He may have disappeared once too often behind the drum riser to what appeared to be a ‘recreation’ area – no doubt with full access to ‘Strictly’ – but Ian Gillan is not quite ready to join the pipe and slippers brigade. His voice in fine form, it was only his absence on stage that emphasised the greater instrumental quotient in tonight’s show. Evidently for a good reason.
The band burst into gear with an opening salvo from the excellent current album ‘Now? What!’ with Steve Morse’s guitar to the fore, especially during his early set-piece ‘Contact Lost’. As predicted in our album review, ‘Vincent Price’ was a standout. It could have so easily been the throwaway track at the end of a great album. As it turns out, a definite set highlight with one humungous riff and Don Airey’s eery synth noises topping off a pre-Halloween triumph.
The last time I saw the band live they had no new product to promote and it was all decidedly lack lustre. This time, aside from the frontman’s Houdini tactics, the band did seem more energised. However there was – on balance – too much instrumental noodling and filler.
From Don Airey’s semi-classical piece to the mandatory Ian Paice drum solo in ‘The Mule’ if nothing else it emphasised some wonderful musicianship in the band but it all felt a bit over-indulgent at times.
This also contributed to a lack of momentum which was usually only regained when Gillan returned to centre stage. But even if these gigs will always be a constant battle for back catalogue, not least the inevitable exclusion of classic non Mk II tracks, there was much to admire here tonight.
A superb version of ‘Perfect Strangers’ also reminded punters of the band’s 1980s period whilst of course no Purple gig would be complete without a dip into ‘Machine Head’ – ‘Lazy’, ‘Space Truckin’ and ‘that’ track – all authentically presented and lovingly received. And of course, the great Jon Lord was remembered in a wonderful ‘Uncommon Man’ and ‘Above And Beyond’ from the new album.
The encore started with a wonderful and all-too-brief cover of ‘Green Onions’ setting the scene for an era-evocative ‘Hush’ (complete with Gillan in ‘crooner’ blazer), Roger Glover’s excellent bass solo, and a rousing ‘Black Night’.
Whilst we can argue over favourite albums and classic line-ups, after seven years Purple returned with a hugely enjoyable album. But it is what they don’t play live, and the exclusion of anything non-Gillan, which will always remain a frustration and his increasing absence on stage a cause for concern. To paraphrase Brucey: ‘Nice to see you when we see you, to see you…nice.’
Setlist – Après vous / Into The Fire/ Hard Lovin’ Man/ Vincent Price/ Strange Kind of Woman/ Contact Lost / Uncommon Man/ The Well-Dressed Guitar / The Mule/(incl. Drum Solo by Ian Paice)/ Above And Beyond / Lazy/ Hell To Pay/ Keyboard solo / Perfect Strangers/ Space Truckin’ / Smoke On The Water/ Encore: Green Onions/ Bass solo/Black Night
Review by David Randall
Photos and Gallery by Steve Goudie (except Don Airey and Deep Purple stage curtain, photo by David Randall)
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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