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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  


By Dave Simpson

Before nu metal, there was old metal, and before that, Deep Purple. They have been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest band of all time. Even in their heyday, their craggy faces carved in stone on Deep Purple In Rock would terrify small children. The current band is virtually Deep Purple In Embalming Fluid: It is the classic 1970s line-up, excepting Ritchie Blackmore, who has taken to playing medieval sonnets while dressed up as a wizard.

Deep Purple are one of hard rock's few surviving dinosaurs. In spirit they have never left the 1970s: Ian Gillan's shirts should not be worn in public, Jon Lord's indulgent keyboard solos conjure up images of Stonehenge, and some of the guitar parts never seem to end. There is something distasteful about a bunch of middle-aged rich men playing hard rock, but the passion they put into it declares they need this stuff.

Shorn of his four-foot locks, Gillan is still a phenomenal, Daltrey-esque frontman, hard and opinionated with a glass-shattering voice. The Roger Glover-Ian Paice rhythm section makes a rumble like machines breaking rocks in quarries. In their late 50s, with modern amps that go up to 11, they are even louder and, well, scarier. The set spans the rock of ages, with blistering classics (Speed King, Hush, Highway Star) and even obscure b-sides, including the gorgeous When A Blind Man Cries. The latter is dedicated by Gillan to "Fools who think we're a heavy metal band"; More comically, the behemoth rounds upon a heckler, bending down to slap him playfully across the face.

There are several embarrassments, not least Well-Dressed Guitar, which threatens to induce Morris dancing. But equally, there are moments of sublime arrogance that underline why they once ruled the world. A chuckling Paice plays a drum solo with one hand behind his back. And 'new boy' (of a mere eight years) Steve Morse demonstrates that Deep Purple boast the all-time great dunderheaded riff when he plays the intro to Smoke On The Water. It's probably as unhealthy for them as it is for the old and nu metal fans watching, but only an act of parliament can stop Deep Purple rocking till they drop.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
Thanks to Garry Smith

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