Deep Purple

Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

21 April 2007

Yes it's another arena tour and yes it's the horrible Metro Radio Arena and yes it's another three-band bill and yes that means Purple will only play for 90 minutes and only play Machine Head songs. But let's forget all the unfortunate commercial decisions that go into packaging Deep Purple like this these days and look at the only thing that really matters: how good was the music?

As good as it always is.

Thin Lizzy opened and played for about 40 minutes and to be honest I don't think they were all that good. Even after cutting them some slack for their many equipment problems and terrible sound mix. I'm not a huge Lizzy fan but I dolike every song in their set... I just don't think they played them very well last night.

Styx were fantastic. I knew absolutely nothing about them before last night but I'm a fan already. They're very entertaining, fantastic musicians, visually very dynamic, had a good audience rapport, and their songs sound great. They played an hour and I'd have been happy for them to do more.

Deep Purple... don't have any gimmicks or over-the-top stage antics; they just get on with being the best musicians in the world playing the best rock music ever written and making it all look effortless and... fun. No it's not a very adventurous song list (Things I Never Said and Rapture of the Deep were the only two post-1973 songs in the set), but I'm never going to complain about a set of songs when I love each and every one. Quick list:

Things I Never Said
Strange Kind of Woman
Into The Fire
Rapture of the Deep
Well Dressed Guitar
Highway Star
Maybe I'm A Leo
Pictures of Home
Never Before
When A Blind Man Cries
Smoke on the Water
Space Truckin'
Black Night

Because of time constraints, jamming was minimal and solos were kept short, which is a shame because the best bits of a Deep Purple concert aren't the songs but all the bits they play between the songs. For that reason, the highlights were Steve's beautiful solo before Well Dressed Guitar (and WDG is always a highlight in itself), Don's intro to Lazy (he didn't get a full solo spot, sadly), a short drum solo in Hush, and Roger's solo — oh, Roger's solo is absolutely stunning, the best thing I've ever seen him do. It comes right at the end of the show, with the clock ticking away, and you get the feeling he won't stop... you're hoping he won't stop, because who cares about the venue's curfew, but Ian has to come back on stage and remind him of the time and tell him to wrap it up... and it's at that moment when I hated the whole concept of this big arena package tour concept that Purple are stuck in these days and wished they had been in City Hall playing a proper 2+ hour set and jamming the way you know they want to. But despite that small disappointment, there's no way I can feel anything at the moment except that I've just seen the greatest rock band in the universe, still playing as well as they've ever played... and this was the best concert I've ever seen.