[% META title = 'Deep Purple, Interviews' %]
Deep Purple at Knebworth
By MARK PUTTERFORD
I can't quite imagine that anyone expected the re-grouping of Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice on the same stage to be a disappointment, but with a brain-boggling multitude of bare forearms thrusting rhythmically to a remarkable fresh recollection of the ancient 'Strange Kind of Woman', it all seemed faintly unreal. And when, after a short blues passage, Lord and Blackmore duelled viciously throughout a frighteningly pacey rendition of 'A Gypsy's Kiss', it was distinctly lump in throat time. Twelve years? Sheesh!
With Ian Gillan looking and sounding healthier than he has for years, the epic brilliance of 'Perfect Strangers' revealed some flashing lasers during its haunting middle riff and 'Under The Gun' typified the fresh determination of a band revelling in the electric excitement of a truly momentous occasion.
Blackmore in particular appeared to be enjoying every note; dressed inevitably in black (including black wellington boots!) and with that familiar white strat riding on his slim hips, he stood with left knee twitching in a contentment confirmed with the occasional shake of the barnet, flicking elaborate hand-signals in all directions and blazing up'n'down the frets like only he can.
A nod of Blackmore's machine head and Purple's classic blues romp 'Lazy' unfolded into Ian Paice's drum solo, the stage transformed into a titanic temple of technical excellence, swamped in colour and illuminated by the pumping adrenaline of a long-awaited homecoming. Say what you will, he's still the best r'n'r drummer in the world for my money.
Next up, Lord's eerie keys, Glover's bobbling bass and Paice's punching drums led the crowd into a massive cheer of recognition for 'Knocking At Your Back Door'. And then Rainbow's 'Difficult To Cure' instrumental found Jon Lord amusing himself like a mad professor in his lag during a lengthy, roaming solo. Finally, Ian Paice's wispy hi-hat shuffled into the sprawling 'Space Truckin'' which, as the green pencil-thin lasers bounced off huge mirror balls spraying the thousands with a swirling mass of stars and a blinding array of lights flashed wildly, climaxed with Blackmore's chaotic solo echoing savagely around the vast field like a violent thunderstorm.
After a dazzling deluge of sparks had showered the stage and more or lasers jerked sharply here and there, Purple returned with a 'Woman From Tokyo' and 'Speed King'. Here, Lord and Blackmore stood shoulder to shoulder rifling riffs at each other and splashing about in wild abandon before charging back.
Masses of whizzing fireworks overhead threw light on the orgiastic ocean of bodies and heralded another encore in the shape of 'Black Night', and after what seemed like hours of cheering, the band trooped on yet again to play 'Smoke On The Water', with Blackmore and Glover swooping guitars halfway through. To cap it all, a firework display which made the Battle Of Britain seem like a total non-event mushroomed into the heavy, foreboding blanket of clouds, and hey... I didn't even realise it was raining!
Transcription and HTML by Benjamin Weaver