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UK reviews 2002 (rescheduled)

Knocked out at the NEC

I was very disappointed back in February when the original date at the N.E.C was cancelled. However, after the bands performance last night I can safely say it was well worth the wait!

At 8.36 pm the house lights went down and Little Ians's drum intro to Fireball nearly knocked me off my feet. The sounds was so loud, so crisp and clear. A stunning version of Fireball ended and then we got a few bars of Into The Fire.

Before we could all catch our breath the guys launched into a superb rendition of Woman From Tokyo. Steve's melodic section in the middle is just awesome.Then we witnessed a great performance of Mary Long (second only, I feel, to one of the versions on the Soundboard Series), with Big Ian pointing out that the two people the song is about are not laughing where they are now. Then we had a truly bombastic version of Martin The Wine Merchant (a.k.a Ted The Mechanic) but before Big Ian could finish introducing the song Steve had started the intro, which Ian had a laugh about after and finished the story.

Don Airey was superb tonight but he hasn't got the same kind of feel for the Hammond as Jon Lord... that will come with time though. We then got Lazy where Steve blew Don away with two scintillating solos. Next up was Steve with "a new one from the next album" with the Well Dressed Guitar. I must say that Don's accompaniment was superb and it almost matched the version on the Rotterdam Ahoy CD.

Steve's into to WABMC was emotionally moving (with hardly any 'shredding' as some fans have said in the past) followed by a brooding solo from Don. Up until the next song this was the highlight for me... Space Truckin' was quite simply out of this world... in fact out of this universe. Steve's solo before the song/riff kicked in proper was one of the best short snippets I've heard from him. The hyperspeed ending was a sight and sound to behold, with Rog and Little Ian working superbly in tandem.

Don's solo spot was entertaining with bits of Beethoven and the theme from Star Wars thrown in. This lasted around four or five minutes before the spotlight dimmed.... when it came back on I think the crowd knew Jon would be there. But the reaction was enthusiastic and moving. A stunning version of Perfect Strangers followed with a superb crescendo ending. We then had something 'original' as described by Big Ian before the band did some 'skiffle' before launching into everyone's favourite ballad... Speed King!

The duelling between Steve and Jon was as good as it ever has been. It ended with honours even I have to say and a handshake of approval from the pair of them (masters of their instruments!). Rog's bass solo was mind blowing for me. I always knew he was a vital part for the band, but his individuality and volume on his solo was something I won't ever forget. Little Ian's drum solo was brilliant as always. The one-handed roll at the end will never cease to amaze me.... or anyone else for that matter. The interplay between Big Ian and Steve followed, then Ian went into High School Hop, It's Now Or Never and a few more for good measure. (I've just realised again how good the gig was because of the length of my review so far!).

Smoke On The Water was great (apart from Ian fluffing the words to the first verse!). [Chalk it up to unfamiliarity... ;^) Rasmus] Steve's Riff Raff included Sweet Home Alabama, Whole Lotta Love, Strawberry Fields and a few others. They left the stage to a standing ovation.

After a couple of minutes the band returned and gave Hush a real dust down and made it sound so fresh it was untrue. Black Night followed with what appeared to me, and those around me, increased volume (if that was possible). Steve's solo and then the audience particpation was superb. Big Ian's voice was superb throughout the gig and the show climaxed with a blistering version of my favourite... Highway Star. Steve made the solo look like a walk in the park once again I must add.

The show was over after 100 minutes of pure bliss and joy. They could have played for longer as has already been said, but it left me more than satisfied. Thanks guys for quite simply the best show I've witnessed (and before anyone asks this isn't the first time I've seen them!).

I know that the filming of the show was stopped (camera man invading Big Ian's space) but I hope they carried on recording the sound as this show would make a great addition to the live albums this great band already has. Does anyone know who the two rather attractive looking young ladies stage right were?

Simon Mayne

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