A joyous blur
This was a great night for me. I missed out on DP's first visit to Plymouth Pavillions back in '96 because I'd never heard of Steve Morse and assumed it wouldn't be worth seeing without Blackmore... Duh! But also as a keyboardist myself here was a unique chance to see both the guys who turned me onto rock keyboards back in the early '80s. Perfect!
The set list has been detailed many times before, so here are my own observations on the gig...
Firstly Gillan was in magnificent voice, this was the best vocal performance I'd heard from him in all the four gigs I've seen of DP. Keep going Ian, we love you, you're getting even better with age! Roger Glover also impressed me with his solid bass lines but also the amount of energy he expended onstage... he was all over the place with a huge grin on his face much of the time. To still be enjoying it so much after so many years is a testament to this great band.
Steve Morse's guitar was loud and punchy and he still mesmorises me with his ease of playing incredibly complex harmonic scales and also his sheer inventiveness. This is not your 'average Joe' rock guitarist, he has added so many new dimensions to the Purple sound... what a guy! In my opinion Ian Paice suffered from being too low in the mix. I don't know what kind of monitor mix he was hearing on stage but he seemed to be playing it safe tonight, there wasn't so much fire in his playing I felt.
Don Airey was also mixed far too low. It was difficult to pick out the lower registers of his organ solos and as a result he tended to stick to the top notes which cut through far better. In fact the front of house guy at the mixing desk was just a few feet from me and I felt like going over and asking him to turn the keyboards and drums up... but I wasn't brave enough!
Ian Gillan was getting very frustrated with the security guys at the Pavillions who were making anyone who stood up sit straight back down again. So during Ted he, Steve and Roger jumped off the stage and mingled with the crowd whilst playing! It was a classic move as the security guys were obviously stunned and didn't know what to do. Ian said afterwards "There appears to be an area at the front here where only we are allowed to go, so if you can't come to us we will come to you! Whatever happened to rock and roll, eh?" After a great version of Lazy the crowd were really on fire and the security guys gave up!
Don Airey did a brilliant solo covering many moods and sound textures. The first section of his solo was actually based on the old Rainbow instrumental Weiss Heim, a very beautiful version of it. For the Plymouth crowd he also played the Sailor's Hornpipe and the old Captain Pugwash theme (can't remember the real title) It was so cool, a stroke of genius that was very much appreciated.
Then of course the moment of almost Biblical proportions when Don finishes his solo amongst thunderclaps and lightning, it goes dark and then he reappears and looks as if he's aged 20 years! No, I am of course referring to the grand entrance of Mr. Jon Lord for Perfect Strangers. By now everyone in the stalls had stood up and rushed to the front of the stage and it was as a rock concert should be from now on...
Perfect Strangers is such a grand piece of music and it never ceases to touch me very deeply when I hear it live, especially as this was the last time I would see Jon playing it. Everything else that followed was a joyous blur of lights, music, energy and good vibes. Great drum solo from Mr. Paice and a corking Riff Raff from Steve leading into Smoke. Really cool laid back jazz swing intro to Black Night (I really loved how Gillan coaxed the audience to sing the riff to Black Night in amongst this unusual musical context... it worked so beautifully.) The stunning climax was Highway Star with Don, Jon, Big Ian and Steve ripping out Ritchie's original solo together... so cool and what a great finale.
It was a class gig by the best rock band in the world. When I read cutting comments or reviews by newspapers or journalists I can hardly believe the garbage these people are writing. Anyone... young or old, whatever music you are into, cannot fail to be moved by this band who create such a positive, energetic and invigorating vibe with their performances. I saw people from 7 to 70 at this gig. Anyone who can write rubbish about Rock Dinosaurs, Spinal Tap or Boring Old Farts must have very sad, jaded lives... but there was no room for people like that here tonight.
Night after night Deep Purple produce the most vibrant rock music on this planet that it's an education and an inspiration to all of the generations who follow them.
Thanks guys for a brilliant night. We love you, come back to the West Country soon! (Now, about that new album...! :-)
Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as
the real thing (with apologies to Ani)
(c) 2005, The Highway Star