Deep Purple

SECC, Glasgow

8 November 2004

Preliminary stuff: Dean Howard's band played to about 25 people due to coming on too early again, and suffered from rubbish lights (leaving the stage in total darkness in the middle of several songs — credit to the keyboard player for playing his solo with a maglight clutched in his teeth!). Thunder seemed to struggle in rousing the crowd and didn't seem to come across as well as they did in Manchester. They worked hard and played well but it didn't quite work for me this time. Peter Frampton is phenomenal once again. His songs already seem like old favourites to me, despite having heard most of them for the first time two days ago! He's a big favourite with the crowd again and anyone who decides to arrive late or sit his set out in the bar is making a big mistake.

I had a seat five rows back from the (giant) right-hand speaker stack. Ouch. Surprisingly, I seem to have retained all my hearing. But, yes, it was loud. But still amazingly clear. The individual instruments cut across the noise and the bad arena acoustics and each one stood out perfectly. Which of course lets you hear exactly how good these guys are. Are these guys good? Yes, Deep Purple is the greatest rock band on the planet. Always has been, probably always will be.

The songs, in no particular order, starting with the new ones:

Silver Tongue opens the show, and it's far from my favourite on Bananas but it's a great high-energy set opener. Good choice, I think.

I Got Your Number has a more interesting "texture": soft and hard, fast and slow, the kind of thing that probably shouldn't work live but they smash their way through it with no loss of momentum.

Bananas is completely... bananas. (Oh, yeah, I get it now...) The fast guitar and keyboard runs are amazing and the weird rhythm keeps you completely off balance. But the big surprise is Ian "I have no idea what I'm singing" Gillan actually getting though it word-perfectly!

Things do finally slow down for Contact Lost. Gillan sits down to tell us the story behind it and dedicates it to the Columbia astronauts. It's played a lot more powerfully than the album version — there are drums! But the beautiful guitar melody is still there, and the band finally shuts up to let Steve "banned from the greatest guitarist polls to give other guys a chance" Morse play a long solo — much longer than in Manchester (I began to wonder how they would keep within their allotted 90 minutes). It's a fairly typical Morse solo — full of sounds that guitars aren't supposed to make, and complicated melodies that demand you pay attention. Then the band crash back in and it's straight into The Well Dressed Guitar, the heaviest, fastest, most powerful baroque concerto ever written. Morse and Airey are the stars of this. I guess this doesn't really qualify as a new tune any more (it's been four years since I first heard it, except then it was called The Ill Tempered Guitar (a much better title, in my opinion) and accompanied by an orchestra, but I'm digressing...).

So, on to the old songs. Of course they are a predictable bunch (even if you hadn't already seen them in Manchester), but that's kind of the point of "classics", isn't it? I have no complaints at all about the selections. Woman from Tokyo, Strange Kind of Woman, Knocking at your Back Door, Space Trucking, Highway Star. None of them played "straight". Everything offers something new: a new intro, an extended solo. I'm listening to these songs for the millionth time and it doesn't feel like I'm listening to them for the millionth time.

A "new" old song on this tour is Demon's Eye, and it's a welcome addition. Played with a lot of power, so some of the original jazz feel is lost, but there's still a lot of intricate soloing squeezed in around the crunching riff.

Don "I can play anything" Airey gets a long solo — again longer than in Manchester, I'm sure, in which he runs through a classical repertoire, mostly on piano. And, yes, there are his "signature" bits he always plays, but the majority of it is as fresh as ever. And structured to maintain the same high energy level as the rest of the concert. I can't understand why everybody sits down during keyboard solos! He still finished with the Star Wars theme, but it's still so cool that I don't care, he can play it as often as he wants to. After the final crashing chord knocks you over (see, wouldn't get *that* if you sit down, would you?), he moves straight into Perfect Strangers and the only word I can think of to describe this line-up's interpretation of it is "majestic". Oh, and, Best Lights Ever.

What have I missed? Oh, ok, Highway Star. This opens with Steve and Roger jamming some unrecognisable random tunes — but even while theyre doing this, you know it's going to turn into Highway Star. How do you know? Because Ian "if it's there, hit it" Paice is playing Highway Star. The importance of Ian Paice to this group cannot be over-emphasised. Think about it — you can recognise *any* Deep Purple song from the drum beat alone. How cool is that? No, think about it some more... see what I mean? Paice doesn't get a solo as such in the current set, but he actually never stops "soloing". He's never "just" keeping the beat — that's for mere mortal drummers. He actually *plays* the songs.

The set ends with Smoke on the Water, and I just can't understand the people who say they are tired of hearing this played... and look at the band. Theyre grinning so much, I can't believe they are tired of playing it. It's the greatest rock song ever written.

And finally, a single encore: Speed King. Yes, the stretched out songs and longer solos have eaten away the time, and the venue seems to have a strict curfew. Boo! But Speed King is back to near its old length, with the jamming, the rock'n'roll medley, the guitar and organ duel (jaw-dropping as usual), a bass solo, and all the rest of it. Maybe not the best version of Speed King, but they're racing the clock now and they still manage to go out in style.

And... ah, I just feel déjà vu when writing all this, *every* Deep Purple concert is so perfect that I'm just repeating the same praise as I was last year, the year before, the year before that...

This was (marginally) better than the Manchester gig. I came away with the kind of high I expect from the best concert I've ever been to. And that's all I ask for... except maybe an extra half hour next time, please.