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Cardiff: Stunning yet unsurprising

The first of my gigs arrived and off to sunny Cardiff nice and early to get in the front row (I’m 50 this year, will I ever grow up? God, I hope not!).

Anyway – got in at the front slightly off centre on Roger’s side and eventually the lights dim and Thin Snake or is it White Lizzy come on stage – with Tommy Aldridge, Marco Mendoza and John Sykes I thought it might be a Whitesnake tribute band, but then I saw Scott Gorham and I suppose that gives them a little more authenticity.

Nothing to greatly impress me, but then I was never a big fan of Thin Lizzy even when Phil was alive. A mercifully short set from my point of view.

Once the equipment was rolled in it was lights down again and Styx took the stage. OK, I apologies to any Styx fan but seriously! I was in front of a demented Joe Pasqaulie(?) look alike with a revolving keyboard – gosh special effects too! There was also someone who looked liked RJ Dio disguised as Billy Connolly – no, on second thoughts he is too short! Adept musicians ’tis true, but leaves me cold, sorry! (I did get a Styx plectrum in the eye, which will see eBay very soon.)

On to the main event – the thrill of seeing the Purps assemble on stage just never dims – this, coupled with the ‘mystery’ of will they, won’t they do Machine Head as per the Classic Rock mailing?

Well an obvious no then, as they open with Pictures of Home. What followed was the same set list as Manchester – and every second was absolutely on the button. Gillan’s voice was spot on all night; Steve Morse just gets better; Don Airey is truly at home and desevedly so and Paice and Glover are the best powerhouse rhythm section on the planet…. bar none!

Highlights? Into the Fire was stunningly worked and a real pleasure to hear. Rapture of the Deep works so well on stage that perhaps they will realise that more Morse era stuff is really appreciated by the fans….. More Morse please!

Smoke on the Water featured a special appearance of Rogers trusty (and recently repaired) Rickenbacker bass – still a great sounding and lovely looking guitar. On a side note, I noticed his Vigier signature basses have luminous fret markers and knob surrounds (yes, I am sad; one day I may actually get a life!).

Lazy and The Battle Rages On were superb – I love the way both Don and Steve take the heart and feeling of the originals and fill them with new life.

The usual encores ensued – how about some different ones guys? (from Bananas or Abandon?) Still, Hush and Black Night are great songs and we all na, na, na’d and whoa, whoa’d in perfect harmony (ish).

Paicey’s one handed drum roll appeared in his very brief solo – I’ve seen him demonstrate this on the DVD with Chad Smith, but still cannot understand how he does it.

Another great night from a band at their peak and, importantly, happy in what they do – smiles all round continues to be a theme of this incarnation and it does filter into their playing and to the audience – long may it continue.

Incidentally, the gig looks like it has been filmed – a single camera was in front and I assume others elsewhere – it’ll be worth it if it comes out to see the front singing Smoke!

The downsides, apart from (or because of) Thin Lizzy and Styx, no time for between song banter and the encore was cut slightly short by some frantic off stage waving meaning they had to wind up when officialdom said so rather than when they (and we) were ready.

So Birmingham next week for the last night of the tour – Cardiff was great, here’s hoping the last night is even better.

Tom Dixon

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