Deep Purple

Grimsby Auditorium

6 February 2002

They played Child in Time and I don't know what to say about it except, if it's this perfect every night then the five dates I picked to see them on this tour aren't enough. I need to see all of them, then find some way to get to America in the summer and see them again. This was the best concert I have ever been to.

Ok, let's try to put some sort of structure into this review.

Grimsby Auditorium is a grand name for what is actually a tiny sports hall with a stage at one end. Apart from a few balcony seats, it was all standing. The crowd size was... well, I have no idea how many people can stand on a basketball court but it seemed a lot to me.

I got a place right up near the front safety barrier while most people were still in the bar. This put me about eight feet from Steve Morse and with a perfect view of the whole stage. Though, on reflection, it wasn't the best place for sound, as Morse's speaker stack overpowered the rest of the band to an extent. The sound wasn't too loud, though. And though I saw a few people with ear protection, my hearing hasn't suffered. I don't think so, anyway. I haven't tried talking to anyone yet.

I'll just say a few words about the support band, The Planets, though to be fair they deserve a review to themselves.

How can I describe The Planets in two sentences? There are eight of them; four of them are a string quartet, the other four are a rock band, and they play classical music. They look like models, they dress in leather, they are young (I guess the combined age doesn't equal Jon Lord's), enthusiastic, and extremely talented. And I think they may be the best support band I've ever seen with Deep Purple. The audience reaction was very positive, which I found pleasantly surprising (but we all know Deep Purple fans are the most broad-minded in the world).

Deep Purple.

They wander on in a wash of purple lights. No intro tape, no big build up, no fuss. They wait for the cheers to die down and play two hours of the most perfect set I could wish for.

When you have 35 years of recordings to choose from, you're obviously going to miss somebody's favourites out. Yes, there are things I missed. Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming. Anything from Abandon. It didn't matter. They struck a good balance between old and new, classics and rarities. And they played Child in Time. I would have gone just for that. Come on, you all would.

Set List. I'm not promising it's all in the right order.

Woman from Tokyo. Much as I love this song, it doesn't have the right impact as a set opener. It normally makes me want to dance, but here it didn't. The audience was too quiet. Jon Lord seemed too subdued. Or maybe I was just overcome by the emotion of being there? But in the quiet middle section

So far away from the garden we love
She is what moves in the soul of a dove

and Steve's wailey solo, I woke up and thought, "oh my god, Deep Purple", and discovered that there were tears streaming down my face and I had forgotten to sing. And everything was perfect from then on.

Ted the Mechanic. No longer feeling like a new song, this is now taking its place as a classic in the set list.

Mary Long. The first time I've ever heard this live, and it sounds great. It's quite faithful to the original, which actually suits Steve's style really well. And I love how it switches to the swinging psychedelic echoey ending.

Lazy. Jon gets a short organ solo to introduce it (he's really not doing enough so far) and it's another great arrangement. I like it better when they keep to a jazz feel like tonight, rather than the too-fast, too-heavy arrangements of the 80s.

Child in Time. Predictably, the first three notes are enough to get the biggest cheer of the night. Who would have thought we would ever hear this again? It's given a beautiful, stretched-out opening, with Jon doodling around — and, hey, I can hear him at last! The whole audience sings it, and when it gets to that part, you can feel the encouragement streaming out of the crowd and onto the stage, everybody willing Ian to get through it.

And he sings it perfectly. Hits and holds every note, even the very highest, just like 1972 all over again.

The next hurdle is the guitar solo. And the hall holds its breath because... well, I didn't want to mention His name, but Child in Time is Ritchie's solo and we don't know how Steve is going to play it... but it's perfect, he plays within the traditional structure but it's his own distinctive style and sound. It's not too long, but it's brilliant and he gets a huge round of applause at the end of it. And dammit he looks so happy. I barely notice them continue the song and finish it off in a burst of white noise and dissonance, just as it should be.

A short instrumental, The Well Dressed Guitar, which hasn't appeared on a studio album yet and is probably new to most of the crowd. It's an arrangement of The Ill Tempered Guitar, which Steve wrote for the Concerto tour, and it works surprisingly well without the orchestral accompaniment. How can I describe it? It's like the seventh Brandenburg Concerto. And it gets a really good crowd reception.

No One Came. Some of us came from miles around and said, "Man, your guitar solo is really hot".

I'm tired of the bombs
Tired of the bullets
Tired of the crazies on the TV

The Aviator. And it's my favourite song off Purpendicular, and I finally get to hear it live. It's a good arrangement, harder than on record and with Steve and Roger providing backing vocals in the chorus.

Perfect Strangers. Of course. If they ever drop this from the set, I think I will riot.

Up The Wall. This is a brand new song. It's hard to describe. Ian seems to be aiming for a jazzy feel to the vocal and melody, but under it Steve is playing a crunching heavy riff. It's hard to label this one with a style, so I'll just say "a Deep Purple song", and that sums it up pretty well.

Fools. A monstrously heavy, blow-your-head-off arrangement. The last time I saw them, Jon played that solo on his keyboard Korg-thingy. This time, I think he had some technical difficulties, and despite a hapless technician running around jiggling wires, nothing happened. So Steve took part of the solo and Jon played the rest of it on his Hammond, which was unexpected but quite brilliant.

Jon introduces When a Blind Man Cries with a short keyboard solo (Barber's Adagio for Strings, I think). And it's still one of my favourite songs. Steve's solo doesn't have the same emotional impact as the solo he played in '96, but I think I'm too shell-shocked by now to appreciate it.

Steve then runs through a medley of classic rock songs — too many to remember, or even recognise. Led Zep, Hendrix, The Who, lots of others. Sometimes the band recognises what he plays, and they join in. As soon as they guess one, he waves them to stop and moves on to the next one. Finally, they give up and just watch him and wait for him to find the right one... and it's

dern dern derrrnnn

You all know this one, right?

Ian introduces the last song, and I know it will be the last by his traditionally loony intro. This time, he tells us: it's a kind of Chinese cowboy song, with Irish overtones.

Jon dutifully plays a kind of Chinese cowboy song, with Irish overtones. Because he can. He's Jon Lord. He can play anything.

And it's really Speed King, of course. Which must be the best live song I've ever heard. And it's got everything you would expect from the song. Steve and Jon duel on guitar and organ, faster and faster until you can't even hear it anymore and the sound just blurs together. Roger gets a bass solo, which is always welcome and always brilliant. And after everybody else has had their solos, there's only one man left to go. And when Ian Paice starts his drum solo, all you can do is hold on to something solid when it hits you, and marvel at how anyone can move his arms so fast that they blur. But he doesn't just show off his speed and power, he's actually playing music with his drums.

Ok, so exhausted that I can't write anything about the encores: Hush and Highway Star, the latter featuring Steve "god of guitar playing" Morse doing things with a guitar that I don't think you can do with a guitar.

And I really need to sleep now.

Did I mention that this was the best concert I've ever been to?

Best band in the world, no competition.

A dream's a dream whatever it seems.