Front to back - equally good
All right, so I was there, when Deep Purple played at the Apollo Hammersmith in London on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th of 2002. Iīm glad I was there, because these two concerts were very good. It was the first time I saw them at two concerts back-to-back, and that gave me a new insight as to how good musicians Deep Purpe really are (as if I didnīt know that already...).
On the first night I had a seat in the second front row, directly in front of Roger Glover. Since the stage was level with the seats, I had an excellent close view of everything that was happening on stage, and that was really enjoyable. The guys had real fun, joked with each other and the audience, but also had moments of deep concentration and seriousness for what they were doing.
That band was unbelieveable tight, and from the first drum roll of Fireball they were really giving it all they could. Since I was over at the left Steve's guitar (on the other side of the stage) was a little low in the mix (except for all his solos) making it possible for me to listen to (and watch!) all the myriad of details in Roger's and Ian's playing, as well as in Don's rhythmical style and Big Ian's effords at pressing everything impossible out of his voice. Throughout the show I could see how they went on stage full of energy, but as they were giving what they had, they needed the feedback and input from the audience to build the energy to complete the show.
And they did; Both Big Ian, Roger and Steve were often right up front with the audience, touching them, and Roger and Steve let the audience fiddle with the guitars quite a lot - to my surprise. Roger often lost plectrums because of this, and had to improvise while getting back to his amps for new plectrums. Speaking of Roger and his bass playing; the long bass solo in Speed King gave me a flashback of old RB's dramatic tricks; melodic, partly repetitive, and sudden dramatic changes in volume and tone. All in a different feel though, as this was Roger Glover. Delicious!
The shows lasted for one hour and fourty minutes, but with a lot of songs. Ian Paice was driving the show forward with enormous force. Ian Gillan didnīt even have time to get to the jokes and comments, as Ian Paice started the next song almost right next to the end of the previous one. It helped keep the motion of the concert going, and I just stood there swaying in the breeze of it all - enjoying everything.
I thought Ian Gillan did a good job on both concerts. He even managed a scream here and there, and have found a new way of reaching higher grounds; he is sliding his voice up and down, sensing every time how far he can squeeze it. I like it; controlled, but streching out; keeping voice quality, but once in a while losing it. I had a good laugh when he came at us, singing his head off and loosing breath so he had to skip a line or two, then jumping on at it again in full voice, giving it all he could.
The idea of trying to find something new inside all the familiar songs are truly present in Steve Morse's solos. When you think it is impossible to do a particular solo in another twist, he finds it. He can play so that you feel reminicences of the old (original) solo, while playing something new at the same time. Brilliant!
And then the quasi surprises; Jon Lord's apperance at the start of Perfect Strnges. Now, I do feel that Don Airey is doing a very good job. His percussive style fits Deep Purple just perfectly, but he does not have the sheer force of presence and pondus that Jon Lord has. And now I am going to try to say two things at the same time; it was enormously good to see Jon Lord at the Hammond - it was my main reason for being at the concert - and his playing is admireable, but I somehow got the feeling that an era was past and that he somehow doesnīt have anything to add to the performance anymore, and that Don would do equally well.
That is, if Don can be a little less subdued; he needs to stop beeing so anonymous. But he will learn, as Steve has done. I never thought I would say something like this, because Jon Lord is really my hero, and actually one of the reasons Iīm in the music business, but I am looking tremendously forward to Jon Lordīs solo outing in the years to come, as I believe he has a lot of ideas that will no longer fit into Deep Purple, but be perfect in a solo setting.
Having said that, I must add that when Don and Jon shared solo duties during the encores (they even played four-hand on the Hammond!), that was just awesome. Two really great players having fun, pouring out their craft and musicianship without any restrictions. And when Jon leaves stage, he even takes the time to shakes hand for a "Thank you" to the keyboard technician. Man, that is one cultivated artist!
On the second night I was way up in the rear of the balcony. A totally different perspective, and in a position to have a perfect blending of sound from all five. Same show, but with a myriad of different details, making the experience a delight. As the show progresses, the differences from night to night show more clearly; different solos, different places of where someone does a slight turn in the music, and different intros and improvisations (Ian Gillan started some Elvis on this second night). During Smoke we had the "fan apperance" from the Iron Maiden guys, and during the encores Don and Jon did completely different things fron the first to the second night.
I could tell you a lot of other different and amusing details, I could critizise the conservative song selection, but I am not going to, because the concerts were great on their own, and it was so much fun and pure musical force that I am more than happy to call myself a Deep Purple fan.
The two shows were very tight and seems to leave no room for haphazard and improvisation, but watching the two shows back-to-back clearly showed that this band can twist anything around as they want to, with a perfect balance of the familiar and the unexpected. They often joke with us musically, trying to confuse us of what is coming next (as I told you; Ian Gillan rarely had the time to tell us which song was the next) by having unfamiliar introductions to the songs.
And another thing: usually Deep Purple songs (when played live) have a clear ending with everyone stopping at the same time. On these two concerts it was not so; there was always someone (often Steve and Big Ian) who wanted to make more noise even after the song was over. It was as if they didnīt wanted the music to stop. I know the feeling - and I agree; I donīt want the music of Deep Purple to stop. There is just too much life in there.
Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as
the real thing (with apologies to Ani)
(c) 2005, The Highway Star