Deep Purple

O2 Arena, London

20 October 2022

Five years ago I said goodbye to Deep Purple, and it felt like a good ending, and I really wasn't sure if I should see them again now, especially without Steve Morse. And especially at the O2, which I really, really hate.

But it's Deep Purple, so of course I'm here.

And ten minutes before the band comes on, I remember why. I haven't felt this way for five years. The physical sense of anticipation that I feel in my stomach and my tingling fingers, and the lights go down and we all stand up and the smack of the snare announcing Highway Star, and this is already the best concert I've ever seen.

Musically the band sound as if no time has passed at all. Gillan does sound rough on Highway Star, but he improves as the set goes on, sometimes unexpectedly dropping down to a lower voice, more sensibly within his ... let's go ahead and say "limitations" ... and it's fine, he doesn't have to prove anything and he sounds great without screaming.

Simon McBride. The big uncertainty. I'm confident he'll have the technical ability, but will he have the right feel? Steve Morse has been the sound of Deep Purple for so long, but I don't want a clone of that sound, that's not what Deep Purple are about. But I don't want a hard rock shredder, no matter how technically brilliant. That's not what they are about either. He just has to feel ... right.

In the first two songs he plays it "by the book" where he has to, but adds his own flourishes when he can, and I'm impressed. As the set goes on he gets more showy, but never wrong for the song. And by the time he gets his solo spot leading into Uncommon Man, I'm thinking, yes, this is Deep Purple's guitar player. It's a marvel of not just jaw-dropping technique but also beautiful sounds.

I know he's played with Don Airey before, so it's no surprise that they gel so well in the guitar/organ duel on Hush, but ...

This is how the best band in the world is supposed to sound.

I'm just so happy.