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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Southend hotting up

At 8.35pm on an otherwise cool and blustery evening by the sea, the atmosphere in the Cliffs End Pavilion at Southend was hotting up. The house lights dimmed and tell-tale torches were to be seen at the back of the stage as silhouettes made their way over the cabling and between the banks of equipment. Deep Purple was in town. I still can’t believe that Purple played Southend! But then many of the venues on this tour are the sort of places you might play on the way up, not when you have had over thirty years at the top and are still mixing it with the best. How refreshing not to have to trek to a stadium and pay the earth for a seat half a mile away to view some pygmies in the distance! Purple are a people’s band; when Ian Gillan tells the audience that their applause is really appreciated and means a lot to the guys in the band, you believe him.

From the off the energy level was high, Gillan strutting barefoot across the stage though Woman From Tokyo only to have to pause after that first number to remove an offending piece of chewing gum from his right foot! I must admit I thought the audience were a little muted to start with during this song, maybe WFT is a bit of an odd set-opener and not as storming as others the band could have chosen, but things soon warmed up with the next song, Ted The Mechanic, Steve Morse’s guitar intro thumping into that great riff with Roger Glover. Gillan informed us afterwards that it wasn’t actually Ted, it was Martin, and he wasn’t actually a mechanic, he was a bartender – “but it didn’t rhyme.”

No One Came is my personal favourite from Fireball and I was hoping that they would play it – and they did. It’s a stomping riff, with great but cynical lyrics about the industry that the guys have chosen. The fear expressed in the song is that no one would come, which Ian Gillan admitted had not come to pass for the Purps. Gillan said that the motivation throughout the bands’ career was always the music, whatever anyone else may have said. So much for the multi-million attraction of the great reunion of 1985?

All the way through the gig the band looked as if they were really enjoying themselves as they ran through a mixture of old favourites and new songs – no more so than during Steve Morse’s intro to Smoke On The Water, with Roger Glover and Ian Paice picking up the beat from the various classic Stones/Hendrix/Skynyrd et al riffs that Morse threw out. He actually started off, to the consternation of most of the audience, with the jangly intro from The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man, in response to Ian Gillan’s expertise with said instrument, but then went into Honky Tonk Woman and on from there. Surely no coincidence that SOTW is preceded by such a list of timeless riffs; a strange homage to Ritchie Blackmore really, but then SOTW is one of the all time air guitarists’ favourites and is in good company with the others that Morse churned out. Seldom have I enjoyed a guitarist’s solo spot more than this one.

Blackmore was a part of this band for so long, it must be hard for anyone to make their own mark, but Steve Morse more than fills RB’s shoes. For this reason I would have preferred some more recent material mixed in with the older stuff, but there you go. So when Ian Gillan announced after Lazy, “this is another Lazy” and Jon Lord struck up the intro to Child In Time, I was looking forward to Morse’s solo. This is the song that first got me into Purple when I heard it back in 1971, I had never heard guitar playing like that before! And Morse’s solo was not disappointing; he started slowly with plenty of harmonics and built it from there, fingers often dancing across the whole width and length of the fretboard sometimes slower, sometimes express train. The frenetic crescendo of 24ths at the end of the solo was the only remaining part of the original as recorded on In Rock, but then that bit’s not so much solo as scripted tune, with Jon Lord expertly echoing the riff on the keyboard. Gillan’s vocals were strong throughout, and although he couldn’t quite get the highest scream it was just fine with Steve Morse helping out and lost nothing.

Jon Lord gave his all during the evening, perched behind the keyboards; you could see he was physically getting warmer and warmer as the night went on, and his playing was pretty hot too, but the stars for me were Roger Glover and Ian Paice – a more powerful rhythm section is hard to imagine, shifting seamlessly from the out and out rock that is Smoke On The Water to the more subtle touch required for The Aviator and When A Blind Man Cries.

This was actually the first time I have seen Deep Purple since Wembley Arena in 1976 – which I didn’t realise at the time was a band only a few gigs away from implosion, and sounded like it. That band of the same name but of distant memory couldn’t hold a candle to what I saw on Monday night; the current Purple is a band that knows what it wants to do, knows how to do it, and really just wants to have a good time and enjoy itself in the process. And we all had a good time too, no doubt about that.

Jonathan Stokes

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