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Wembley Arena, London, England
June 21, 2003

by Alan Savill

Wembley Arena.........Londons finest entertainment venue....or so it said on the signposts. It's hard to distinguish between the arena and the stadium seeing as one is a chaotic looking building site and the other is the partly finished new football stadium. This venue is famous for high food costs abysmal sound and over zealous security until today, read on.

On one of the hottest days of the year we set off early so we could grab a McDonalds before hand as my lottery ticket wasn't a winner so I couldn't afford Wembley catering. We got there to see no long queues and a welcome sign saying cameras are allowed in the venue if you weren't a budding David Bailey, much to the annoyance of my 14 year old son Ian who had been told to leave his in the car. How many times are children right ? hardly ever but I put my hands up to that one. Lets hope more groups allow this to happen.

Once inside there were fans wearing the colours of both Skynyrd and Purple with T shirts ranging from the 70's to the latter day tours ,we all braved the toilets, (how do we manage it with fingers pinching our noses ?) and then settled down to see The Darkness. We were lucky to be 14 rows from the front in a perfect position which made it all the more exciting for Ian and my step daughter Stacey who are still pretty much concert virgins. I say that because Nickleback (in Ians case) and the same plus Blue and Steps (in Staceys case ) do not really count as concerts in the no more than one song style or even miming variety are not gigs in my eyes. So at least there wouldn't be any screaming girls crying at the merest "Hello Wembley ,or wait a minute out tape loop's broken" here. Anyway I digress.

The Darkness............I was confused was that Bon Scott or Rod Stewart up there. The band have a natural showman in their front man. He had a weird singing style like Geddy Lee on helium one minute and ...............well I can't describe it to be honest. For a band playing to a half full arena they gave it there all. My eyebrows raised higher than Labours taxation when the main man came back on in a leopard skin cut down lycra suit pure class. We had guitar playing behind the head Paul Stanley style leaps and hand stands. Well done chaps a great start. Oh and the sound wasn't too bad either. The crowd really enjoyed it watch for the name ,you read it here first.

After a short interval the stage was ready for Skynryd. My brother John arrived back to the seats with four bottles of water ,and a much lighter wallet and the lights went down. The stage ,looking great with a white grand piano in one corner raised up high was soon full of some brilliant musicians. They looked really happy to be there and the crowd went nuts from the off. Again the sound was great. The highlights were Gimme Three Steps, Sweet Home Alabama ,a new song possibly called Red White and Blue ? and off course the mighty Freebird played as an encore. The security allowed both youngsters to stand on the seats and they were really into it from the off too ,despite not knowing anything from a back catalogue over twice their age. They must come back soon ,let's get a Southern Boogie gig organised with LS ,Molly Hatchett ,Blackfoot and lets party. The crowd had some great characters I felt like an extra in a John Wayne movie. Cowboy hats ,tassled leathers and Custer style long white beards. I thought that purple would have to pull something out of the bag to top this one.

Rather than the normal stage growing bigger as the time arrives for the headliners everything came forward. Paice to the left with a great looking silver kit and Morse to the right ,Airey in the middle and Glover to the left. Mr Gillan everywhere as normal. The lights went down and on they came in a laid back sort of way. Highway Star....we were off. A great solo from Steve (although nothing beats Ritchie on Made In Japan) and into Mary Long. The band looked really happy with smiles both at us and each other. I even saw Roger G. move over the stage to join Steve for a little choreographed head shaking. We had Mary Long next and it was obvious that Ian's voice was on top form. I thought that the atmosphere went a little flat over the next few songs (the set list hasn't changed so I won't type it out again). A new song described as a ballad "Haunted" sounded really good with some great guitaring from Steve.

Speed King was awesome as normal as was Lazy and at least I didn't have to explain what Ian was on about, I can see it now "Dad what's a morning surprise ?" Perfect Strangers fitted in easily with the older stuff and the crowd were lapping it all up. I felt as if the band were so glad to be playing over here again and gave it there all. I cant say it was a welcome home gig as that wouldn't be fair to the American contingent. Speaking of which he really is a brilliant guitar player who makes it look all too easy. His soloing is modern but fits in with the Purple sound. He doesn't ever try and do note for note renditions of old solos which is a credit to him and the way the band trust him. Talking of solos it was good to hear Don Aireys and it wasn't too long so the crowd didn't sit down for too long. There was no drum solo however Mr Paice gets stronger and stronger. His drum sound was 110% and what more can you say. I tend to drum along (ish) using the backs of the seats in front as my snare tom toms and cymbals. Today I have swollen digits from too much banging.............which could lead my back to Ians comments on Lazy best I move on !

The start of Smoke was missed by my wife Wendy and Stacey scuttling off to the toilets ,again gas masks in hand and it was a good version. Steves playing at the start including AC/DC is terrific. They returned for the middle bit ,talk about their timing but when you've gotta go you've gotta go !

I must mention that the security were allowing the crowd to walk to the front for pictures and not really worrying if people were doing a sneaky move to the front. Thanks to you all you were really professional.

Anyway Space Truckin was as good as I've ever heard it, I won't mention Hush as I don't like it too much. Maybe a newer song would have been better ,I reckon The Spanish Archer would be a great crowd pleaser. Black Night finished the night off perfectly. It was a close thing but I think Purple won on a split decision over Skynyrd so well done chaps.

The two youngsters loved every minute of it they stayed on their feet clapping away punching the air ,singing out when they could. It's great to see new converts into real rock music and long may it continue. They both want to see Purple again so come back soon. There have been comments about the length of time Purple were on but I think it was right considering how much they put into their performance.

And so it was time to go home covered in sweat and so happy. To think that these tickets were nearly five times cheaper than the same seats for the Rolling Stones and I think it shows we had value for money, a great sound and 10,000 elated punters. Cheers to all of you.

So back to the car parked a little walk away to avoid £10 for parking and my wife promised to drive at least some of the way home. After Cheshunt I had snores coming from the back and left of me and so I drove home in silence with Black Night still ringing in my ears.

Anyway I must go now, I'm off to buy some Indian style smock shirts and white trousers ,I've got the tambourine and in the right light I could be IG's younger brother..............all I need is the dance moves and the best voice in rock.

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Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing (with apologies to Ani)
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