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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Paicey at home in Nottingham

How does this band do it? Every time I see them they get better and they always seem to leave you wondering how good can Deep Purple possibly get? The gig in Nottingham took place in the Royal Concert Hall, a nice n' cosy all-seated venue with a capacity of 2200 people. The seats we were in were facing the stage so I had a pretty good view of the proceedings, which in fact were absorbing to say the least! The gig was sold out days before, which could only be a good omen.

Anyway, The Planets kicked off at 19:30 and to these ears, despite some positive reports from the Dublin and Grimsby gigs they sounded bland, boring, directionless and pretentious. It has to be said that the girls in the group were fairly easy on the eye and some of them were competent musicians (such as the violin player) but all in all they were - as most of the support groups I've seen - a waste of time and ill-matched to the main attraction. The tracks they played were a pastiche of classical pieces, mostly rocked up, which ranged from cod-classical to mildly interesting and their own material which was definitely inferior to that and not worth bothering about in my humble opinion. The guitarist was particularly sloppy on the electric but handled himself very nicely with an acoustic flamenco which was I suppose the highlight of their set. On another note, the Orange Juice Song(!) from Days May Come, Days May Go (or Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto as it is properly called!) also seemed to strike a chord with this particular listener.

Purple took the stage with Woman From Tokyo and from that ever-familiar Paice-rhythm on the drums there was no turning back. Looking back, the opener was a bit more lukewarm than the songs that followed, probably due to the fact that it was only the first song but it felt so good to see them there in front of us again it more than made up for it. Gillan, barefoot complete with a black sweatshirt and black baggy trousers (which were replaced for the Royal Albert Hall outfit later on) sounded amazing, nailing all the screams with an apparent ease. It also took me by surprise the fact that there was no lyric sheet on stage, every other time I've seen him he seems to go back to it occasionally (for Fools or whatever) but not tonight.

Ted The Mechanic was next and it was one of the highlights of the evening for me. I didn't like it when I first listened to it on Purpendicular but it seems to have taken a life of its own live, with the guitar solo being its best selling point, some amazing playing by Steve underpinned by Paice and Glover sounding tighter than tight. Can you get any better rhythm sections these days? The middle quiet section was slightly longer than usual with Morse and Lord trading a couple of licks and Ian waving his hand as if trying to tell them "keep on playing, it sounds great". I love this band! The song was introduced as a true story that happened to Ian in Vermont during the recording of Perfect Strangers.

Next one to follow was Mary Long, again with another long introduction by Ian about the people the song was written about. "Wherever they are now I can tell you they are not laughing!" But we were! Again brilliantly executed, another highlight, from the great Morse solo to the nice echoing psychedelic ending with Gillan chanting Mary Long over and over again. In fact they could have done with making the ending a little bit longer, it sounded so great and it'd be nicer to avoid the abrupt ending they finished it with.

Jon kicked off Lazy with his usual shit-hot Hammond intro and at that point I realised that his sound was very different from the previous Mk 7 shows I've seen. Much louder and aggressive and no longer swamped by Morse's distorted guitar. The song was again executed to great effect and the crowd seemed to love it. Truth is I was waiting for the next track too impatiently to enjoy this one properly!

Child In Time. What can one say about this song? I've never seen Deep Purple play this one live and when I heard they were doing it on this tour I was a bit worried as it can easily turn into a parody of itself as it indeed did many times during the reunion years. Tonight it was, vocally at least, awesome. The usual intro, Ian's emotive delivery leading up to the screams which were to my surprise delivered to perfection! The guy even hit the high A a couple of times (though he just reverted to dropping an octave after that because he obviously couldn't do it for too long)!! Stunning! During the screams he was assisted by Steve Morse on the guitar which again showed the band spirit currently in Purple. I have to say however that the Morse solo was a bit of a let-down. After Jon's turn he did some very fast but not particularly effective licks culminating in the usual fast phrase that finishes the solo section. Not bad at all but it's such a quintessential Blackmore song that I don't think anyone else can do it justice. I've heard some previous versions with Morse playing this one in 1995 and also Satriani's versions and they were both off in my opinion. I ended up listening to Paice's amazing drumming during the solo so I suppose it wasn't all bad! The song finished with the usual In Rock way; mayhem and white noise and very exciting it was too as they seemed to do it another way during the 90s (where it lead straight into Anya). Despite my niggles about the guitar solo, Child In Time was the highlight of the night for this lad here.

No One Came followed suit and what with its funky rhythm working great in a live situation the song went down very well with the crowd. Both solos were awesome and the final Morse bit with the strobolights and Gillan dancing and throwing the mike stand about is always a treat to see. This one was introduced with Ian namedropping bands like Zeppelin, Sabbath, T-Rex, Free etc. and saying that they all had their fears about making it in the music business. "No One Came… but not tonight!"

From this point and onwards the order of the songs got a bit hazy but I believe it was The Aviator's turn next. Again, a lengthy introduction by Ian (just the way we like it!) and a nice version of the track with backing vocals from Roger and Steve, the only song from the night that had that actually. I like the song but it seemed a bit out of place put next to the other ones and to be honest I'd prefer just about any track off Purpendicular instead of this one. How about Hey Cisco or Rosa's Cantina next time boys?

"The next song was written by Steve while we were playing the last one! It is called….errr…it is called.. actually, what is it called Steve?". Why it's the Well Dressed Guitar! I have to admit calling this one a Purple track is not valid for me as it's obviously a track that would sit much more nicely in a Steve Morse solo record. Also, it works much better with an orchestra as I saw them play it in Vienna last year and it sounded better for it for me. The rest of the crowd didn't seem to be particularly excited about its inclusion to the set either. Maybe it'd be best to replace it with another classic or another proper new song like the one that followed.
This is the third time I've seen them play Fools and if pushed I'd probably pick the one on the Concerto tour as the best one. However this doesn't take anything away from the fact that it's a great song and a great addition to the setlist. Tonight, Jon's solo (which usually is THAT Ritchie volume swell guitar melody) was a bit different than usual, somewhat more extended plus he toyed about with it as well, changing bits of it. The echo on Gillan's voice when he sung "I" was used again as I remembered it from last time, which adds to the eerie feel of the song. Paice's drumming was, as indeed throughout the whole evening, amazing. My overall feeling is that the song is evolving live and the more they keep on playing it the better it will sound.

Up The Wall. "This song is NOT about a pissing contest!" How can you describe this? I liked a lot the verse and the quiet bridge which occurs twice in the song, very promising indeed, but the chorus resembled a second-rate Gillan track. Great solo by Steve however. Lyrically it is about a woman that drives Gillan up the wall. Good for you Ian! We'll see how it turns out on record. Having said that, Abandon had some songs which were much more worse than this one.

A short piano solo from Jon and it is Perfect Strangers next. The massive roar of approval from the crowd shows in the best possible way how this one is regarded as an all-time Purple classic. In fact the only song that got a better applause than this one was Smoke On The Water. The highlight of the Mk 7 version of this tune is for me the great whammy-bar divebomb effects Steve employs which enhance the song no end. Also, despite the fact that gone are the lasers and impressive lighting of the 80s, the well-known "turn-the-spotlight-on-the-people" tricks during the "a thousand warriors I have known" line are not to be left out. Topped off with a great, if a bit shortish, Lord solo this song never fails to raise the hair on the back of my neck on a live context.

When A Blind Man Cries follows with the usual arrangement. Barber's Adagio, Steve's volume swell solo, first solo by Jon and then second by Steve. I have to say that during the first verse Steve started playing this fast syncopated blues riff which didn't suit the reflective style of the song at all; he used to do a much more sparse rhythm guitar part which I liked much more. Also, his solos on this one seem to get faster and faster every year, again not suiting the track at all. Maybe he should go back and listen to the original for some lessons of understated guitar playing. Still, Jon's solo was heart-stoppingly-good, prompting a "nice one Jon!" remark from Gillan.

Smoke On The Water was played after the usual riff medley Steve does and to be honest these days I seem to enjoy that much more than the actual song! It was also fun to see Gillan jumping about and hitting his congas even during that bit, the man obviously enjoys his job so much! Voodoo Chile, Little Wing, Sweet Home Alabama,Whole Lotta Love and other classics were played, most, if not all, of them with Roger and Paice joining in and Steve stopping them with hand-signals when it was time to move on to another one. The song was… well it was Smoke! The crowd loves it and everyone seems to know it so it seems unfair for some people to say it should be excluded from the setlist when it offers enjoyment to everyone but the hardcore Purple nutters.

Speed King concluded the main set. "This is the slowest ballad we've ever written", according to Ian and when Steve started playing a slow melody on the guitar the reply came back; "Even slower than that!" Jon then started to play a mournful riff on his organ and they hammered on to the song. However not before some drunken wag decided to shout "Ritchie!" at them. Don't ask me why! It is moments like these that make Purple enjoyable these days, all the silly and fun bits and the improvisation, which never happened with Ritchie (much as I love the guy's work all we got for the last few reunion years were long faces!). The song was again the usual Speed King we can expect from Mk 7, fantastic interplay between Jon and Steve, bass solo, drums solo which brings the house down from Ian and some vocals/guitar interplay to finish it all off. I thought the last bit (Ian vs Steve) was a bit weaker than most versions for some reason but it still was great overall. At one point during the jam Ian left only to come back and start talking in Roger's ear with Roger getting fed up and showing the crowd to Gillan as if to say "there's a crowd out there, don't talk to me!". Gillan's frightened facial expression as he turned round and saw us was priceless!

There were three encores done with Black Night (not sure if it was this one or Hush first actually) kicking things off. I was surprised they played it as they left it out for the two previous gigs of this tour. It was dedicated to Ian Paice seeing that he was born in Nottingham. A great version of the song which again went down very well but in my case the song is very similar to Smoke's case; overplayed over the years.

Hush was awesome. They totally rammed all over it and Jon's solo was amazing (I am running out of superlatives but still!). At one point during that he started playing this rock n' roll riff which I can't quite remember where it is from now and the band joined him for a few bars with Jon counting them back out, all this without them missing a beat and still sounding tighter than an asshole (pardom the French!)! Stunning stuff! As I said before it's thing like these that make Deep Purple such a fantastic band, the musical rapport and improvisation abilities are second to none!

Highway Star finished the gig with the expected frantic pace it has. Not much to say about this one apart from that it was a great ending to a great concert. I wish I could do some more gigs on the UK tour but my schedule doesn't permit it. For the people however that are still thinking about it I say this; you'll be very lucky to find a rock band that's better than this one live! The technical proficiency, the band feeling, the classic songs, the perfect improvisation abilities, the humour, they all combine to make Deep Purple Mk 7 a band to be proud of. Well done lads. We've all heard the rumors about Jon's leaving and I have to say that from what I saw onstage it is very unlikely to see him going that soon; he joked when the spotlight centred on him just before Lazy, he jokingly told Gillan off when they were playing this silly bit with Glover (prompting a "oh bugger off!" from Ian when Jon left the stage!) and most importantly of all he played great with an amazing rough-yet-crystal-clear Hammond sound. We'll see what the future holds for Purple. Whatever it is, it can't take away from them the fact that, at least in Nottingham, they played a concert which many people will remember for years to come.

Christos Gatzidis

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