on an audience who largely wouldn’t be able to understand him anyway), he still immediately sounds at ease with them, from first minute that he roars “Hello from Rainbow!” right before “Love’s No Friend”. A quick and amusing occurrence happens when he introduces the band as well. One of the others (whom I have tentatively identified as Don Airey) makes sure he’s introduced as well. Bonnet remained friends with three of his four bandmates after leaving Rainbow, and it shows in small moments like this.

On, now, to his instrumental counterparts. I’ve hinted here and there that I’m not always the biggest fan of Ritchie Blackmore’s work onstage, though I’m generally more alright with his work from the first five years of Rainbow than with the rest of his career. Normally, I don’t love his preferred guitar sounds, and generally feel his improvisation is disorganized. I have mostly experienced his performances in an auditory medium rather than a visual one, which colors my opinion of him; many fans who worship every sound that comes out of his instrument comment on his stage presence and the stunts he pulled with his guitars, things I cannot evaluate. I say these things not in order to be insulting to the Man In Black, but to emphasize the praise I am about to shower on this particular performance.

Clearly, this concert found Blackmore in an excellent mood and in fine form. Very few things say this better than his short, bluesy introduction to “Love’s No Friend”. It sounds easy, natural, and yet still full of the fiery energy permeating this whole performance. The rest of his solos are equally excellent, showing off a guitarist at the height of his creative power and ability. His sound is driving without being grating, and every solo remains concise.

By this point in Rainbow’s history, only a single man remained other than Blackmore who had played at every concert. That man was Cozy Powell, and he showed why he had survived lineup culling after lineup culling on this night. Even with four very loud people onstage with him, Powell remains prominent in the soundscape. Somehow, too, he manages to keep the tempos even despite the incredible amount of energy.

In fact, the only stumbles throughout the whole concert potentially come at the introduction to “Since You Been Gone” while Powell isn’t playing, during which Don Airey seems to try a few starts which aren’t picked up by Blackmore, though he could just as easily just be preparing himself for the interplay to come. Blackmore then seemingly catches Airey off-guard before their second interplay and begins without him. Thankfully, Airey recovers quite quickly. It is the only moment that even hints at anything other than the utterly perfect cohesion with which the rest of the band plays, sounding not like a set of five fine musicians, but rather a single incredibly talented one.

Even though Bonnet, Blackmore, Glover and Powell are in fine form throughout this concert, the star player is most certainly the fifth member of the band. Don Airey’s performance throughout this show is incredible, but it is in the second half of the show, beginning with the introduction to “Lost in Hollywood”, when he reaches the stratosphere. His solo introducing the piece in particular is one of the finest of his career, and given the incredible quality of his solos, that is really saying something.

It’s off to the races for Airey as soon as Bonnet tells the audience to say hello to him at the start of his solo. The riff he toys with at the beginning was one which started appearing routinely during the British leg of the tour which preceded this Japanese leg of the tour. This opening riff would vary slightly from night to night. What is particularly special about this night’s riff is that it would find its way onto one of Airey’s solo albums 31 years after this concert; you can find it as part of the thrilling opening of “Right Arm Overture”.

I don’t know whether this means the snippet stuck in his head for 30 years or he was somehow aware of the recording. It’s awesome either way.

The solo portion is finished off by a portion of “Sunrise” from “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, before a quick slide down in pitch takes us into “Lost in Hollywood”. Given the fiery opening, one would be forgiven for having their expectations set ridiculously high. They would be absolutely right.

Particularly fun is the arrangement of “An de Freude” from the middle of “Lost in Hollywood”. Just under a year after this concert, this little arrangement would become the title track for the album Difficult to Cure. With all respect due that album, I must say that this little stage version is far superior. Blackmore’s simpler intro, slowly rolling into playing the theme from the piece with Airey before jumping off into the arrangement, establishes the mood better than the studio version’s, which simply has the introduction of the movement from Beethoven’s ninth symphony. While that introduction works well with the original work, somehow it fails to establish a majestic mood in the same way.

Perhaps most important to my preference for this version is the presence of Cozy Powell. He somehow keeps the frenetic energy both of Blackmore coming off his solo and Airey preparing to launch into his own in check while giving a thunderous performance himself. Powell balanced bands like nobody’s business, and would be greatly missed when Rainbow went on tour without him for the first time in 1981.

Then comes Airey’s solo proper, which I have listened to so often I nearly have it memorized. It is the only thing which could have competed with his introductory solo, and compete it does. He begins quickly by sharing the stage with Glover, who accompanies him as he goes through wild Hammond lines at breakneck speeds. Glover drops quietly from the mix after just thirty seconds or so, leaving Airey to truly stretch out with a few wildly crashing glissandos.

The next portion is composed of the quotations section, yet another thing for which Airey has a particular talent. The first quotation is the opening portion of “Green Onions”, an audience favorite based on the sound of many people clapping along. This quickly transitions into part of the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” as the tempo somehow manages to go even faster without a single note falling out of place. From here, he smoothly switches into the local favorite of the night, “Sukiyaki”. With a quick “Shave and a Haircut”, the Hammond work is over.

From this, we get a switch onto synthesizers, but the quotes continue after a few moments of pleasant chords and atmospheric sounds. The five-note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which sounds as if it’s played on minimoog, begins this next round. Airey notably plays more than just the main theme, but rather lifts a more significant portion of the motif’s context as a universal language. His choice to do that in this concert and others has always interested me; as a musician with a particular gift for using his solos to actually communicate with audience, it would make sense that he would use a theme from a movie whose central premise is the use of music as a universal language.

More minimoog shredding in E-flat major comes right before the introduction of a pulsing E-note as Airey pays homage to the band he was in before Rainbow, Colosseum II, with their song “The Scorch”. While he sticks to the broad outlines of the song, this is mostly some soaring D-major minimoog improvisation. He finishes things off with a snippet of “Flight of the Valkyrie”, ending a seven-minute, seven-second solo on an explosive finish. These are seven of the best minutes of Airey’s whole career.

Don Airey with Rainbow
Retrieved from here.

Only one major instrumental solo remains after Airey’s, a drum solo by Cozy Powell. I typically enjoy Powell’s solos, with this being no exception. Powell keeps a vastly diverse set of sounds coming from his kit the whole time, from heavy-hit snares to sparkling cymbal crashes. Throughout, he speeds up and slows down but always remains in total control.

The climax comes when he plays along to a synthesized recording of the end of Peter Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; he had recently covered the song as the title track for his solo album Over the Top. Somehow, he manages to imitate the cannons, the bell ringing, and even the chimes as part of the solo before he brings the whole thing to a thundering close. The ending of this solo amuses me as well. It suddenly adopts the rhythm of a train pulling into a station before coming to a sudden end.

The concert comes to a slow but definite ending not long after this; after “Lost in Hollywood”, the band seems to go off before the encore break pulls them back onstage for “All Night Long” and all that follow. While I can’t say for sure, I am fairly certain based on the crashing sounds that occur during “Kill the King” and don’t fit with the drum rhythm that Blackmore treated the audience to his famously destructive end show and smashed one of his guitars. The audience sits rapt until the end, when an announcement in Japanese over the sound of Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” provides a gentle ending to an electric night.

In the end, this concert is just about perfect. Every performer is on fire. The song selection is a perfect balance of the old and the new. The solos crackle. To top it off, all of this sounds as good as an official album release. I’ve only covered some of what makes this concert special. Please do yourself a favor and look out for this one so you can find out about it for yourself.

Sound Quality: 10/10.
Recommended For: Everyone with ears.

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  • Edit on 2020-05-16: Added tracks.
  • Edit on 2020-09-09: Optimized for new site.

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