Rainbow performed on this day in 1981 at the Andrews Amphitheater in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This was the final date of Rainbow’s Difficult to Cure Tour. The tour had seen Rainbow perform across three continents beginning in February, touring in support of the album of the same name. They completed a total of four legs on the tour: one set of club dates predominantly on the Atlantic coast, a large North American tour of stadiums where they co-headlined with Pat Travers, a European leg, and a visit to Japan.
This final date came just over a week after the last date in Japan, as part of the Asia-Pacific leg of the tour. It was apparently little more than a coda for the band on the way back to the United States. Drummer Bobby Rondinelli even said later that they used rented equipment for the concert!
As well as being the last stop on the tour, this was also the final concert for the Difficult to Cure Lineup of the band. Apparently about 4,000 people saw this concert, none of whom could know that they were witnessing a fairly notable historic event. A review from the night suggests that the group was for whatever reason dissatisfied, with most members playing as if the gig was “beneath them” (in the words of the reviewer). There were also reportedly complaints about the size of the venue from the band. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was seemingly in the worst mood, apparently playing behind the amps as he was wont to do when upset and threw his guitar when walking offstage.
Other stories from the night suggest an even more dramatic story relating to this concert and the lineup’s sudden end. By this telling, in the middle of the concert, four of the five members of the band left the stage. The fifth member, keyboardist Don Airey, remained onstage alone, apparently under the impression that Blackmore was leaving to get his amp fixed. He continued soloing for a while before realizing no one was coming back, so ended the gig on his own; he approximates he played for about twenty-five minutes. By his own retelling, he then returned to the hotel, found the rest of the band at the bar, packed his bags, and left Hawaii the next morning alone.
The story is fairly fantastic, but not out of the realm of possibility for Rainbow. The band apparently abandoned singer Joe Lynn Turner at some point during his tenure with Rainbow as well. Furthermore, Blackmore and Airey had had a history of clashing, with the biggest known incidents between the two occurring during the Down to Earth Era. The two also disagreed on the band’s recent onstage inclusion of female vocalists on “Difficult to Cure”. Perhaps, for whatever reason, things flared up again on this night.
There is no known recording of this particular concert.
The sole review of this concert makes reference to a small place which seated about 3000. In reality, the Andrews Amphitheater, where the group performed, was designed to seat 5,500 people. It is an outdoor theater on the campus of the University of Hawaii, and served at least for a time as a space for graduations.
The theater bears the name of University of Hawaii professor Arthur Lynn Andrews, a notable early member of the faculty who helped create a strong foundation for the University. It first opened in 1935. As it was constructed during the Great Depression, a great deal of money for its construction was provided by Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The main architect on the project was Ralph Fishbourne, helped along by consulting engineer (and Professor) Arthur R. Keller. University of Hawaii graduate Richard Tongg designed the landscaping. Notably, the rock used on the amphitheater is local in extraction. One site references it as lava rock, while another notes some of it came from the nearby Fort Ruger.
There is no retractable roof or any other protection from elements. While people later discussed adding one to the theater in case of rain, the suggestion was not taken, as a roof would both interfere with the garden and potentially with natural light during daytime events.
The venue still seems to be in operation today, though there’s relatively little information on it. As it is not a true amphitheater (which would have seats wrapped around the stage rather than on three sides), it has been renamed “Arthur L. Andrews Outdoor Theatre” to better reflect its true character.
Rainbow soon recruited keyboardist Dave Rosenthal to replace Airey. He would go on to release two albums while in the band. These two albums retained the more chart-friendly sound that Difficult to Cure had inaugurated with the group. Besides their studio time, Rainbow continued to tour fairly regularly throughout the early eighties. They finally disbanded in March 1984 when Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover returned to Deep Purple.
After Airey left the band, he immediately jumped on Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train, performing with him on the Diary of a Madman Tour. He went on to play with multiple artists and in many different groups; these included Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden’s Alaska, Jethro Tull, and Electric Light Orchestra II to name a few of the highest-profile. In the studio, he also joined Whitesnake for an album, their self-titled Whitesnake. He even found time to help win Eurovision for the U.K. in 1997!
While Airey has never played with Rainbow since, he has kept up his connection with the music he helped create. He included the title track from Difficult to Cure on his solo album Keyed Up, and performs songs from his tenure with the band in his own solo shows to this day.
In 2001, he became the last of the four members of this lineup who eventually joined (or, in Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover’s case, rejoined) Deep Purple. He failed to overlap with Blackmore, who left the band in 1993, or Turner, who was let go in 1992. He is the only person to date to play with Purple, Rainbow, and Whitesnake. Twenty years to the day after being left onstage with Rainbow, Airey finished his first tour with Deep Purple. Purple has yet to leave him alone onstage to finish a concert by himself.
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- Bloom, Jerry. Black Knight: Ritchie Blackmore.
- Edit on 2020-09-05: Article previous stated incorrectly that the Blackmore-Glover-Rondinelli-Rosenthal-Turner lineup released two albums together. It has since been corrected.
2 thoughts on “On This Day (September 5)…Difficult to End”
Great text, though you got one thing wrong.
The Blackmore-Glover-Rondinelli-Rosenthal-Turner lineup lasted only one album, as Chuck Burgi played drums on Bent Out of Shape.
Thank you for letting me know! I fixed my article accordingly. Appreciate it