Don Airey live reviews

Don Airey

Camden Underworld, London
January 20th 2009

The tour opened at The Underworld in Camden with a disappointing turnout but they made quite a noise. We got over ninety minutes comprising a generous handful of Rainbow sandwiching eight (yes, amazingly, 8) tracks from his solo album - the five songs plus three instrumentals: Pale Blue Dot, Ripples In The Fabric Of Time and Big Crunch - all rounded off with a Purple song and a second encore of classic Brummie rhythm 'n' blues.

The band: Carl Sentence / vocals; Don Airey / keyboards and backing vocals; Rob Harris / guitar and backing vocals; Laurence Cottle / bass; Clive Bunker / drums.

The intro piece was Don's own take on Montagues And Capulets (from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet) and the band quickly ripped in to a powerful version of Spotlight Kid. After a brief trading of licks between Hammond and guitar, we got more Rainbow in the shape of Bad Girl. Jamiroquai's guitarist, Rob Harris, was impressive right from the start in the Blackmore role and even more so on the new material.

We then got a forty-minute selection of tracks from the album, starting out with the title track. I cannot think of a band that has placed such an emphasis on new material (possibly since Deep Purple on the Burn tour of 1973/74) and that was a brave move which worked, the audience's attention was held throughout.

The track A Light In The Sky had originated during Colosseum II days (and Light In The Sky is on Cozy Powell's The Drums Are Back album) hence why this album's title track is dubbed (Pt 2).

Rehearsal time had been short - just two days at John Henry's in London - and there were plenty of looks across the stage at key points, Don even having to remind Clive before Pale Blue Dot of how it started. Shooting Star had been included in the pre-show music for much of Deep Purple's German tour in November.  

Don did most of the introductions, explaining the inspiration for some of the titles, and Carl Sentance worked the audience well and was not afraid to make jokes about the size of the crowd: “What about you people at the back, are you having a good time? Oh, there's no one at the back.”

The intro to Ripples In The Fabric Of Time should be familiar to those who caught the opening shows on the Rapture Of The Deep tour – from memory, the London and Brussels spring to mind as being occasions when Don played this what sounded like a Jean-Michel Jarre piece at the start of his solo spot. For me, the pairing of this track with Big Crunch was the highlight of the show, both numbers showing Don's Mahavishnu influences.

Laurence Cottle got space to solo in Big Crunch and showed that, if you have a five-string bass, it pays if you actually use them all. The original Jethro Tull drummer, Clive Bunker, was the surprise star of the show and he also got a solo spot before the track was over. Clive got the gig last month when Don found out that Darrin Mooney - who had played on the album - would not be available.

Then there was a short piece of Bach (written on the set list as Brandenburg) played by Don and Rob (with Laurence) which I think is from the Allegro movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No.3. This was quickly followed by Over The Rainbow and a return to the Rainbow back catalogue with All Night Long. The set closed with Lost In Hollywood which had a two-minute chunk of Light In The Black tagged on to it for Don to solo over.

At the start of the first encore we were given a short cabaret version of Since You Been Gone before the song itself and then the only Deep Purple song of the night, Black Night, with plenty of time given over to Don to solo on the new Hammond A100 he had bought before the tour.

There was a scheduled support act (somebody Henderson, anyone remember?) but he cried off. There was a tour poster with a stick-on detail for the show added. They were planning to extend the show by the time they hit mainland Europe with rehearsals in Don's hotel room the following night!

set-list (93 minutes):

Intro / Spotlight Kid / Bad Girl / A Light In The Sky (Pt 2) / Pale Blue Dot / Shooting Star / Endless Night / Rocket To The Moon / Love You Too Much / Ripples In The Fabric Of Time / Big Crunch / Brandenburg ~ Over The Rainbow / All Night Long / Lost In Hollywood (interpolating Light In The Black)

First encore: Since You Been Gone / Black Night 

Second encore: Gimme Some Lovin'

review and set-list: Nigel Young