Rainbow: Monsters of Rock - Live at Donington 1980 Review

Oft bootlegged festival footage finally gets an official release.
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Rainbow Monsters of Rock is a DVD / CD combo that will be accepted differently based on your expectations. The DVD is standard stadium / festival-rock fare. Lots of sparks and flashing lights, stage theatrics and post set fireworks. The setting is Donington Park Race Track in England at the first Monsters of Rock Festival in August of 1980. It's quite a bill and Rainbow is the headlining act.

The video is a time capsule, a bridge between '70s jammers and '80s hair bands and also the time when Rainbow was moving towards a more radio-friendly sound. The star here is guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, a leather-clad rocker, obligatory cross on a chain around his neck, a fender strat, and a slew of marshall stacks behind him. The songs exist just to break up the guitar solos that are really the main reason to watch this - from shred-like pyrotechnics to controlled noise to tasteful harmonics, Ritchie Blackmore shows off his mastery here.

It's also the first official release of this famed performance. Only 30 minutes or so of the original footage survived so while the DVD contains only a short portion of their set, to have the remaining film released is quite welcomed. If you're a hardcore fan, you probably have this bootlegged but you'll want to grab the official release here.

With that said, the accompanying CD is really the star of this package as it contains their full set, and does a much better job of capturing the band in this live setting. Again, I think the best that could be done to compile the remaining video was indeed done, and I am glad that it was preserved, but to really get a sense of their performance you have to listen to the full show.

Ace drummer Cozy Powell plays his last show with Rainbow here, but he's tremendous as always. Blackmore's fellow Deep Purple alum, Roger Glover, handles the bass duties while Don Airey and Graham Bonnet complete the lineup on keys and vocals respectively.

The setlist mixes up tracks from their then-current release Down To Earth with earlier material so there's a good mix of old and new. Bonnet handles the vocals of his predecessors well, or as well as can be expected given the shoes he fills.

Listening to the CD, one can only wish that the full video had survived. It's like the DVD only teases us with its abbreviated set, and one can only imagine what it must have been like to see the whole thing.

For non-Rainbow enthusiasts, you've seen this before. It may have been a different band at a different venue but other than Blackmore there's not much here in the video to distinguish this from the myriad of other hard-rock band live concerts, and the length and lack of any bonus material will likely disappoint.

If, however, you really appreciate the band you'll be glad to see an official release of this material and will likely find the accompanying CD essential listening.

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