At the Think Tank, Newcastle, U.K., November 17, 2016

GRAHAM BONNET BAND (Live at the Think Tank, Newcastle, U.K., November 17, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Eyebrows were certainly raised when Ritchie Blackmore filled the gaping hole left in Rainbow following the departure of Ronnie James Dio by a short haired, Hawaiian shirt wearing relative unknown with a penchant for white jackets who’s claim to fame was having a hit single with a song written by the Bee Gees ten years earlier.

Blackmore however had quite the knack for unearthing a decent singer or two and with Ian Gillan, David Coverdale and Dio under his belt Blackmore wasn’t about to break that winning streak. With a fair few big names knocking on his door, Blackmore trawled his memory for a singer he’d heard years earlier singing Only One Woman, penned by the Gibb brothers. Graham Bonnet was that man and following an audition was duly offered the job.

Although he only recorded Down To Earth, an album that yielded two huge hits Since You Been Gone and All Night Long, it gave Blackmore his desired move into more commercial territory and in return it gave Bonnet the platform for a career that would stretch another 35 years taking in the Michael Schenker Group, his own band Alcatrazz, Blackthorne and many others as his powerful, gritty vocals became a much sought after commodity.

Earlier in the year Bonnet visited the region for his first show in a few years with a new band that included Warlord and Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder. Unfortunately a shoulder injury side-lined Zonder for this return visit with his place taken at very short notice by a friend of the band.

In January Bonnet’s set featured a career spanning, crowd pleasing set of classics from a variety of his albums. For these shows Bonnet has a brand new album, The Book, to showcase. Quite often when an artist with a certain pedigree releases new material it can be met with indifference. Fortunately Bonnet has ducked that particular problem by releasing a rather fine album steeped in the tradition of his excellent early Alcatrazz albums meaning The Rider and Into The Night sounded well fitted alongside the likes of Jet To Jet and Will You be Home Tonight.

Bonnet’s strength and bite was highlighted with set opener and gold plated Rainbow classic Eyes of the World and again in the moody slow building Blues bruiser, Love’s No Friend, a last second entry into the set that left bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone a touch baffled much to Bonnet’s amusement.

A run through Desert Song from the sole album he recorded with the Michael Schenker Group along with the scything title track made you wonder just what could have been if that union had been allowed to develop over a couple of albums.

Bonnet has worked with some guitar greats over the years from Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Neo-Classical maestro Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai so Bonnet needed a foil to cope with the demands of those legendary players and Conrado Pesinato certainly did justice to the demanding originals.

Throwing in three Top 10 singles in the shape of Since You been Gone, All Night Long and his solo single, Night Games kept the more casual fans happy but it was the vintage cuts like Lost In Hollywood that brought the biggest cheers.

Things may have been fairly quiet on the recording front recently but with Bonnet’s new album, The Book, along with a classy new band, this may just be the start of an exciting new chapter in a career that has spanned almost 50 years.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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