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

Deep Purple, Birmingham 16th October

Well I finally got to see the band live last night in Birmingham, and they were fantastic. I felt that the crowd took a while to warm up but the band played well despite it.

The opening act, Orphic Soop, were surprisingly good - they had a keyboard player who had obviously learned a trick or two from Jon Lord, though he was quite low in the mix and didn't take any solos. Vocals were strong. Drums were loud; bass wasn't. The guitarist was remarkable only in his ability to adopt impossibly low postures while playing, quite often being close to curled up on a ball. All in all though a good opening act. They closed saying, "Thanks to Deep Purple for letting us share a stage with them. Goodnight. Enjoy the Fireball...".

During the interval we were played some of Brian May's Back to the Light, AC/DC's Back in Black and Santana III. And some stuff I didn't recognise. And then...

The Setlist

Ted the Mechanic
Strange Kind Of Woman
 This is a song that's been new twice. First on Abandon, and then later on In Rock. It's about the management.
 That was the French version. It's called Bloodsuckeur. This one's about Marmots and furry animals.
Pictures of Home
 This is something I'm aspiring to. Roger makes some of stage comment. That was a joke? Nearly a joke. This one's called Almost Human
Almost Human
 This one's interesting. We all know about Tokyo. It's just there. We not so sure about the woman...
Woman From Tokyo
 If your beside yourself you have to be careful. Don't get too far away because you leave a insurmountable chasm. And if you do that there's only one thing to do. Get some warm water, some soap and just sit there Washing the Sky. Oh... wait - I think that was meant to say Watching The Sky.
Washing the Sky
 This one's for anyone who works hard. It's about how you get those people who fall on you and they don't hurt themselves, they just hurt you.
Fingers to the Bone
 Sort of like a working man's eulogy. The sort of thing you see on plaques in the center of cities. Course it depends on the city. If you're on the right city at the right time what's the last thing...
Any Fule Kno That
Steve Morse Solo Including Fanfare For the Common Man and ending in Cascades solo
Smoke on the Water
Jon Lord Solo
 This one's from the middle ages.
Perfect Strangers
 This one I used to sing as a lullaby. Laughter off mic. OK, well it's an Irish, French, Chinese sort of lullaby... my daughter's older now so I guess it's more of a wake up call.
Speed King


Seventh Heaven
Highway Star

The real high points for me were Steve's Solo and Speed King. The rest was all good but they were two pieces with real life and in Speed King there was some brilliant dueling between Steve and Jon and between Steve and Ian Gillan. Jon is incredible when he mimics a line by Steve and a great showman. With Gillan it was Steve doing the mimicing. At one point he was poking at Gillan to change the sound of his voice. Can't really describe it but they were having a lot of fun.

The new stuff was good though FTTB could have done with Steve leaving the heavy work to Jon and doing the accoustic bit on a softer sound. The piano solo was perfect though. Bludsucker featured some staggering Gillan screams - how can he do that night after night?.

Other than the awesome Speed King, Pictures of Home was the best of the old numbers, but they all came off pretty well with Steve, though Highway Star and SOTW were very squeaky.

The Band

First of all, anyone who hates Steve Morse squeaking was in for a bad night. Anyone who likes it or can overlook it was in for a real treat - the guy is brilliant.

It's hard to say whether Ian Gillan was on form or not having never seen him live before. He was certainly way better than on the CHOHW video, and I thought he was fantastic. Some of the screaming was brilliant and even though he seemed to be troubled by a cough he always timed it to be between two lines - a true pro ;)

Jon Lord was, of course, excellent - if a little overshadowed by Steve. There was some really good lead work in Almost Human and very nice piano in the middle of Fingers to the Bone.

Roger Glover was in fine form too, and actually took a longer solo at one point in addition to his moment in Pictures of Home.

Ian Paice sounded good. I couldn't tell anything else because he was hidden behind a pile of speakers from where I was seated. The drums thundered throughout the evening and the first snare beat of FTTB after the piano solo was an almighty crack which unfortunately wasn't repeated. Fantastic though. And a good, if short, drum solo.

The band in general looked like they were having a great time. Steve kept getting excited and leaping on to Jon's platform and was generally a real live wire throughout the evening, shaking hands with both Jon and Ian during their duels and really showing why Deep Purple are so glad to have him on board.

All in all an excellent gig. I'd have like to have got my copy of Purpendicular autographed (Abandon is too black to have autographs) but couldn't work out where the band were likely to be. Now I just wish I was going to be in Manchester tonight...

Ben Bell

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