Jurahalle, Neumarkt, Oberpfalz, 18 June
Ok, so what happened to the band when they crossed the Alps?
Before going down to Neumarkt to see the boys we read through the concert reviews from Italy and points South. Despite our initial disappointment with the Abandon CD the concert reviews suggested all was well with Purple - "tighter" "better than ever" etc etc. ......this proved not to be the case in Neumarkt and, in case you think this was just a bad night, have a look at the Schwarzwaldhalle reviews as well.
The concert was held in the Jurahalle on the outskirts of Neumarkt. Despite being better known as a location for sports events the venue was well organised (even to having a stage for people in wheelchairs - great idea) and the sound system was well able to cope with the cavenous hall. The same could not be said for either the support band or DP.
The support was "Rage" a noisy, unmusical heavy band trying to do something different by adding in a string quartet. The string quartet were good, but unfortunately one could not hear them over the awful "singing" of the base player and the incompetence of the two guitarists. My advice: the band (with the exception of the drummer who is excellent) should keep their day jobs and the string players should distance themselves from Rage as soon as possible. The low point of the night was the attempt to play "Paint it Black" which we all know and love from the early and exciting DP days. (For that matter check out the Episode Six version on the BBC Sessions CD -it is excellent). Rage's version, by contrast, was ponderously slow with the melody submerged in a Metallica-style bass riff. Ugh!
The DP crew performed well! As usual they cleared the stage of Rage and had the band on in under 30 minutes. Well done boys!
What hasn't changed from Italy is the Purple are playing as tightly together as I have ever heard them.
But I think the tightness has been achieved at a cost of spontaneity, even compared to the European tour of 1996. (Ok, so that tour I saw them in Grenoble which was reputably one of the best gigs on that tour, but I also saw the Nurnberg gig where the band was as good but the audience was dead. And LATO is really great.)
But in Neumarkt, there was no sense of surprise. We knew what was coming because we had the set list from Italy and, with the exception of the full performance of Lazy, there was only one other surprise: Jon played the wrong Intro to Perfect Strangers, stopped and said "just testing". Best chuckle of the night!
Some old standards were performed without lustre: Woman form Tokyo, Strange Kind of Woman. Even Smoke was pedestrian! And short! What is going on guys? Where are the spontaneous extra solos? Where are the long instrumental breaks (or does Ian no longer need time under the piano?)? Where is the tension that came from not knowing who was going to pull a fast one next? Even the hand-signals between the band members are slow and obvious these days!
And to make it worse, there were five tracks from the new album which is just too much. Especially since they lack distinctive riffs or tunes and only slow down the pace of the show. Dump the current album and put back in stuff from Purpendicular (e.g. Rosa's Cantina) which has loads of great tunes, or even "Battle" from which Anya could be resurrected.
If that wasn't enough, there were the technical problems. - - Roger's bass kept going out of tune. Not unusual in this sort of hall, but why did it take him four songs to realise it and fix it?
- We couldn't see Paicey during his solo because of the flashing lights. For God's sake tie up the guy on the lighting desk during the drum solo and let us watch the master at work.
And now the one you have all been waiting for...
Despite all of these comments, we did enjoy the concert. It was just all a little disappointing, because we know DP can do better. A lot better! We certainly hope to see a great improvement when they get to Bayreuth in September.
I guess that blows my chance of a backstage pass!