How do I begin this? How do I come up with something that hasn't been said already so many times on other reviews on this tour? I co-edit a local football club's matchday programme, have done so for 12 years and can churn out those pages in next to no time- but reviewing a show like this is something else. Here I am, less than 24 hours after Purple's utterly amazing Bristol show and I'm still on cloud 9.
I suppose the best way to start is simply to sum up how I felt at the end of the show. It was the sixth time I'd seen Purple down the years - Bristol '71, '72, '74, Birmingham '93, Bristol '98 (or was it '99?) and then this one. When I saw them here in 1971, I remember it was my first ever rock gig. It cost me 90p to get in (those were the days!) and Purple, I recall, were great. But this is exactly my point: I never thought for one single minute then that some 31 years later, I'd be seeing virtually the same line-up, running through a selection of many of the same songs and getting better and better all the time, like fine wine.
Describing each song in great detail has been done many times already. The play list at Bristol was exactly the same as other fans have witnessed on the tour, even the added ditties, like the Star Wars theme or Let's Dance were all in there as well, and the show itself started just after 8.30 and ended around 10.20 - very similar to other shows recently. Each song was delivered with the sort of performance you come to expect from Purple, with a great deal of power, clarity and an enthusiasm which many lesser bands will never match even if they end up going on for three decades or more like Purple.
At the start of the show, as soon as the lights came up, there were no introductions, it was just straight into Fireball and they whizzed through that like an express train. What a way to open a gig! There can't be many better openers for Purple than that one. Every song that followed got the crowd bellowing for more, though I did find it a little odd at the time that one side of the stalls were on their feet from the word go, while the other side of the stalls remained seated for virtually the entire show! I wonder what the band made of that?
Individually, Purple were on top form. Ian Gillan has always been my favourite vocalist and he didn't cease to amaze me with his vocal range. He is the perfect front man for any band. After the final encore of Highway Star (of course), he just slumped down onto the stage, absolutely shattered, but what a performance by him! Roger Glover's bass cut like a knife through butter, his driving beat was usually the basis for some great intros by the band. Ian Paice's drumming was again superb. I have seen lots of gigs down the years by many bands, but have never seen a drummer who performs as powerfully as Ian.
Steve Morse is no longer the new guy in the band, he is a truly established member of Purple and those of us who still think the world of Ritchie Blackmore (myself included) know only too well that, rightly so, Steve has made that place in the band his own, which of course, he did several years ago anyway. Suffice to say, perhaps some of us need reminding now and again. His performance at Bristol was impeccable, there were some great solos and some great improvisation.
Don Airey obviously has a big job on his hands in replacing Jon Lord, but he did very well indeed and his intro to Lazy earned him many brownie points indeed. He came into his own completely after that, following a quiet sort of start. I think Purple have made the right move in bringing in Don, he's clearly a great musician and his performance and skills shone through as the show progressed.
And of course, the great man himself. Jon Lord then appeared - as expected - at the start of Perfect Strangers and gave us his usual stunning show of keyboard wizardry as the gig climaxed. Seeing Ian Gillan stand between Jon and Don as all three belted out the chorus of Smoke On The Water was a great sign of togetherness. Jon was also the last of the band to leave the stage after Highway Star - the crowd clearly didn't want him to leave. But in the end, he left the Bristol stage for the last time with the mighty Purple. Thanks Jon for all the pleasure you've given us fans all these years and best of luck with all you do in the future.
But another thing that pleasantly surprised me was how the band clearly enjoyed themselves. There was plenty of laughing and joking among themselves and a lot of banter with the crowd and let's be honest, you didn't always get that in the Ritchie Blackmore days, did you? The togetherness of the band at Bristol was there for all to see.
The appearance of Bernie Marsden was very welcome too. I saw him in action several times in his Whitesnake days, so it was great to see him on stage again and do the intro to Smoke On the Water. Well done Bernie, you played a blinder!
And when it all was over, I had to find another place, (heard that before somewhere!), and it was out into the Bristol night to get home. Thanks, lads, for an absolutely cracking show. Now all that remains for me is to try and convince my 12-year-old son that Purple are the best band in the whole world. But each to their own, his is a different generation. He prefers the rap artists of today and likes to tell me how great the rappers are. But all this means is that life does go round in circles, because 30 years ago, I was trying to convince my parents on how great Purple were - but they didn't want to know! I have therefore turned into my parents. Funny old world isn't it?
Hope to see you on tour again soon, lads, and hopefully Bristol will get a visit from you too.
David Smale, 47
Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as
the real thing (with apologies to Ani)
(c) 2005, The Highway Star