To begin with, I’d like to say that, after today, I respect Ian Gillan. A LOT.
It’s a sad fact that he shouldn’t be touring with Deep Purple anymore. He no longer has a voice to keep it up trhoughout the concert, and the rest of the band ends up lifting him up with the instruments and carrying him through the whole gig.
That said, it does not make it less of a show. Gillan may no longer have the voice he had in the heyday of Purple, but he still keeps an extremely charismatic presence.
They opened he show with a direct hit – Highway Star. Those who know the song know that it’s _very_ tough on the voice. Indeed, I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for Gillan during those moments when his vocal cords faltered. He coughed a lot, missed whole lines, even though overall he managed to keep up. In a few moments his frustration was visible.
Anyway, after that heavy blow right in the first song, they proceeded with a series of songs from more recent albums, like Silver Tongue from Bananas and Girls Like That from Rapture of the Deep. Then, another blockbuster: Space Truckin’. One thing has to be said here, before I forget mentioning it: Roger Glover is HUGE. His presence is so magnetic that he doesn’t need much to get people’s attention. The little quirks he has when playing the bass are more than enough to do that. And, of course, because he is
Another song, Rapture of the Deep, from their latest album, and then Gillan presents Steve Morse, who then starts flaying the guitar like a madman, preparing the theme for Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming. At this point I need to say that Morse looks like a kid among a bunch of old guys. But he’s a kid who knows his guitar as well as anyone can know a guitar. At this point it was clear to me that he is the main driving force in Deep Purple. But, more than everything, it is perfectly obvious from his facial expression that he’s having the time of his life at that very moment, and nothing could be better.
That takes us to Lazy. And some people will say(cry), “he’s not Jon Lord!”. Indeed, he is not. He doesn’t need to be. I’ve never seen a live presentation with Lord on the keyboards, but I do know that Don Airey is more than competent enough to fill the void, adding a little progressive hint to the keyboards, without compromising the style of classics like Highway Star and Lazy. Not to mention his “presentation solo” right before Perfect Strangers, where this progressive aspect becomes more evident. Not to mention he little funnies he improvises into the solo, like Sir Lancelot’s theme from Monty Python, the Disney theme song and a few themes from bossa nova tunes like “Aquarela do Brasil”.
And then there’s Ian Paice. My basis for comparison is fairly small, but to me he seems to me a extremely skilled drummer, whose playing hasn’t decayed a milimeter since “back in the day” (as it hasn’t for Roger Glover, either). In particular, his solo reminded me a lot of John Bonham’s Moby Dick solo in How The West Was Won, with the cymbals marking the tempo, which in turn responded to every whim of Paice’s will.
To end the setlist, another monster song. One without which the gig couldn’t be called Deep Purple: Smoke in the Water. Needless to say, the crowd went nuts. Gillan’s effort was actually minimized because the audience sang the whole song (the look on his face was _priceless_).
The setlist was over, everyone got off the stage. The crowd kept calling them back, and back they came. Hush was presented as the encore, another crowd-go-crazy song. And then, when the song was over and everyone but Glover had left the stage, something I’m still not sure if was planned or not: he kept playing the same note, and the crowd began to chant the notes to Black Night’s chorus. And then, they played the song, with a little “dialogue” between Morse’s guitar and the crowd.
I’m not sure if this was planned or rehearsed. I can think of convincing arguments for both sides and, in the end, maybe I’ll never know. Not that I care about it that much…
I obviously did not mention all songs they performed, and probably didn’t even mention the ones I did remember in the right order, except for a few ones that can’t be mistaken (the first one and the last few ones, for example). I didn’t mention, for example, Strange Kind of Woman. Nor did I mention that Gillan kept screaming like a wild man throughout the set, even though he did it a lot less and kept going to the back stage, possibly for a much needed refreshment. He didn’t do those long and repetitive screaming thanks after every song, though. And, to be perfectly honest, even though I always complained about them I actually missed them.
Also, I intentionally failed to mention a lot of stuff. Some of them because they didn’t have anything to do with the gig, others because they are simply negative, and I’m writing an admittedly biased review.
I wanted to finish this post with a philosophical, witty note. I won’t do it because, quite frankly, I can’t think of something that wouldn’t sound cheesy as well.
So I’ll summarize instead: I was worried about Gillan’s shortcomings in the beginning, but his charisma and the sympathy I felt for his effort paved the way for a wonderful night that kept me wondering how awesome it would have been to be in the audience twenty years ago.