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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Going for croak

How often do you get a chance to experience a brand new Purple song in concert before hearing it on CD? Although live tapes of the new song Up The Wall were circulating soon after its first airing on the tour, I had decided to supress the urge to check it out. This was an exciting and not to be missed opportunity to hear something fresh and unknown at a Purple show - and it did not disappoint.

Up The Wall was one of the definite highlights in London - and not only for its novelty value. Early reports of the song being Abandon- ish in style proved correct, and there was so much to take in. Whilst it was possibly a little unfair to judge the lyrics and the melody on Ian Gillan's off-night, instrumentally the multi-sectioned song is true Morse-era Purple. Intricate rhythms and a quieter middle section with plenty of soloing. Steve took a slightly off- the-wall jazzy approach and the smile on my face reached all the way round to my ears. A goodie.

Back-tracking to the beginning of the show and the sound is crystal clear as Steve Morse takes his solo in Ted The Mechanic down quiet and Jon Lord zooms in with delicate snatches of 'wauw' up and down the keys of the Hammond. As Steve replies with similar noises you're forgiven for thinking this is one of those magical nights Deep Purple are best known for. But it isn't.

Ian Gillan is croaking his way through a filmed show which will turn out to be the finale of a UK tour that is prematurely curtailed backstage that same evening. Ian is barely able to speak between songs, his singing is very rough (if there at all) and he is carefully avoiding any high notes.

After three weeks of blistering shows up and down Britain, this is Deep Purple's return to London's Hammersmith Odeon (don't let them tell you it's now called the London Apollo) for two consecutive nights. The reviews for the earlier shows were steaming with new-found enthusiasm when many 1970s fans, who hadn't seen the band for years, found their scepticism instantly dispelled by the band's infectious joy, Ian Gillan's witty between-song nonsense and the sheer musical skill displayed onstage.

Tonight in London the band tries to cover for Ian's missing abilities, and there's plenty of joyful playing around. One of Ian's spiels about how everyone in the band is prolifically coming up with new ideas is interrupted by Jon Lord intimating the Laurel and Hardy theme! And as far as Jon goes, this is definitely one of those nights. His playing is more inspired and certainly more to the fore than it has been for years, with a never-ending stream of delicious snatches added at every turn. It gives me such a wonderful and warm feeling to experience the man perform to these high standards again. Long will he reign over that Hammond.

At the beginning of the tour Child In Time was resurrected after a seven-year absence, but Ian's voice problems sadly forced it back out of the set. When A Blind Man Cries also sent early reviewers raving, but was dropped for the same reasons Child In Time had to go. In their place we are treated to an extended version of Black Night which must rate as one of the worst trade-offs ever. Surely there are other more suitable and more exciting songs in the repetoire. One heckler's continued pleas for Flight Of The Rat fell on deaf ears all evening. Roger Glover had confirmed it being rehearsed before the tour but not working out. If only...

Gillan explains he can never quite get the title of the next song right – it's called Fuels. What follows is a terrifyingly good version of Fools, complete with emotive atmospheric opening, imaginative drumming throughout, and a solid guitar solo after Jon has excelled with his interpretation of the socalled cello section. As it builds from the quiet middle section, Paicey's magnificient drumming and Steve's ditto soloing continuously intensifies, while Jon keeps the background on the boil and Roger holds everything together as solidly as always. A true gem and one of Purple's greater moments.

The next song offers even more grandour. Perfect Strangers never sounded this good. Shame about the vocals though. Steve's playing is so powerful on this song as he manages to restrain from too much widdly-fiddling.

Silliness ensues as Gillan introduces the one we've all been waiting for – the conga solo! He serves up some quiet finger tapping on the skins and Jon quips how it gets better and better every night, before Steve takes over and leads everyone into a prolonged riffarama introduction to Smoke On The Water. Among other classics it includes a rousing snippet of Voodo Chile, but when he finally breaks into Smoke he actually fluffs the greatest riff of all times.

The oriental Glaswegian fishing song (a.k.a.Speed King!) is taken as per usual with plenty of soloing from the whole band. Roger puts in an unusually long and very inspired solo which includes the bass break from Pictures Of Home. Paicey's bit is hypnotic as he sets his limbs to stun and thunders all around the kit. After plenty of delicate bits, rolling bits and funky bits, he finishes off with what has now become his trademark one-handed snaredrum roll. Spell binding.

After the customary break before the encores the band returns and Gillan announces a very special occasion: "It is exactly 100 years since we recorded this song…" Hush is taken at a leisurely pace with Jon filling out the gaps with meaty Hammond work and a nifty solo, while Ian struggles to keep the lyrics on track - "Hush, hush" sounds suspiciously like "Harsh, harsh…"

As Highway Star crashes to the ground in a gorgeous melting pot of controlled mayhem thoughts circle around the set list. The show featured a wide selection of the usual hits and the more obscure songs of which some fans will never get enough. But the complete lack of newer recorded material is critical. Abandon is a competent album with a lot of excellent material, all of which now seems to have been relegated to the history books. Shame. However, it speaks volumes of the band's abilities that they could probably play anything and - save for Ian's voice - would still pull off a blinder like tonight.

The set:
Woman From Tokyo
Ted The Mechanic
Mary Long
No One Came
The Aviator
The Well Dressed Guitar
Up The Wall
Black Night
Perfect Strangers
Conga solo
Riffarama (including Won't Get Fooled Again, Sweet Home Alabama, Voodoo Chile, Here
Comes The Sun, Stairway To Heaven, and more)
Smoke On The Water
Speed King
Highway Star

Rasmus Heide

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