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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

It doesn't get any finer

I write this on the morning after the night before... After some slight confusion over the pre-gig drinking arrangements, we ended up in the bar of the Apollo Theatre, where a nice man in a mask and carrying a flintlock pistol relieved me of a huge amount of cash in exchange for a can of luke-warm beer. Remind me not to drink there again!

The Planets had nearly finished their set so, sorry, I can’t really pass comment but, onto the main event. The band wandered onto the stage with no fanfare or razzamatazz and Mr Paice started that familiar drum intro – the sound engineer should be complimented on the superb sound quality of Ian’s kit. My chest still hurts from the force of the bass drum.

If anything, the band seemed to take a little while to get into gear during Woman From Tokyo but with previous reports that Jon had a heavy cold and with Ian G suffering with what seemed to be several frogs in his throat this might have been expected.

It didn’t take long, though, for things to get into full swing. The young boy in the audience in front of me with his mum and dad popped in his ear protectors and Ted (or Martin the Wine Merchant) followed next. I am amazed at how far Steve Morse can span across the neck of his guitar. Jon appears to be using a B3 Hammond these days but as a keyboard player myself, I could only stand in amazement at the sounds he got out of it.

The set list was pretty much as previously reported, Mary Long sounding as fresh now as it ever did. Lazy still gives me goose bumps, despite Ian G trying to sing over Jon’s solo spot (you’d think he knew how it went after all these years). Fools was a revelation, with great use of echo for vocal effect, and when the main thrust of the song kicked in after the quiet intro, even the most hardcore of thrash metal bands could not have generated so much power.

Jon had to sit down for the intro to Child In Time but the introduction was superb and yes, Ian Gillan can sing. For those of you on the discussion forum who doubted it, he did hit the notes. OK, he used some echo effect to pad things out and Steve backed him up with some high pitched guitar squeals, but it was positively spine tingling!

I’m not sure about the inclusion of the new number Up The Wall. If it’s representative of the new material, the new album will obviously carry from where Abandon left off, but it seemed to be a little disjointed. Perhaps it’s because it’s not familiar or they’ll fine-tune it when it’s finally recorded.

It was the first time I’d heard Well Dressed Guitar and its classical leanings are obvious. Without a doubt this should feature on the new album.

Jon’s solo was a little short for my liking but, as I know to my own cost, continually coming up with new ideas for solos is difficult, but the intro to Perfect Strangers slotted nicely into it and the song is becoming (or has become) a classic.

No One Came and When A Blind Man Cries have always been favourites of mine, the latter featuring a tasteful solo from Jon. Oh, how we’ll miss him if these rumours of his retirement are true. [The sweetest man on organ... Rasmus]

Steve’s intro to *that* song was as varied as ever – Jimmy Page would be jealous if he had heard it. I suppose it is expected that they play this song and I am impressed that, after 30 years of playing it, they still manage to make it sound fresh and genuinely seem to enjoy playing it. I couldn’t see Richie running around the stage grinning in the way Steve does.

The Chinese Cowboy Song as Gillan introduced Speed King was, as to be expected, tremendous. The keyboard-guitar duel between Steve and Jon seems to get faster and faster. A short bass solo from Roger, proves what an underestimated performer he is. Always there, providing both power and subtlety. This led into a thunderous solo from Ian Paice. Without question the finest rock drummer playing today. (A word to the wise though Ian, lose the hairpiece, it doesn’t do you any favours and, with a talent like that who cares?)

The rest of the band returned to the stage for the traditional post Speed King high jinks, Peggy Sue turned into a rather lewd little ditty, followed by It’s Now Or Never, High School Hop and featured Ian Gillan 'surfing' onto the stage on a trolley, with suitable accompaniment from the rest of the band. His interchange with Steve was hilarious.

After a standing ovation, the band returned for a rousing rendition of a song “first performed a 100 years ago” - Hush, with another excellent solo from Jon, and a brilliant Highway Star closed the show.

Despite Ian Gillan's obvious throat problems, his voice held up throughout and I doubt there is a finer rock band playing today. Deep Purple provides an abject lesson in how to put on a show that was both technically superb and a whole lot of fun for both the band and the audience.

After over 30 years, still the consummate performers. If you listen to rock music, miss this band at your peril!

Craig Henshall

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