Deep Purple - Liverpool Empire ,
15th February 2002

Woman From Tokyo - Mary Long -
Ted The Mechanic - Lazy -
No One Came - The Aviator -
Well-Dressed Guitar -
Up The Wall - Fools - Perfect Strangers -
*Smoke On The Water - **Speed King
Black Night - Hush - Highway Star
*in the extended Pre-Smoke spot we got:
Won't Get Fooled Again, Sweet Home Alabama, Voodoo Chile, Strawberry Fields, I Feel Fine, Stairway To Heaven, Honky Tonk Women,
Back In Black, I Can't Explain
and House Of The Rising Sun.

** Understandably, all the Morse/Gillan
interplay was ditched.

After 25 years I finally get to another gig at the Liverpool Empire. The balcony which Blackmore trashed in 1977 is nicely restored but a venue where we saw Purple grind to a halt back in 1976 inevitably holds mixed memories. This show was also full of ups and downs, mainly because Ian Gillan has been clobbered severely by the flu bug which has been raging round the UK for a while now, but they opted to proceed with the show.

They relied on Gillan tackling the material he felt he could manage (so both Child In Time and When A Blind Man Cries were dropped - sadly they didn't rehearse Wring That Neck which would seem a good fall back); the understanding of the packed crowd (and Ian is a performer who people can forgive just about anything); plus the extra input from the rest of the band. That - for me - kicked in during the middle of Fools, and from there instrumentally it was the heaviest set I've seen on the tour. Morse shone during the solo.

Jon opened Perfect Strangers brilliantly. From there they clobbered Smoke.. with an intensity it hasn't had before on the tour (again an extra long intro) and then let Steve and Jon blaze away during Speed King. The impetus was carried over into the encores, which opened on Black Night, which enabled the crowd to help Ian out, a tight Hush (with some stunning keyboard work) and then to Highway Star (those lights are still the best of the show!), with Steve on his knees at the end letting the front row stroke his guitar.

As Paice's drum skin sailed across the crowd (to be grabbed by a woman who wasn't going to let go!) the crowd erupted. Glover did a plectrum handing out routine which went on for ages and they were gone. The set was only about 15 minutes down on previous shows despite the missing numbers. Fingers crossed an early night with the Night Nurse can pull Ian through!

review: Simon Robinson

A Night of Highs And Lows. The night started well enough. I went to the stage door and asked for the production manager. I explained that I own a Steve Morse signature guitar and he promised me a backstage pass so I could get it signed. A true gent. I thank him.

I arrived at the Empire at 8.10 just after The Planets had finished. The place was full, and the atmosphere seemed more expectant than last night. The stage extended over the orchestra pit so again the band were literally 3 feet away. They took to the stage at 8.30 and kicked into the same set. The sound was better than at Manchester, but it was soon clear that IG was struggling. The previous night he'd spent a lot of time off mike, coughing. Tonight it appeared that the flu bug that had previously dogged Jon had caught up with him. This was confirmed when at the end of Lazy he had a quiet word with Steve and Jon which resulted in Child In Time being dropped from the set.

Jon seemed a little brighter and played a great set, again his keyboards were well up in the mix. Steve was absolutely magnificent, tonight he excelled himself. His riffing skullduggery at the start of 'Smoke..' went down a storm and included a Beatles tune for obvious reasons. The only down side to the gig (apart from the illness) was the fool who kept asking for Smoke on the Water after every song; at one point IG asked for someone to throw him a banana!

I listened to the encore from the back of the hall, so that I could make a quick getaway and get backstage. Steve said the only fit one in the band was Paicey, and the rest of them were really under the weather. I asked him how it would bode for the NEC the following night to which he replied "Well, we'll be there but I'm not sure about Ian! (Gillan)."

review: Ian Dunbar

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