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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

A lifetime experience

It all started for me more than fifteen years ago behind the iron curtain in Bulgaria, when I first heard of Deep Purple. I can’t recall the exact date or place, but I still clearly remember the song. It was Fireball (still one of my all time favorites). Then one by one I started collecting different singles, albums, information about the band, everything I could lay my hands on. Then the inheritance of my father’s private audio collection followed, including two Deep Purple albums (In Rock and Burn). I still remember private house parties, where long discussions about the history and creation of a particular song took place. Nights, entirely dedicated to listening to Deep Purple’s records (mind you my honourable friends that was strictly prohibited by the law at the time as Western Propaganda), where exchange of information about the band’s recent performances was the culmination point of the party. At the time for us Deep Purple was covered in mystery and the only way to keep in touch with the band was to listen to and study their masterpieces over and over again.

It all came together and started making sense for me on Monday, 4th of February, 2002 in the Point Depot, Dublin, Ireland, where I found myself staring at a stage where the idols of an entire generation of people were going to perform. Dublin was wet for the occasion as usual but that wasn’t an obstacle for the hundreds of fans. A definite sell out, Ireland was eagerly awaiting its first encounter with Ian, Jon, Steve, Roger and Ian. So was I, holding tight my only evidence that I was part of this meeting – my priceless ticket. It was a first in more ways than one. It was their first time ever coming to Dublin and it was my first time seeing them live, so it was set to be special.

A band named The Planets carried out the opening act. Their style was a rather pleasant combination of classical music and hard rock motives. Not something that I would have expected but overall did well and the audience responded with enthusiasm to their efforts to entertain us. Suddenly it was over, the lights were on and Scorpions were played (not a very thoughtful choice by the management I thought), followed by some heavy-industrial band, which sang in German (nothing against that, but unusual for the occasion). Anyway, we had a good laugh on their behalf (poor things, they are probably a really good people in real life, but it sounded scary).

And there it was - the moment we were all waiting for. Darkness and out of the darkness came a man disguised as an elderly person pushing a Zimmer frame in front of him, who then jumped on it using it in a skateboard manner. Ian was first, a true entertainer with a grate sense of humour. The rest of the band quickly followed him on stage and didn’t waste much time to jump in with Woman from Tokyo. The place went crazy. The staff managed to keep people in their seats initially, which was only fair to the ones at the back I suppose, but not for long. At the end of Woman Ian spoke for the first time to gratefully thank the audience for all those years of patient waiting (I took that one personally) and to introduce the second song, which was written on a napkin apparently – Ted the Mechanic. I was on the Moon! I always liked that song, but never thought it could make it to the set list and stay there for so many years. After the song Ian told us that Ted was actually a wine merchant but we couldn’t make it rhyme.

It was Mary Long and Lazy next (don’t remember the exact order, because of too much excitement, but suspect Mary Long was first). The sound was perfect and my fears that Ian would not be at his best proved wrong after this stormy beginning. There was a slight misunderstanding for a moment at some point between them (I think it was in the beginning of Lazy), but they laughed it off.

Then came the shock from a pleasant surprise. I don’t think anyone could see it coming, but when Jon started with the intro of Child in Time the audience just went wild. I was staring in stupor not knowing which cloud I was on exactly. Two guys next to us were on their knees, hugging each other, with tears of joy in their eyes and some people were holding lit lighters. It was an unreal, fantastic feeling, which took our breath away. It was an emotional, moving performance of a song, which means a lot to a great band and their fans. It was truly performed with a lot of passion and I have to say Ian sang it brilliantly, fully deserving the two minutes standing ovation that followed. Then Ian went on telling us that this was the first time in ten years since the song was performed live, obviously thrilled by the response from the audience.

A story about Steve came next. Ian told us that Steve is fond of flying aeroplanes and that indeed he himself (Ian) was a frequent flyer in the past…in his dreams. That’s how The Aviator was introduced to us. It is not one of the songs I would be very familiar with really, but they went on singing it with energy and enthusiasm that one could clearly see written on their faces. It was an exiting moment, when on the first chorus all of them went on singing into the mics, except maybe Jon, who I don’t think had one infront of him (I could be wrong though). It was a cool, energetic and very intense performance, which I thought, gave a lovely feeling of togetherness and showed that they really enjoyed themselves.

The rumour was true! There was a new song and it was introduced as Up the Wall. My personal opinion is that the song was very good, typically characteristic of their latest work with a lot of technicalities from a musical point of view, equally representing their talents as instrumentalists. Ian thanked the audience at the end for giving them (the band) a chance to perform it (gentleman as always). It was The Well Dressed Guitar next, which in the beginning was introduced as WD40. Fools, No One Came (another one of my personal favourites) and When a Blind Man Cries came, followed by Perfect Strangers and Smoke on the Water. There was a wonderful mix of drum, base, organ and lead guitar solos in all this, plus a generous and moving dedication of a song to a fan who bought his ticket before Christmas but sadly passed away without having the opportunity to see his favourites live.

The audience stood up immediately after Child in Time and I think that was the last time I saw a member of the staff trying to persuade people to sit in their seats (unsuccessfully of course). We were singing at the top of our voices on Smoke and I personally think Perfect Strangers made a great impact in the second part of the show. The set finished with Speed King and what a powerful finish it was – Deep Purple, the dinosaurs of rock in their full glory. Than they waved goodbye and the theatre exploded with noise of disapproval. I knew what was coming and moved together with my girlfriend right next to the stage. And there they were, back to where they belong – on stage among their fans. I was really pleased to see them sincerely enjoying every minute of it. Ian introduced Hush as always one of our favourites and the audience went Laa la-la laa, La-la laa, La-la laa. Rightly enough the gig finished with Highway Star, which again was an energetic and powerful performance. Very uplifting! This time they said Goodbye for real after thanking us for the great night. Ian crossed his hands on his chest (heart), then pointed his index finger to his forehead (mind) and finally grabbed something else… and we sure got the message – In our hearts, in our minds and in our…souls we will always be together!

In conclusion I would like to say that together with the excellent performance there was an impressive light show, art work and sound engineering involved. The gig went smoothly and professionally, as one would expect from a band of this calibre. It was love from the first sight between the band and the audience and Deep Purple deserved every bit of our appreciation. For me personally it was a dream come true and an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

I would like to thank my precious girlfriend Belinda Gamack for sharing this experience with me and for her support, to my long term friend and devoted Deep Purple fan Martin Georgiev for his true love of music and art and last but not least to Deep Purple for the best night in my life and their inspirational work through the years.

Thank you!

A total of two hours of pure pleasure.

Martin Nicoloff

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