Deep Purple

Birmingham NEC

October 15, 1998

Unbelievable! the BEST concert I ever went to!

Ok, here's a mini review. Much the same as the London show, with some minor differences. Black Night was replaced by Seventh Heaven as the first encore. Ian Paice's red spotted bandanna was replaced by a more tasteful blue one. Ian Gillan was replaced at birth by an alien with superhuman vocal powers (it's the only explanation).

My seat was about 20 rows back this time, slightly right of centre. Pretty good view, though I wish it had been front row again. I think the NEC is a similar size to Wembly Arena, and the back third was curtained off, as at Wembley. Most of the seats I could see were full, so I would guess that's about 60% of its full capacity (whatever that might be).

Some things you notice from further back:

The audience. When Ted the Mechanic opened the show, they all stood like dummies. Ohmygod, I thought, they haven't heard Purpendicular. I had to sing twice as loud to make up for everybody else. I thought Ted was a bad choice of opener for this very reason. By the second song (Strange Kind of Woman) everybody came alive. Weird. SO GO AND BUY THE ALBUMS.

The lights. Wow. Much more impressive than I realised at Wembley. All the colours of the rainbow. The painted skyscraper backdrop looks really cool when all lit up. The whole light show was just so... pretty! Best light show ever.

The sound mix was good. The individual performances were excellent (I'm stating the obvious, I know). The set lasted about 115 minutes. I think the extra length came from Steve and Jon taking longer solos tonight and also extending Speed King by quite a bit.

Ian Gillan's voice was just glass-shatteringly perfect, better than at Wembley even. Maybe a bit ragged on Almost Human and Any Fule Kno That, but everywhere else he was spot on. He projected much more volume on the high notes too, possibly because of a better sound mix.

Other highlights... well, almost too many to mention!

The guitar/vocal duet in Strange Kind of Woman, with Ian and Steve taking turns to lead it.

Gillan starting a long, rambling introduction to Woman From Tokyo. Steve (presumably tired of waiting) interrupts and just starts playing it. "Thanks for the warning", says Ian.

Fingers To The Bone sounded better than at Wembley (though that version was almost perfect). Ian seemed more relaxed and sang it with less power but more feel, which is as I think it should be done. Very nice harmonica on this song, too.

Perfect Strangers: The lights during the middle riff are incredible. Multiple green spots flash on and off in sequence, creating a sort of roving strobe effect. Gillan dances across the stage, seeming to float without actually moving, teleporting from spot to spot.

Ian Paice's drum solo comes in the middle of Speed King. This time I could see him clearly, though I began to doubt my eyes. Ohmygod he's so FAST! forget the power, precision and inventiveness. How can he be so FAST?! Bionic arms???

Seventh Heaven... I'm so glad they put this in the set, I think it's my favourite from Abandon. I'm not sure about the arrangement, though. I can't put my finger on it, but Ian sang it differently somehow. Maybe with different timing or phrasing... I don't know. If they keep it in the set, I'll try to describe it better in my next review.

Speed King... did I mention how good this version is? The BEST Speed King ever. In case you don't know, Speed King is a lullaby Ian used to sing to his daughter! After getting the verses out of the way, the band get down to playing some really cool stuff. Steve stands next to Jon and they alternate guitar and organ lines of ever increasing speed and complexity, finally stopping (probably due to exhaustion) and shaking hands before getting back to the song. Ian puts in a few lines of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away, Ian Paice gets a drum solo, Ian and Steve do more of the guitar/vocal stuff. similar to but different from last night's duet. I really think they improvise it on the spot. The whole song was perfect and I wish it had never ended.

Oh my gosh, this was supposed to be a short review, I didn't think I had this much to say! Oh well, see you tomorrow in Glasgow. I'll sleep when I'm dead.

"Heaven. I'm in Seventh Heaven now."