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Photo: Ray Oates, Portsmouth Sep 15, 2002

This extended review served as a fitting 'front page' for the Tour Reviews section while the band went off the road to prepare their 2003 studio album.
If you want to read about specific tours and shows, please explore the menu on the left. And remember, if you do happen to spot any of the guys at a show somewhere, let us know

Rasmus Heide, reviews editor

This page last updated November 24, 2002

Memories from a 50-year-old Deep Purple fan

I don't know if you can use this, but it's been fun recalling and writing it all down anyway.

On Saturday 14th September 2002, I drove from our home in Bristol with my 14-year-old son Christopher, to the NEC in Birmingham to see Deep Purple on home soil for the first time since February-March 1971. As I looked around me at heaps of smiling faces watching and listening to a band still in their prime, it brought back memories of the first time I saw them.

My first live encounter with them came the previous summer. I had been aware of two Mark 1 singles Hush and Emmeretta and thought them different. But then I heard Mark 2 for the first time on a BBC Radio 1 In Concert programme, and despite having to listen through the mud of the medium waveband, something new and exciting was obviously trying to break out of my 'trannie'. I think it is the performance now featured on the Deep Purple In Concert release (including Big Ian's 'fluff' on Child In Time). I'm also sure that at the end of Speed King, John Peel said 'Now, that's the Deep Purple I know and love' (how times have changed).

I'm not sure of the exact date of my first DP show at Bristol's Colston Hall - I guess it must have been July or August 1970. I think it was a Sunday evening. My memories of the gig are curiously muddled, some aspects I 'm not clear on while others will stay with me forever. I think they were supported by Tony Ashton's, Ashton, Gardener & Dyke..

I shall always remember the astonishing impact of their performance. Jon Lord's solo at the opening of Speed King was much longer than any subsequent performance I've heard. It started quietly and seemed to meander before it took on a much more defined feel and simply got louder and louder and louder. Just when it seemed it couldn't get any louder it did. (I'd been to many concerts by this time but nothing prepared me for the sheer volume of DP).

But it wasn't just the volume. As the band tore into the Speed King riff at the climax of the organ solo, it was the sheer power, drive and ferocity of the performance that pinned me to the back of the seat. (Wasn't there a second mike stand for Roger to sing harmony on the Speed King chorus?).

I'm not sure Black Night had been issued as a single at this point (it must have been close), but we did get the story of how it came to be written. (In the local pub over a few drinks.) Later we were staggered by the band's virtuosity during marathon versions of Wring That Neck and Mandrake Root. The piece de resistance was the strobe light climax to the latter (introduced by Big Ian, I think, as a song about all the good things in life). There was no encore (I'm sure). I guess the band were probably too knackered and the audience too drained to applaud, but whatever, a lifelong fan had been made and In Rock was immediately purchased.

I think the set list was:

Speed King
Black Night
Child In Time
Wring That Neck
Paint It Black
Mandrake Root

(I'm not entirely sure of the order.)

Another interesting memory was that even though the hall was half empty, it didn't seem to stop DP giving a performance as if their lives depended on it. Having seen a number of bands who seemed bored and treated the audience with contempt, this attitude made a great impression on me.

My next live encounter with Deep Purple came in February or March 1971. I don't remember much about the concert. A lot of the problem had to do with my deep suspicion of a band with hit singles (Black Night and Strange Kind Of Woman) and the sudden drop in the average age of the fans. How ridiculously snobbish about these things we were then. I also sensed that for some reason the band wasn't too happy either. At one point Jon Lord picked up the stool by his electric piano (used in Wring That Neck) and threw it to the back of the stage in apparent disgust. I was also disappointed that there was no Mandrake Root. Instead there was a lengthy work-out over Strange Kind Of Woman. The strobe sequence was applied to Lucille. But as the Colston Hall authorities had turned on the house lights at this time, due the rowdy behaviour of the audience, it was all rather pointless.

I know that Ashton, Gardiner and Dyke did open this one. Tony Ashton tried to explain that their hit (Resurrection Shuffle) was not really in their style and not to be taken seriously.

Anyway, at this point in time, degree, marriage, career and family intervened although I continued to buy and listen to Deep Purple.

There were no live encounters until I found myself on a long term assignment in Milan in September 1993. Having just bought The Battles Rages On, confirming that the band was still as powerful as ever, the opportunity to see them again after all these years was too good to miss. I can't remember the exact date other than it was a Sunday. I still have the ticket stub for the Assago Arena but there is no date on it.

Also, I'm not sure how close Ritchie Blackmore was to leaving at this point, but there seemed to be a sense of him being somewhat isolated from the rest. However, it was still a wonderful concert. Highlights included Anyone's Daughter (sung with all, except Ritchie, grouped around the keyboard), Perfect Strangers (superb laser display), Knocking At Your Back Door (as Jon Lord started up, Ian G greeted it with 'Ah, this sounds familiar') and Anya. I sat next to a man who had obviously brought his son to see his heroes, I remember hoping that one day I too might be doing the same, but then I thought there's no way Deep Purple will still be flourishing by the time Chris is old enough to go. What do I know?

Fast forward now to Autumn 2000 and I very fortuitously find myself working near Arnhem in Holland. A quick trip to the local post office for a ticket (what a good system that is) a day's car hire and I am in the Ahoy, Rotterdam on 30th October. I can add nothing new to the already detailed reviews that are on the web site other than to say that the CD release of the gig perfectly captures the atmosphere, sound and fun. It really is a superb job. Every time I listen to it I can sense the joy of being there and experiencing a wholly unique concert.

And what a pleasure it was to see Miller Anderson. The last time I saw him was sometime in 1970 or 1971 when he played in the Keef Hartley (Big) Band. I have always loved his singing and guitar playing, but what a pity it was that I wouldn't be able to buy Keef Hartley Band CDs till I got work assignments in Holland and Poland.

Let me here add two observations about attending concerts of 60s and 70s rock bands. Just before Christmas 2001 I treated myself to a 50th birthday present of two tickets to the Yes Symphonic concert in Cardiff, taking my 21-year-old daughter Jenny with me.

1. The audience. This was an extraordinary mixture of people of my age, their children plus what were obviously a new generation of fans. (i.e. age wise they sat between the 50-somethings and their children).

2. The previous time I had seen Yes had been sometime in the 1970s. The music was intense and both band and audience took the music very seriously. Now the music still had the same intensity, but the performance was relaxed and almost light hearted. A band in their prime, thoroughly enjoying the live experience with lots of pleasant bantering with the audience.

Which brings us nicely up to date and Deep Purple at the NEC 2002. Again the incredible mix of audience, and a band in their prime, enjoying playing and the live audience. I had always thought that Speed King and Highway Star were the perfect openers but Fireball is a superb way to start. You know from the start that here's a band that really means it - there is no let-up.

From the stalls, the sound quality was crisp and clear. Highlights included Space Truckin', Speed King, When A Blind Man Cries, and of course my main reason for being there, the last appearance I shall see of Jon Lord as a member of Deep Purple (without taking anything away from Don Airey who is a most appropriate replacement for Jon).

It was good to hear Mary Long again but Child In Time would have been nice. Also, I love both Purpendicular and Abandon, and it would have been great to hear The Aviator, Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming, Seventh Heaven or Fingers To The Bone. Maybe next time. These are small gripes on what was otherwise a wonderful evening.

And as for my son - he's another new fan created. He told me he wants to see them again but only after I've taken him to see Peter Gabriel, Yes and Tangerine Dream. (What immaculate taste this lad has - I wonder where he gets it from?)

Also, we quite liked The Planets. Chris liked the classical references and for me, the music was a throwback to the melting pot of the progressive late 60s that saw all sorts of genre mixtures. Who remember bands like, Third Ear Band, Quintessence and Audience?

But guys, please have pity on the family coming to one of your gigs. As well as multiple tickets, extortionate food and drink from the concessions, it's 10 GBP for a programme and 19 GBP for a t-shirt for the lad. But I shouldn't really complain too much - Chris was so impressed with his t-shirt that it was not til a week later that my wife could prise it from his back for washing (yuk!). He even wore it to his Church Youth Club where it must have raised a few eyebrows.

My final memory from the NEC 2002 was driving back to Bristol at one o'clock in the morning. Deep Purple were blaring from a tape of bits and bobs I had put together for the journey. Chris was snuggling down into his coat and I thought he was asleep. Then he raised his head at the end of one track. 'Is 'Ted The Mechanic' next?' he asked. 'Yes,' I replied. 'Good,' and he snuggled back into his coat.

Love, light and peace

Andrew Summerhayes

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