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UK reviews 2002 (rescheduled)


If I was a cameraman and they told me I would be filming Deep Purple at the NEC, I would resign.

What is it with Deep Purple and cameras? Yes, they filmed the concert. But our Mr Gillan didn't seem very happy about it. He spent a good portion of the show shouting and waving at cameramen, apparently telling them to get out of the way. At one point, he pushed one of them off stage. During Smoke, he was so concerned with telling one of them off that the forgot which verse he was singing!

Annoyance #1: on New Street Station and at the NEC itself are several big posters announcing events at the NEC. Not a single one mentions Deep Purple. Hmmm...

Annoyance #2: signs at the entrance to the arena read, "This performance is been filmed" [sic] Gah!!!!

OK, so I don't like the NEC. It's a horrible barn of a venue. It's the biggest on the tour so far and even though the back half is curtained off, I still see empty seats in the remaining blocks. The crowd takes a little while to warm up, at least around, me, and though each song gets huge applause there is definitely something missing in the atmosphere.

And the sound mix is true to form for the NEC: horrible. Maybe I'm being overly critical by comparing it to other venues on the tour. To be fair, the sound is strong and clear. I've known worse. But something is not quite right in the balance. The NEC gobbles up bass sounds, at least where I was standing (about 30 rows back and right of centre). The Planets (support band) suffer most in this respect, with their sound being exceptionally thin and shrill, all flute and violin with the cello and bass almost inaudible. Purple fare better but are still very trebly. The bass is there but its not vibrating in my chest the way it's supposed to.

Do any of these complaints stop Deep Purple from delivering the best concert I've ever seen? No. In the end, all that matters is the musicians and the songs, and Purple surpass themselves yet again.

The set list is as before. Tonight, they come on stage at 8:35 and play one hour 45 minutes.

Song highlights are too many to list. Every song is developing and changing through the course of the tour. Speed King is now introduced by some 'skiffle' improvisation, Steve's 'greatest hits' solo is back in force before Smoke On The Water, the intricate jamming before Black Night is fascinating and impossible to describe... it's all good.

Some individual highlights...

Don's solo covers Toccata and Fugue, Beethoven's 9th (but a different part - the guitar part this time, if you know what I mean), classical piano piece that I should be able to name but I've gone blank (so what's new?) [Not my comment - this time... ;^) Rasmus], and his outstanding Star Wars tribute.

I thought Ian's voice sounded tired for the first couple of songs but it seemed to grow stronger until he was screaming like his old self again. His call-and-response with Steve is the best of the tour so far, with Steve leading the first half and Ian leading the second half. (Steve plays a chord and Ian says, "I don't do chords". Steve gives him a look as if to say "we're supposed to do the rock'n'roll medley now.") And Ian wails along with the Speed King guitar melody with that gorgeous tone of his. This was the absolutely best Speed King version so far (ever).

Star of the show was Ian Paice. Not just his solo, but his entire performance. He's following a 'more is better' philosophy and 'why hit one drum when you can hit three?' An incredibly energetic performance. Favourite part: Space Truckin', which he virtually turns into another drum solo. I think the band could have left the stage and Ian would have carried the song with no noticable loss.

It's all good, all of the time. As a certain singer might say, "Superb!"

David Meadows

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