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Man, did we have a ball …

… as we watched Deep Purple live in Toulouse, on December 3rd, 2009

Deep Purple’s appearance in Toulouse might have been THE gig of this French tour. As French Deep Purple ‘aficionados’ tell, it was among the best they’ve seen in recent years, but this year for sure.

As for me, I must admit I hesitate, for the november 14th gig at London Hammersmith Odeon, well, Apollo, was just as good, although different.

I have told the story of my personal reunion as a frenchman with Deep Purple after 16 concertless and 20 gillanless years on another page of this site (see review of Angoulême and Bordeaux shows in 2007), and as for me, the 2009 tour is a highlight of my career as a music fan …. it’s as simple as that. London and Toulouse were both great. Yes: great ! Grand ! « Inoubliable » (unforgettable), as we say down here.

Let me write past Hammersmith Apollo, for there are already some reviews of UK gigs above, and let’s go right to southwestern France. « Le Zénith » is a large modern hall just outside town, it can hold around 9000 people at full throttle, but parts of the seats were hull down on thursday, so, let me guess, the attendance could have been around 5000, maybe 6000. The crowd was quite interesting, for it was very mixed, ages 14-74 (a couple of teenies went really wild, stepping on my poor toes during Space Truckin’).

The show started as usual during the fall tour, with all-time favourite opener Highway Star.

Yeah, they’re old. Yeah, Gillan gets in trouble on the song. But the song is brilliant (you knew that before I told you, did’nt you), and Big Ian is doing fine tonight, and solves high-pitched problems quite well. And once he relaxes on the following songs, he grows even bigger, climaxing on Wasted Sunsets, the Perfect (Stranger’s) surprise on this tour. Another great idea is to shuffle song nr.3 from gig to gig, although chance would set it to « Maybe I’m a Leo » once again for me, which I don’t mind at all, because I dig the riff and the singing and the mood.

Things went on, really well, and I must say that all band members were simply excellent. Talk has been that Paicey was looking « bored » on this tour. Nothing of that in Toulouse. Airey was in a great shape (although I have trouble with his solo spot, but that’s a minor problem), Steve absolutely reliable AND creative, and (as a Blackmore fan) I must say: Ritchie’s’s not in … and that’s not a problem, it’s just another gorgeous chapter. Did I forget Roger Glover ? Is there any doubt about his excellency ? (my personal bass fave)

As in Angoulême 2 years ago, ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ was an excellent surprise, because the song bores me on « tape » … and lifts me up as a stage anthem. They played on with the now internet-known setlist, Rapture, Fireball (where I think Gillan has trouble to overshout the rock’n’roll-wall of screaming instruments). And the Steve-Morse-part was really brilliant also. I get into his guitar playing more and more, although it’s never gonna be as atmospheric as Ritchie’s.

But the best was yet to come. After the (once again, excellent) beginning, the Toulouse fans were gifted with setlist changes that turned out to be setlist gifts: while only one tune disappeared in comparison with the Odeon (erh Apollo) gig (talking of excellent « Wring that neck »), three appeared, two of them NOW, and those were the beginning of the gorgeous: Knocking at … was a good surprise; Lazy was absolutely overwhelming, and reminded me of the already very good Bordeaux version of march 2007, but … better.

‘No one came’: Band tight.Gillan perfect.

The final tracks (see setlist below) were very dull … well no, that’s not true, only the tracklist was, because when you hear’em, really let them whip your ears, you get it: DP lives. But let me be true: Space Truckin was average as Ian Gillan had trouble. His voice problems now got clear. Until that point, he had been moving, impressive, almost perfect. On ST, he grew uneasy.

This got a bit worse on the first encore. Smoke had finished the show without any doubt about anyone. The first couple of verses of Speed King were allright, and I could’nt have been more pleased to hearthis classic track live; the r’n’r medley in its middle showed Gillan is a gift to r’n’r gods. But the 3rd verse was … Well, Ian just doesn’t catch the high pitched ones anymore, so this was a pain, and although I can’t read lips, his attitude and lip movement suggested, clearly: « I can ‘t sing anymore ». Ian Gillan, in trouble for real, now.

Useless to say he finished the show WITHOUT any problems. ‘Hush’ and ‘Black Night’ are in his vocal range.BUT Ian has to think about what type of songs he can sing on a tour, night after night. No one can blame him for missing the high one on the third chorus of « Wasted Sunsets » (which he did in London and Toulouse); who will blame him for singing this chorus just like the others ? And although Space T and Speed K are delightful songs, let’s think about the opportunity of … Should I say more ? Gillan is not an athlete, he’s an artist, let’s leave him be an artist, and, please, Ian, don’t try to sing in 2009 like you did in 1969.

But Yes: Gillan is still Gillan, and I was infinitely honoured of hearing his great voice once again, maybe for the last time, who knows.

But above all: Deep Purple is alive, more, much more, than it was 20 years ago.

Stéphane Dethloff


Highway Star
Things I never said
Maybe I’m a Leo
Strange Kind of Woman
Wasted Sunsets
Rapture of the Deep
Contact Lost/Steve Morse solo
Sometimes I feel like screaming
Well dressed Guitar
Knocking at your Backdoor
No one came
Don Airey solo/The Battle rages on
Space Truckin’
Smoke on the Water

Speed King with r’n’r medley
Hush / short bass solo, short drum solo
Black Night

25 Comments to “Man, did we have a ball …”:

  1. 1
    George says:

    I listened to the whole radio broadcast from Bologna and got to say, GILLAN WAS PERFECT at that night.
    He may sing well on the show, then on the other show he may won’t be able to sing at all, but at the yet another show he may destroy speakers with his outstanding screams…
    Dear reviewer, excellent screaming means excellent screaming, while excellent SINGING means excellent SINGING!!!
    Tha fact Gillan can’t sing Child In Time or Space Trucking anymore doesn’t mean his voice is bad at that days.
    Listen to Bologna live, he screams like a crazy and his voice so deep and passionate during Wasted Sunsets. He does a GREAT job during R’A’R medley, he sings Speed King brilliantly, quite better than he did during 1993 tour.
    So, do me no wrong… Gillan is as GREAT singer as he always used to be. he just can’t scream like he did in the 70’s… but high-pitched screaming is NOT the only reason why we consider him to be the GREAT SINGER…

  2. 2
    Roberto says:

    totally agree….listen to the bologna speed king version…

  3. 3
    Tracy Heyder (aka Zero the Hero) says:

    Great point George. Exactly what I have been advocating all along. The constant Nay Sayers who only single out the very small percentage of the songs Gillan has a problem with (mainly the super high level screams) and ignore the majority of the vocals from the songs he belts out should read and learn from your entry here…


  4. 4
    Crimson Ghost says:


    Ian worked it out alright in Bologna, but you exaggerate about the ‘depth’ factor, many times throughout the show he was very thin and out of key, I just think the band helped hide it with their massively energetic performance. Admit it, he was far from ‘perfect’ but still worked it out overall. There is a significant difference.

  5. 5
    Stéphane says:

    Dear George,

    I agree with your comments, but I think you didn’t exactly get the point about my review. I talked about objective problems on that particular night, and I NEVER wrote or even suggested IG was a bad singer. In fact, he’s my absolute favourite, so let me put it straight if this wasn’t clear: Ian Gillan was FANTASTIC in London and in Toulouse AND he has problems with the high ones on some of the songs (especially in Toulouse).

  6. 6
    George says:


    Ok, that’s another point.
    Highway Star and Space Trucking – here’re the two songs which require extremely high-pitched screaming and Gillan has difficulties on it… BUT let’s forgive those 2 songs while 65yrs old man sings another 18 songs brilliantly and the band gives us 2 HOURS OF REAL ROCK CONCERT!

    I’d only dream if I was even alive when I become 65, hehe…

  7. 7
    George says:

    Crimson Ghost,

    If we don’t mention those 2 songs HS and ST, on the current Italian tour Gillan sang 10 times better than he used to sing in the late 80’s (check out HOBL tour footages on youtube) and early 90’s (check out TBRO Tour footages).
    I repeat: NOT TO MENTION HS and ST…

    What about brilliant singing, please listen to the Wasted Sunsets from Bologna again 🙂

  8. 8
    George says:

    ah, and listen to Rapture Of The Deep from Bologna of course

  9. 9
    Purplefan says:

    Well give the man a break. He is 64 and still singing in a hardrock band. Ofcourse he can’t sing as he did in the 70’s Shit man that’s 40 years ago. Who can do the stuff from 40 years ago? For me he is still the man with the greatest voice.

    Every time I hear you sing
    It’s my heart that takes a swing
    Your songs give me so much joy
    Lyrics and music are of the best alloy

    The voice that makes me cry
    The voice that makes me shy
    I know that many people beg to differ
    But it’s your voice that makes me shiver


  10. 10
    Woodruff P. Hoppinstopp says:

    Ian puts a lot into his shows. He sings hard the band plays on fast and loud. A Boston review said Ian belts it out like a horny teenager. I am surprised he has a voice the next show. Dont worry I think Roger knows the words just in case.

  11. 11
    Crazy Horst says:

    Another debate about Gillan’s voice?
    AHH, let me join!!!

    Just checked some of the Bologna broadcast – nothing really new for me there.
    In some songs, he’s surprisingly good (Wasted Sunsets, TBRO), in others (Fireball, ROTD) the familiar problems appear: he sounds thin and creaky in places or just misses the cue.
    The overall impression is still fairly good under conditions of constant touring and a live concert and I must admit that it is rather a pain to look at him struggling than to listen to what he actually delivers.
    A am just talking about his singing here – his high pitched screams may be his trademark, but I find them dispensable in most of the songs.

    I have the feeling that his occasional problems are not in the first place voice problems – his voice as such (what is left of it) is kept in pretty good shape these days (in contrast to many recordings of the 80s where he was often hoarse, ill or had no voice at all) – it’s rather a problem of running out of air halfway through a song. You can often hear that he sings the verses after a solo, when he had a chance to catch his breath, better than the second verse. He can still deliver the extremely high bridge in “Perfect Strangers” (I am the echo of your past etc.) , but when he has to sing an agressive song like “Fireball” which requires a fairly high pitch for a quite long time, he often struggles.
    The Bologna concert shows him having trouble with the verses in “Mary Long” but the ad-libbing in the end, where can just let his voice float along without too much pressure, is just great.
    I think the fact that they play many songs slower than in the past can also be interpreted as an attempt to adapt to Ian’s breathing problems (40 years of smoking taking their toll) .

    That said it is something of a miracle that he is still going – nothing to be expected by the rate his voice deteriorated in the 80s.

    The way I see it:
    By the time they recorded “Perfect Strangers” he may have had about 90 % left of what he had in 1972 (cf “Highway Stars” from Australia 1984).
    In the following years he ruined much of that. He had to sing songs way out of his range night after night (Gypsy’s Kiss, Hard Lovin Woman) and his offstage behaviour certainly wasn’t helpful either. Many live recordings of that period are just atrocious (cf “Hungary Days” 1987, OMG!!)
    After leaving Purple he seems to have recovered a fair bit until the 1993 reunion – the shows I know from the tour (Stuttgart, Birmingham, Stockholm) are all quite good.
    He seems to have reached another peak – maybe about 75% of 1972 – in the mid Nineties. He sounds quite good on LATO, excellent in Montreux 96 and the show in Fort Lauderdale (“Purple Sunshine” 1995) must be one of his best performances post 1984.
    The downward path must have set in with the Abandon tour – when I saw them in February 1998 he was in top form, but the recordings I know from the months to follow (Total Abandon, Concerto, Made in Japan 2000, Montreux 2000)present Ian in various degrees of struggling, and his voice is definitely worse than Mid Nineties.
    Since then he seems to have found ways to sing in a less consuming way and despite his aging maintain a certain level above sheer mediocrity – including the occasional highlight and the occasional lowpoint (Montreux 2006). Overall I would say he has still got 60% left of his Made In Japan days, and that truly IS amazing, because even that percentag still places him in the Champions League.

    But we mustn’t fool ourselves. Every year, every tour will take its toll on Ian, he won’t get better, that’s for sure and the tour after the next album may well be the last hurrah.

  12. 12
    Tracy Heyder (aka Zero the Hero) says:

    #11 Crazy Horst:

    Great way to put it regarding Mr. Gillan. Though I’d have to differ with your percentage numbers….I’d rate him at least 10% higher than you did. Since he has ALWAYS had a varying degree of trouble with consistency, even back in the 70’s, I’d say that just goes with the territory of making your name by pushing the envelope to the major extreme, thereby putting the critics in a perfect position to criticize when you don’t quite hit the high mark of your better days. Had he given any thought at the beginning about the slight possibility that he would still be in Purple 40 years later on, he probably would have planned for the long haul and minimized the screaming and centered more on singing with his natural voice. Now it is too late, due to the fact that he Hard Cores only grade him on the extremes and not the overall. He has a wonderful voice and Many Purple songs don’t require the SCREAMING. So, I say, pull from the songs that can be sung well and bang them out. Do a new album with songs sung in his range and bang them out. They and He still have plenty of Umpff and should be credited, not criticized.


  13. 13
    james jay says:

    @12–correct. IG has a nice voice and does not have to scream to prove he “still has it.” 40 years of that abuse on the vocal cords is enough. we don’t expect 40 yr old sports figures to preform like they are 20-somethings–why would we expect a 60 yr old plus singer to hit notes and shatter glass. thanks.

  14. 14
    T says:

    Re: #13

    Excellent analogy. Gillan may not be throwing 100 mph fast balls, but he still can toss the heat.

    Re: #11, #12

    More excellent observations. Great analysis, guys.

  15. 15
    Morten Overgaard says:

    @ 12: Tracy, as often, you hit it spot on!
    It’s all about choosing the right material. I would be more happy hearing interesting new stuff in concert – played well, instead of hearing Space Trucking again for God knows which time – not sung all that well.

    All in all: IG we love you – wouldn’t want ANYbody else in your place!!!! But take a good look at yourself and decide which sungs are for singable at your age…….. 🙂

  16. 16
    Crazy Horst says:

    @12 Trazero

    Nice lingo: Pushing the envelope…
    I don’t think Ian did that too much in the Mark II a era. I used to be a rnr singer when I was young. As a low baritone I could sing most of the stuff of the classic records, some with problems, but it was possible (I didn’t have to go on tour with them after all). For Ian’s range those songs must have been quite comfortable (apart from the screaming bits that is).
    The MK II b songs however, were often completely out of my reach which would mean they were at the upper end of Ian’s range, something which is very hard to maintain on a night after night basis. Obviously there was a feeling in the reunion Purple to prove that despite their age they could still cut it – and as extremely high pitched vocals were the fashion of the day, the competition with the younger bands had to be met in the vocal department as well.

    One mustn’t forget either that in the early Purple days Ian usually sang between 7 and 9 songs per concert (with lots of breathing space in between), which is much less strain on the voicebox than belting out 14, 16 or 20 numbers every night which became inevitable when the long soloing came out of fashion.

  17. 17
    Sami says:

    hhmmm, retirement is an option as well…quit while your

    way behind, they say…just kidding, keep on rocking &

    let’s drink some more 🙂 Cheers

  18. 18
    GillanisedGer,Assen,Netherlands,age 52 says:

    # 10,11,12,13,14,15,16 :
    Reading all the positive, respectful comments regarding big Ian here there were a few teardrops in my eyes : I’ve seen DP 6 times the last 4 years and EVERYTIME Ian hits my heart, fullfills me with much emotion en positive vibrations !
    The man is still unique ! Still a great singer (64 years young !!), a great performer, always giving all he’s got, never giving up, a great personality and a very friendly, nice guy. His voice ? Listen to ‘One eye to Morocco’ and you’ll find out he’s still the best. And indeed, DP should adjust the choice of wich songs to perform and I hope the coming songwriting to the capabilities of Ian’s voice nowadays ! When they do, I’m sure that Ian will be able to float into our hearts and move our souls for many, many years. Let we all dp-fans try to spread this hope all over the planet ! I’m sure you can’t tell Ian what to do, hahaha, but I’m convinced he listens to all the fans. So let’s go fans, give it a big hit ! I close this comment with this one-liner : GREAT RESPECT FOR YOU IAN AS THE BEST ROCKSINGER AND STAY WITH US AND REACH OUR HEARTS FOR A LONG TIME, OUR SOUL AND HEART WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU !

    Cheers and bottoms up to you all
    ( Ger, Assen, Netherlands, maybe the greatest Ian Gillan-fan in the universe 😉 ) (gillanrocks.com)

  19. 19
    Sami says:


    Absolutely right!!

  20. 20
    GillanisedGer,Assen,Netherlands,age 52 says:

    Thanks Sami @19

    Cheers !!

  21. 21
    Colin says:

    I think it was Pete Townsend who put it best regarding live gigs over studio work – “give me a bum note and a bead of sweat any day!”

    Sure Ian is not the same singer he was 20 years ago. But can you tell me what musician has THE hardest role to hold and measure up to over a very extended period? The rock singer – that’s who.

    Ian’s voice has CHANGED, NOT deteriorated and I for one will still go and see him any day, any time, any where I can afford to simply because IG and the rest of the band are SIMPLY THE BEST.

    I’ll ignore the slightly missed notes because when I look at the whole package it is COMPLETE.

    Cheers all.

  22. 22
    Rascal says:

    Gillan aint the same he was 20 years ago…

    And from what I hear that ex-purple guitarist aint the same he was 20 years ago…….

    Hands up who hasnt changed in the last 20 years…



  23. 23
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Hi Mister Rascal

    My health certainly got worse but in general I m the same.

    Ofcourse a lot happened, insights improved, got deeper or changed…….
    The CORE is the same

    RB ofcourse changed outwards although I think he did a lot to slow that down.
    I dont think he s a lesser player at all.

    He spits the old fashioned fire while doing a fart……


    I meant to say ofcourse he is still able to deliver if he WANTED to.

    In the meantime we have to tolerate a lot of nonsense and patiently(….)and eagerly await the magic moments inbetween…..

  24. 24
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Btw, regarding Mister Gillans abilities.

    Listening to Bologna is can safely say he still has the strenght to come back with a vengeance…..

    But the TOTAL SUM still saddens because he s working with the wrong man…….

    Bring back together MK 2 and they will still blow your socks off, Im sure…..

    Now, what about that petition to change that stubborns man mind?

  25. 25
    roscolamco says:

    I haven’t seen DP since 2001 but am eagerly waiting for their return to Australia in April!!

    Ian Gillan… pure genius!! His solo album, One Eye To Morocco is a vocal work of art.

    There has never been a singer who has such creativity and variety.

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