The recording features the customary introduction to a Rainbow show – the classic quote from The Wizard of Oz, "Toto: I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!" with the last word repeated as an echo, then the actual band plays a musical phrase from the song "Over the Rainbow" before breaking into "Kill the King".
Many of the tracks were spliced together from different dates by producer Martin Birch, and the running order was changed to more easily fit four sides of vinyl.
Geoff Ginsberg of AllMusic writes: "On Stage is full of great songs and playing, but somehow it lacks some of the excitement that existed at those early Ritchie Blackmore concerts. The production is just kind of flat. That doesn't change the fact that there is some great stuff to be found here and nowhere else, such as the side-long version of "Mistreated," from Deep Purple's Burn."
The song "Kill the King" appeared on this album before it was recorded for a studio album. A studio version appears on the follow-up release, 1978's Long Live Rock 'n' Roll.
The single "Kill the King/Man on the Silver Mountain/Mistreated" was also re-released in the UK in July 1981. This was Rainbow's debut in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 44. After the commercial success of "Since You Been Gone", "All Night Long" and "I Surrender", "Kill the King" was re-released in 1981 this time climbing to No. 41. Songwriter and lead singer Ronnie James Dio claimed that the violent imagery in the song is actually about a chess game.
A more representative example of a Rainbow concert of the time was the 1991 release Live in Germany 1976, which featured unedited concert performances and includes both tour staple "Stargazer" and the usual encore "Do You Close Your Eyes".
The deluxe edition was released on November 13, 2012 in Europe. The second disc was originally planned to contain tracks from the concert hall at the "Orix Theater" (formerly Osaka Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan) in Osaka, Japan (December 9, 1976). Instead the second disc contains tracks from the final Rainbow gig in Tokyo, Japan at the "Nippon Budokan Hall" on December 16, 1976.