Wow. What more can I say? Deep Purple's show at Sheffield last night was just marvellous. As hasbeen (quite rightly) stated elsewhere, Ian Gillan is singing incredibly well - having seen him numerous times over thelast 25 years, I can categorically state that in all that time he's never sounded better than he does at the moment.
Don seems to have captured the keyboard sound which Jon Lord described finding on the making of Machine Head DVD - the aggressive Hammond-wired-directly-into-an-amp effect that hits you right in the face. Steve Morse was as amazing as ever, cleverly managing to weave a fragment of the Child In Time solo into his Pictures of Home guitar work and playing a great jam with Paicey and Rog leading into Highway Star. We could argue about set-list all night, but the truth is that whatever these guys play would sound amazing. Of what was played (the same set as elsewhere post-Newcastle) The Battle Rages On was great as was the title track of the latest album.
Pass the oxygen.
Not been a very frequent attender in recent years, this was in fact only my second full show with this line up. I must say the entire band were indeed in superb form and much improved from last time out in Sheffield at the end of the Bananas tour when they just seemed knackered. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.
That said it' s with more than a little envy that I look back at the London Astoria set list. It's not so much the demise of the Rapture numbers, although I'd have loved to hear 'Before Time Began' (a track which still gets better with every listen) but as many others have pointed out the complete lack of other recent material. For me Purpendicular remains comfortably my favourite studio album of the entire reunion and while one may debate the overall merit of the subsequent 3 titles these have not been without their highlights and at least allowed the band to develop a sound and identity distinct from previous incarnations. There is certainly more than enough material to have evolved over 12 years to a very credible live representation of 'the next generation' while still leaving room for the odd classic. This is a remarkable achievement given what had come before and marks them apart from almost any other band of their vintage who are still around. In view of all this it just seams bizarre to see them run through a set of basically another bands greatest hits. On this form a set of their own material would have been devastating.
Of course for all the talk of 'realistic' set lists there is still room for the odd surprise and again this is greatly to their credit. Always nice to hear the 'new oldies' although if these are really aimed at us anoraks (cheesecloth anoraks please...) perhaps some of us might prefer something (anything?) off Purpendicular or more recent albums. Of the 'new oldies' I've allways enjoyed their take on Pictures Of Home although not convinced it worked as a set opener. When A Blind Man Cries this time was a little more blues than heavy metal ballad, the best I've heard it, but still not sure it belongs in the current set with Sometimes I feel Like Screaming (or by way of a change 'Loosen my Strings') such an obvious alternative. Into the Fire was great - simply oozed power. And then we had The Battle Rages On . Only right of course that if the set was essentially a band retrospective there should be something to commemorate the incredible highs of the 1993 tour (sorry Ian we'll have to agree to differ on this one) beside the Made in Japan staples. Back in 1993 I didn't feel it quite had the impact live it might have, possibly because it followed the epic versions of Anya. Last night it was magnificent.
And the new songs? Rapture Of The Deep was the highlight of the evening, like 'Before Time Began' this has really grown on me, the best new live addition since the Purpendicular tour. First time I've heard 'Things I've Never Said' and I won't be sprinting down to HMV for the Japanese Import Tour version or whatever its on (is that the only reason its in the set?)
Must confess to being a bit of a sceptic when I read Ian's voice was magnificent and he looked half his age' but last night it really was all true. Steve and Don showed an almost touching reverance to their respective legacies, adding the Child in Time runs to the Pictures solo and the Made in Japan references to the keyboards in Lazy showed an attention to detail beyond the call of duty.
Has to be said even at 'reduced capacity' there really were a lot of empty seats in the arena (if Ian really felt a packed full capacity NEC was 'half full' on the Battle Rages On tour not sure what he made of this) so one might hope this is the end of the triple bill arena tours and it will be 'back to the roots' next time.
Almost forgot, the screens, absolutely hilarious for 'Smoke On The Water'; my wife commented the 'smoke' 'fire' and 'water' images were the most literal representation of song lyrics seen since the early days of Pan's People and all those aerial shots of the keyboards were a welcome addition to the debate on the authenticity of Don's hair! (syrup or not?)
And finally yes I really did enjoy last night
review: Steve Kelly
UK tour reviews