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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Extra spring in the step

I have not been looking in lately to avoid seeing any reviews/set lists prior to the gig, so anyone who doesn't want to know what they are likely to hear, stop reading right here.

There was a time, with a different banjo player, when there was a certain friction within this band. Sometimes it pushed its assorted elements to new heights of virtuosity. Other times it became simply self-destructive. These days going to a Deep Purple gig is closer to going down the pub with your mates than being front row in a war of attrition. Though only, of course, if the mates you drink with happen to be the polished maestros at their various disciplines that these five are.

Ian Paice came 'home' (OK he hasn't lived in Nottingham since God was a boy but technically it is his home town) and when the other Ian eventually points this out late in the gig, the current, less truculent, banjo player can't resist a few bars of the old Robin Hood TV series theme. Much mirth ensues between the various members and it's this kind of moment that differentiates what goes on now at a DP show to what once happened. If the band is seen by at least one of its members as a family, it certainly doesn't come across as a dysfunctional one. But what of the songs I hear you ask.

Well, anyone who might have travelled the world with these guys for the last few years maybe wouldn't have heard much new. But look at it from the perspective that most of the crowd tonight would probably have not seen the band since at least the Abandon tour some four or so years back and it was a pretty different set list.

For instance Abandon was, well, abandoned. The other lost child of the relatively recent back-catalogue, The House Of Blue Light, was left out in the cold again too. Indeed, only the title track from Perfect Strangers remains in the live routine from those reunion years. There were just a couple from Morse's Purpendicular debut, the almost inevitable Ted early in the show to get a groove going in the band (no surprises so far, except the mike packing up as Ian was about to get in to the 'rapping' bit of Ted, no problem, the band did an extra fill as the offending mike was swapped ), but later we got The Aviator which I'd never heard them do and it slotted in very nicely as a more reflective piece among the rock'n'roll bravado.

We got another two that haven't been committed to disc yet at all. Steve got to do an extended work-out with his Well Dressed Guitar, basically a Morse work-out with pseudo-classical undertones (wonder how The Planets would have managed that one? Simple, they wouldn't), and later we heard Up The Wall. Not a major departure from the modern DP sound - a sort of cross between Abandon and The Battle Rages On era material. I'd really need to give it more listens to make a thorough appraisal of this one.

The rest of the set was a mix of the well known and more obscure of the early 70s years. From In Rock we had that "evergreen ballad" Speed King, but maybe more interestingly Child In Time returned to the fold after nearly ten years absence. This might appear folly given the vocal difficulties it represents and the main reason it disappeared from the set in the first place. But when the bare-footed, grey-haired Gillan is in the mood and gets that look in his eye there is really no holding him back. Did he hit the notes? Is the Pope… Well, you get the drift. At this point in their careers this was little short of astonishing to witness. What are these guys on and is it available on prescription?

From Fireball there were cracking versions of No One Came and Fools (Jon takes on the cello part but Steve gets a good run at the tune in his own inimitable style too). The Machine Head era still forms the bedrock of the set even these days with Lazy, Highway Star, When A Blind Man Cries and the 'Dang Dang Song' all neatly fitting into the set at just the right points to bring back particular points of reference for those who maybe aren't too clued in to post-70's Purple.

Even the much underrated Who Do We Think We Are album had a couple of representatives: Woman From Tokyo as a show opener (not my personal fave but it went down well on the night) and the less well known Mary Long, also early in the set. This was nice to hear but given the choice I might have preferred something like Smooth Dancer - maybe one day…

Throw in a couple of non-album hits like Hush and Black Night and the usual tour de force solo expeditions for the likes of Morse, Paice and Lord (all long enough to get interesting but not so long as to outstay their welcome) and there you have it - the old boys on the money and in the zone and any other daft cliches you might care to come up with to describe a band having a damned good time and drawing an audience in to it with them. It was on the whole a definite oldies night but they were all just having such a good time together it was impossible not be carried along with the atmosphere.

Hell, this was only the third night of the tour, if they get any tighter than this later on something's gonna snap… Practically a full house went home with a big smile and that extra spring in the step that only certain gigs give the ageing bones. Nice one boys...

Kevin Bailey

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