[ d e e p P u r . p l e ) The Highway Star

Deep Purple Manchester M.E.N. Arena 18th October 1998

After a slightly shaky start with "Ted the Mechanic", Deep Purple quickly reached top form as they performed "Strange Kind of Woman" as well as I have ever seen.
As the show continued, it was evident that the band were all playing particularly well, although Ian Gillan seemed to have some sort of problem with his voice. However, this was certainly not like in earlier years as for most of the show, any difficulties were well disguised. "Watching the Sky" was for me, the highlight of the show. I consider this to be perhaps the best song they have recorded since Perfect Strangers, and possibly since "Woman from Tokyo" also performed brilliantly. Even as "Fingers to the Bone" was performed, which I don't think worked well at the Birmingham show, was superb.

I have never seen any Rock Band other than Purple who seem to create so much light and shade in their music, and it appears that they are now able to provide a much greater consistency of quality than when I have seen them before. There is just as much improvisation as ever, and although they played an almost the same songs as at Birmingham (with the exception of "Any Fule Kno That" which was played earlier tonight, and the addition of "Black Night" in the encore), the solos and jamming were completely different.

The U.K. tour is now over , and I just hope that we don't have to wait too long before the next one.
I consider myself very fortunate to have seen Deep Purple with every line-up except with Joe Satriani since they reformed in 1984. My first experience of Deep Purple was hearing the Machine Head album during 1975, and before long, I realised that this was a very special band. Unfortunately, by the time that I was old enough to start going to concerts, Deep Purple had split up and although I had never liked Mk3 or Mk4 line-ups as much as Mk2, this was a bitter disappointment to me. However, 1977 was a superb year for me, having seen Paice Ashton Lord in march, Ian Gillan Band in May and October, and Rainbow in the November.

IGB had been a little disappointing the first time I had seen them other than a superb display of Ian's personality and stage presence. The October show was a vast improvement, and from that point on, I became a loyal Gillan fan.

Rainbow put on a very good show, one of only two times that I have seen Ritchie truly at his best.

Whitesnake were also a favourite between 1980 and 81 although I was not keen on the way they sounded after the departure of Ian Paice and Neil Murray, until the release of the 1987 album.

I was hugely disappointed after the breakup of Gillan, which had always been a great live band regularly touring Britain, and rarely failing to impress, and I was horrified with the Ian's performance with Black Sabbath at the Reading festival in 1983. It came as a huge relief to hear that Purple had reformed, and that the Perfect Strangers album turned out the way it did, even though to me it sounded like Purple had just become another incarnation of Rainbow.

The Knebworth show was very enjoyable, but it wasn't until I heard the recording of the show on Radio One, a week or so later, that I realised just how good a show it had been.

Two years later, The House of Blue Light was released, and although it contains many songs that I like, most notably The Unwritten Law, there was too much that I didn't like about that album for it to be one of my favourites. However, I saw Purple four times on that tour and each show was superb.

After Ian Gillan's departure, I saw Ian with Garth Rocket and the Moonshiners in a small club in Birmingham, and this was a brilliant show, giving us a chance to hear many of the old Gillan songs performed once again.

In the mean time Deep Purple released Slaves and Masters, which I know the band do not consider to be a "real" Purple album, but I must confess that in my humble opinion, it was a whole lot better that The House of Blue Light. I was hugely disappointed when I saw them perform on that tour, Joe Lynn Turner, who had greatly impressed me with his performance on Rainbow's last tour seemed to be completely out of his depth, and the only member of the band who impressed me that night was Ritchie Blackmore, who turned in the best performance I had seen from him since Rainbow in 1977. Why did he never do that with Ian in the band?

After this, Gillan released the Toolbox album, which to this day remains one of my favourites, and he did a tour of smaller UK venues. I saw two of them, the first at Worcester which was one of the best gigs I have ever seen, the energy of this band was incredible, and that drummer, I rate him second only to Ian Paice.
I saw them again, a couple of weeks later at Walsall, and the show could not have been more different. This time, it just did not happen. I have never before or since heard Ian's voice so dreadfully out of tune with the rest of the band, and if I had not seen the Worcester show, I would probably thought that his career was over.

1993 saw Gillan back with Deep Purple and the release of The Battle Rages On, which was by far the best album that Purple had recorded since Perfect Strangers, possibly the best since Machine Head. I looked forward to the show at the N.E.C. which was totally ruined by Ritchie Blackmore who appeared to be trying to destroy the band. I was in the standing area close to Ritchie's amps, and I was unable to hear much else of what was going on that night, and I really thought that that would be the last that the world heard of Deep Purple. What a disastrous end to the career of one of rock's greatest bands!
I have since obtained a copy of the video of that show, and I was very pleased to see that although there was obviously a great amount of tension in the band at that time, everybody else was doing an excellent job, and at times, even Blackmore played really well.

Three years later, I somehow found out that Deep Purple were once again touring.
I immediately ran out and got my ticket for the Birmingham show, and although there was no point me trying to get Purpendicular at that time, I was getting divorced at the time and my CD player was the subject of a custody battle, I decided to drive to Leicester one wet Sunday afternoon hoping to get a ticket for that show even though I had been told that it had sold out. I was lucky enough to meet Jon Lord who told me that there would be a few tickets held back at the box office, and invited me to the after show party. The show was a real eye opener. This was Deep Purple as they should have been right from 1984, and it had taken the departure of Ritchie Blackmore to produce it. Steve Morse is a great guitarist, but far more importantly than his own ability, he has managed to get the rest of the band preforming at its best. The following night, the show at Birmingham was just as good, drawing on a lot of material from the new album, along with many unexpected songs from earlier times. It was wonderful to hear such songs as Fireball, No One Came, Pictures of Home, Maybe I'm a Leo and also for the first time a proper version of Woman from Tokyo which had always been cut down previously. Deep Purple were back, firing on all cylinders.

1998, Abandon is yet another brilliant album, and I saw the show at Birmingham three days ago. Looking back, the choice of material for that show seemed to be lacking a little of the imagination used for the Purpendicular tour, but the performance was superb, and the quality of sound, not usually too good at the N.E.C. was, well I can't find words to describe it. The clarity was even better than on recordings helping to make it a night I am unlikely to ever forget.
The only thing I really do not understand is why the radio advertisements were using Black Night and Smoke on the Water in the background. Surely this was a missed opportunity to let the world know that Deep Purple are alive and well in 1998 and not just out on a 1970's nostalgia trip.

Paul Carpenter

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