Finally managing to defeat the one way system, we stumble upon the venue, another new-ish, utilitarian shed, though seemingly more well thought out than many on the UK circuit these days. Arriving at just after 8.30pm, we hook up with Michael Richards, Steve Cole and Nigel Young and we ponder the lack of Styx who should have been on at 8. Backline is up and everything ready but no band. Finally, at around 8.55pm, they take the stage and perform a mere 15 minutes due to failure of their in-ear monitor system (Steve Morse later informed us). As I’m not a fan of their transatlantic sonic porridge, I’m hoping for more technical issues for them.
Sadly, this means Purple are later in taking the stage but, when they do, they storm it. 4 rows back and directly in front of the PA on Steve’s side, the thundering drum intro flays my uncontrollably vibrating testicles in a peculiar but not altogether unpleasant fashion. (On a connected note, those previously bothered by the unfettered and somewhat pendulous swinging of Mr Gillan’s undercarriage will be pleased to note he is more adequately contained in a snug fitting pair of jeans).
“Pictures Of Home” kicks off as expected with a very powerful performance from Ian and a couple of fluffed notes elsewhere. Steve’s solo is again different here than usual, he seems to be stretching out in certain areas, sticking to the set sections in others-Nice to hear more variety in his playing.
“Things I Never Said” has more balls than a marble enthusiasts convention from our sonic viewpoint, driven along through to “Into The Fire” and then straight into “Strange Kind Of Woman” without a pause for applause or comment, presumably due to time restrictions enforced by Shytx’s technical issues. Gillan’s screams on “Into The Fire” are more bellowing than we’d been hearing last year, much more, um, believable, for want of a better description. Things are really cooking by the time the solo wades in and this continues into a belting “Strange Kind Of Woman”.
“Rapture Of The Deep” swaggers by in style and “Fireball” is next up, a frantic run through seeing Gillan arching his back and standing on tiptoes to help him hit those high screams, which he does with some style.
Steve’s solo spot doesn’t quite seem to come off for him tonight, again it sounds (to me) that something in his delay isn’t quite right for him-I can’t imagine the pressure of having to belt through everything atbreakneck speed to get everything crammed in can help but, by “Well Dressed Guitar”, he is back firing on all four cylinders and the crowd responds rapturously (excuse me for that) to his playing.
Juxtaposed to WDG is “When A Blind Man Cries”, reducing the whole crowd to stunned silence as the mournful swell of keyboard and volume controlled guitar violining gives way to a towering vocal performance. Again, Steve manages to pull a blindingly emotive solo out of the hat before the mood and tempo raise again with another extended intro to “Lazy”. As the track kicks in and recognition dawns on those who hadn’t already twigged, a cheer goes up and hips start swinging as Don sets about his organ in the most acceptable sense of the term whilst grinning continually.
It’s about this point that I’m starting to run out of superlatives for the set. “The Battle Rages On” is tight, the staccato riffing so controlled and precise with a reigned in power and majesty that fits so neatly alongside some of the “Rapture…” material it’s a real shame that there aren’t more new songs for it to rub it’s shoulders with.
Onto “the home straight” of classic classics and, again “Highway Star” (complete with Robin Hood guitar in the intro from Steve) melds into “Space Truckin'” and “Smoke On The Water” to weaken whatever resistance there is in the crowd.
Encores “Hush” and “Black Night” are done fast, furious and straight-No bass solo intro to “Black Night”, nor extended guitar work (I prefer it like this to be honest) as the band over-run slightly. At a grand a minute to overrun, it’s no surprise they have their heads down for the finish line.
Another great performance, slightly rushed but it isn’t their fault tonight. I have no criticisms, very enjoyable. Roll on Cardiff……..
review: Martin Ashberry, photos: Michael Richards & Ian Prentice
UK tour reviews