Deep Purple

London Wembly Arena

October 14, 1998

That was the BEST concert I have ever been to.

Here's a quick review. My memory is a bit fogged from lack of sleep, so there may be some errors and omissions.

The venue: I don't know how many the Arena holds, but I would estimate that over 90% of the seats were full. I arrived late due to transport problems, so I can't give any comment on the support band. I didn't miss any of the main show, though (whew). I had no idea of the arena layout, so I wasn't sure where our seats were. I thought maybe somewhere near the front, but... I got FRONT ROW tickets! By pure luck! I couldn't believe it! We were a little to the left of centre, which meant that the drums were partly hidden behind a speaker cabinet but we saw everything else perfectly. The best seats I have ever had at a Purple concert. the sound was good, you could hear everything clearly. Not too loud. My ears feel pretty good this morning, though my friend claims she has lost some hearing in the low ranges. Probably over-exposure to Paice's lethal bass drum.

The stage: Paice — rear left (as you view the stage). Lord — rear right. Glover — the entire left hand side of the stage. Morse — the entire right hand side of the stage, plus Jon's organ platform, plus over on the left sometimes, etc. Gillan — everywhere else. The backdrop was a reproduction of the Abandon cover (the same image was on the t-shirt I got). Lights were minimal, but effective, purple and blue spots. With a few red lights (but no old beds) (but plenty of sweat).

The Players: Ian Gillan sang perfectly. He hit every note, screamed more than I can remember him doing for ages. I never even caught him getting any words wrong. He seemed to be holding back the power on the really high notes, sometimes being drowned by the rest of the band. I don't know if this was due to him or just the sound mix. Roger Glover spent the whole show dancing. I don't know where he gets the energy. He took a couple of short solo spots, which I can't remembering him doing a lot of before. Ian Paice... well is just Ian Paice. I think his drumming is more interesting now than it was in the 80s. He has been taking fashion tips from Roger and sported a bandanna on his head. With red and white spots. Jon Lord is just unbelievably good. With his long white pony tail, black suit, and black shades, he made me think of an ageing drug pusher! Steve Morse... well I have never heard anybody make the kind of sounds Steve makes with a guitar. I know some people have claimed his style isn't distinctive... well, it is. If you hear a note that no-one has ever played before, you know that it's Steve Morse.

The set: 105 minutes (approx.). The songs (the order may be a little off):

Ted The Mechanic

Totally superb, an excellent opener. I wonder if a recent song was a good idea as an opener (as a large percentage of the audience may not know it) but it sure sets the right energy level for the rest of the show.

Strange Kind of Woman

Wonderful vocal performance on this one. When Steve started the guitar break in the middle of this, it was very much in his own style and, I must confess, just for a moment, I wished it was Ritchie up there. Then the moment passed, Steve Morse is perfect for Deep Purple right now and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Blud Sucker

"This song was recorded twice. First for the Abandon album then later in 1969... and it's about the management." Whatever. Ian sings the last verse (the really high one) as if it was still 1969 and he was still twenty-something.

Pictures of Home

This song is apparently about "marmosets, voles, and small furry mammals". I think. (I don't get it...?). Played pretty true to the album version, including bass solo and extended instrumental break.

Almost Human

I'm running out of superlatives to describe these songs. This wasn't one of my favourite songs on Abandon, but it sounds so good live you just want to dance.

Woman From Tokyo

Perfect screaming. The crowd seemed to really like this one...

Watching the Sky

I didn't think this would work live, as it's quite intricate and moody. But it worked. It was superb. I can STILL feel the bass drum on this one! I loved it, and the fury and the madness and the fury and the madness and the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Fingers to the Bone

Nice change of pace. "This song is about ordinary people." I think Ian sang this with a bit too much power, though. Perhaps you have to, in a concert hall, but I would have preferred a more laid-back rendition.

Any Fule Kno That

This one sort of crept in, I couldn't work out what it was at first!

Steve's Solo

I wish I was a guitar player so I could describe all the techniques he used here. Beautiful solo. The only fault was the length. It should have lasted another hour or so. Lots of sort of percussive notes, lots of odd sounds. Lots of stamping on foot pedals! Some bits of it reminded me of some of Gary Moore's old work (don't ask me to explain that, I can't). Then he started playing something reminiscent of his solo from Cascades on the last tour and I thought they were going to play Cascades. Then the organ joined in, and they did! (Well, the instrumental passage, anyway.)

Smoke on the Water

Damn I wish I didn't always cry when they play this song. It's really embarrassing. A short audience sing-along (well, EVERYBODY sang ALL if it, but you know what I mean), then a manic crescendo with Gillan bashing hell out of his drums, um, what-ya-call-ems (congas?)

Jon's Solo

Quite short but brilliant (what else?). I think he plays more styles than most keyboard players have probably even heard of. This translates sneakily into...


...which is, of course, superb. (Am I repeating myself?). Harmonica, of course (actually the harmonica was rarely used in this show. I remember it coming out more often in times past. Or maybe not.)

Ian's Solo

Came round about now, I can't remember exactly when. I think this may have been Ian's best solo since, oh, Made In Japan...

Perfect Strangers


Speed King

"This song used to be a lullaby." Yes, Ian. We believe you. (Honest. I do believe him. At Knebworth, he told us the sun was coming out in 10 minutes. This at 10pm on the wettest midsummer weekend in recorded history. And I believed him then too.) Anyway... Speed King is just... Speed King. What can I say about it? This was the best version of it I have ever heard. I hope somebody was taping it.

Ian and Steve did an interesting variation on the guitar/vocal duel, where Ian leads it and Steve copies. I think they had a lot of fun with this. Ian made the most unbelievable noises, Steve mimed practising them on "air guitar" then played them for real. Extremely clever and funny to watch.

And that's it, except we know they are coming back because they haven't played Highway Star yet. So for encores we get:

Black Night

Played pretty straight, none of the annoying audience sing-along which used to get a bit over the top.

Highway Star

Of course. With Steve playing the guitar like I don't think you can play the guitar. If you see what I mean. You all know what this one's like.

And that's it! Whew! Too short!

Oh yes... Steve threw handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd and my friend got one. These are light blue, with "Steve Morse" written on them in gold handwriting. Damn, I wish I got one.

Well that's really it. Long, sorry! I hope I haven't bored you all too much. I need sleep, a shower, and coffee, not necessarily in that order. And I leave in three hours for Birmingham to see them at the NEC. Expect another review tomorrow.