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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Still raining in Oxford

Just been going through the reviews and figured I ought to offer my take. Lynyrd Skynyrd's much missed vocalist Ronnie Van Zandt used to tread the boards barefoot. When asked why he did this, he is alleged to have replied that he just loved to feel the stage burn. Tonight in Oxford, Ian Gillan trod the boards barefoot. And Deep Purple were on blistering form.

From the opener Woman From Tokyo through to main set closer Speed King, it was clear that here was a band just having fun. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of them before they came on stage, laughing, joking, and shaking hands all round. This was not going to be just another day at the office.

Much of the set was drawn from the classic Mk2 period and yes, many of the hackneyed old cliches were included. Lazy, Smoke (with its fun prequel, the so-called Riff-Raff - spot the riffs, tonight Led Zep, the Kinks, the Beatles amongst others) and the previously mentioned pair, but what was surprising was that the last studio release didn't get a look-in. Two tracks came from the first Morse-era CD - Ted The Mechanic and a fine version of The Aviator (the latter not often seen live) and Perfect Strangers from the first reunion LP of the same name.

The rest of the set comprised the also-rans - Fools, No One Came (from Fireball) and Mary Long (from Who Do We Think We Are) and was climaxed by a long overdue returm of Child In Time. A particularly moving When A Blind Man Cries closed out the retrospective romp through the back catalogue, and it is particularly nice to see this track, never before seen on a formal studio release.

Two other numbers also along on the night, a new track Up The Wall which is slated for the next record (although whether it will survive in this form remains to be seen. It certainly sounds like vintage Purple and, on this single showing, the next CD is going to be huge. The second number is Steve Morses piece written during the recent Concerto tour; revised from day to day, The Well-Dressed Guitar is a true guitar tour-de-force with an orchestra (as witnessed on the Ahoy CD) and with keyboards alone as seen tonight.

Purple encored with Hush (taken from the first LP - when was the last time you saw a similarly aged band play something that old?) and Highway Star. Two hours had passed, yet it seemed like only two minutes. Plenty of admiration on-stage for one another, loads of smiles - it might have been just another gig, another town, but this was most definitely not another day at the office. Mind you, Gillan did comment that it had been something like 20 years since they'd last played Oxford, "and it's still raining...."

Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of the gig was the fact that for the majority of the gig, folk stayed sitting. My last gig at the Apollo was Tull, so I wasn't overly surprised - and I was fortunate enough to have the back row and spent most of the night sat on an upturned seat, just marvelling. Given the demographics of the audience I was not surprised that a lot of folk stayed sat down. Gillan commented early on the vibes being sent down so maybe everyone figured that being sat was good. [Those vibes are always good. ;^) Rasmus] I think that, at the end of the day, this was an event, rather than just another gig. The sort of thing you have to sit back and savour - know what I mean?

Oh, and the support Planets were OK but methinks Mike 'Womble' Batts latest project is leaning a little too heavily on the obvious sex appeal of the four girls. Musically accomplished (check the bios) but it's all been done before. Remember Rondo Veneziano anyone? Classics with a trendy beat, I might get the CD...

Full set list:
Woman From Tokyo
Ted The Mechanic
Mary Long
Child In Time
No One Came
The Aviator
The Well Dressed Guitar
Up The wall
Perfect Strangers
When A Blind Man Cries
Smoke On The Water
Speed King

Highway Star

Dennis Bird

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