Ritchie does it again, and adds a Sweet-ner

“So I’m off my face on drugs” is a statement that you probably could associate with many rock n roll bands over the years but it’s not usually preceded by the words “I had surgery on my leg earlier this week.” But then, none of us are getting any younger, not least The Sweet main man Andy Scott. He might have piloted the band for getting on for 50 years but the fire still burns. “We are a British band and we should be playing here more often, we never get chance to play places like this here” is another Scott line. You’d say – under normal circumstances – that it was bitterness at odds with the outright glam sheen of the music, but watch the band and say Scott is wrong: you couldn’t. For 45 minutes they churn out hit after hit. “Action”,”Hell Raiser” and  “Teenage Rampage” is just for starters and frankly you’d need a heart of stone to resist the quite brilliant “Wig Wam Bam/Little Willy” medley. “Fox On The Run” is gleefully nostalgic, and they afford themselves an encore of sorts. But then so would you if you’d got the well, blockbusters of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” left. That’s a back catalogue that most bands would kill for – and it’s one that the 2017 vintage of The Sweet make stunning use of. Far too much fun to be a cult act in their homeland.

When Ritchie Blackmore announced his surprise return to electric music last year, the sense of excitement was palpable. MV was there to witness an evening that reduced grown men to tears as they relieved their fantasies of Blackmore playing Rainbow and Deep Purple songs again.

So popular was it, in fact, that it was never going to end there, so it is a year and just a few days from where it all began, Blackmore has another night.

And largely speaking it was the same as last year too. There are subtle differences, no “Highway Star” this time for example, but mostly if you liked the last one, then this does the job as well.

The band he’s got  are an extremely talented bunch, but the star of 2016’s show (and it is noticeable that he comes out last here, even after Blackmore) Ronnie Romero seemed strangely flat this evening and things perhaps lacked the momentum that they needed.

When things clicked – “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Perfect Strangers” for example – it was superb, but there were too many moments when the need to change gear was missed, as on the extremely lengthy keyboard solo from Jens Johannson.

On the positive side, though, Romero is perfect for the Dio era cuts, and nails “Stargazer” and “Long Live Rock N Roll” while Blackmore himself appears in good spirits, particularly on his Beethoven homage of a solo.

He excels too in perhaps the evenings most touching moment when all the bluster is stripped away and he plays his acoustic for “Carry On Jon” as vintage photos of the late, great Jon Lord beam down from the big screen.

After such naked emotion it seems almost a shame to play the encore of “Burn” and “Smoke On The Water” but they were always going to be here, and if the former sounds fantastic then the latter remains a classic even if it has a slightly different arrangement tonight.

A show this lengthy and featuring quite so many solo slots – the drum spot also features Romero as well as David Keith – was perhaps never going to flow perfectly, but this was about preaching to the converted rather than reaching to the new and for the second year on the trot Ritchie Blackmore did exactly that in his inimitable way.

Photo by Garry Foster