Deep Purple

Barbican, York

8 September 2002

Negative things first: The Barbican is basically just a sports hall with a stage at one end. The sound quality was pretty good, considering, but perhaps not as great as it would be in a proper hall. And the problem with an all-standing venue is that I'm not as fit as I used to be and it's hard work standing through the support band and the interval as well as Deep Purple's set. And I was tired and drained after a weekend of travelling. And I didn't meet all the people I was supposed to meet, but that wasn't my fault! And the problem with a flat floor is that a not-too-tall person (such as yours truly) doesn't get a good view. But, oh well, I was there to listen and feel, not to look. And I saw enough to know the band were there, they were happy, and they were working well together.

Despite the limitations of the venue, I think I would probably have to say that this was the best concert I have ever seen.

The set list was the same as the previous night and stretched by an extra five minutes to 1:45. Ian's introductions were kept to a minimum, with very few of his meandering stories, so I think we got more than our fair share of jamming and solos. Don, despite being the "new boy", holds his end up very well in this regard.

I was going to run through a dissection of all the songs, but I think you already know what I would say. It might be a predictable "greatest hits" set, but there's a reason why these songs are regarded as the greatest: it's because they are. And they still slip in a few rarities. And anyway, it's good to hear Space Truckin' for the first time in ten years... And it doesn't matter that they're playing the same songs each night, because they never play one the same way twice. Deep Purple don't know how to jam any more? Who said that? Maybe they don't go off on 30 minute tangents any more but the improvisation is still there, just more controlled within the context of the songs and I think that's better. So, a few thoughts on some of the songs:

Fireball — A much better set opener than Woman From Tokyo was in February. It hammers you into submission right from the opening drum roll and sets the energy level for the rest of the show. Because it is a very energetic set, with no real change of pace throughout. When the song segues into a few seconds of Into The Fire, it gets a huge cheer of recognition. I guess a lot of people would like to hear it in full (hint, hint).

Woman From Tokyo — Works much better in second position, where you're already hyped up and ready to dance to it. Steve plays a beautiful slow solo in the middle. Strange thing — I don't notice the piano at all during the track. So it's either too low in the mix, or not played right. Except I think I would have been more likely to notice it if it wasn't played right... maybe it was played right and that's why I didn't notice it... maybe I'm babbling...

I think I forgot to mention Martin The Wine Merchant from Purpendicular in my last review, but that's in the set, too.

Well Dressed Guitar... Ian promised us this would be on the new album (they're working on it in October and over the winter), and this time I'm holding him to it...

When a Blind Man Cries — I love how Ian sings it. I love Steve's beautiful intro. I love Don's bluesy solo. No, it's not the same song they recorded in '72. It's harder and more powerful, but it still works. And I think I've finally come to terms with Steve's "too many notes" playing in the middle, either that or he's finally figured out how to play it, because the whole song is now perfect.

...It's just ALL good. I can't think of a bad thing to say about them. It's still the greatest rock band in the world, and I don't see how that's ever going to change.

Front row at Newcastle next, for me.

The Planets

The Planets rock. Seriously, they do. I can understand why some people won't like their style of music, but anyone that liked Bach On To This, Cozy's 1812, Difficult To Cure, and the works of Keith Emerson (especially with The Nice) or Rick Wakeman should give The Planets a chance.

The set list on the current tour is (approximately):

Journey of a Fool (from Mike Batt's '70s' album Tarot Suite)
Contradanza (Batt's composition for Vanessa-Mae)
Rodrigo (based on Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto, I think)
flamenco guitar solo
violin/cello duet ("written on the tour bus" — I can't remember what they called this one)
Carmen Caprice (excerpts from the opera)
Classical Graffiti

The two biggest complaints I have about the live set are that the oboe is very low in the mix (both nights, so far) and the electric guitar sound is very messy. In fact, the lead guitar player is much better on acoustic than he is on electric (his flamenco guitar is stunning).

But the fact is that all the members of The Planets are excellent musicians, the compositions and arrangements are all good (Carmen is the only thing I don't like, but I never liked Bizet's original either). Their album is pretty soft (what I would call "easy-listening" background music) but live they have a lot more power and are heavier on the percussion (more drums than the man was actually playing, I thought, so maybe they use taped percussion tracks). Contradanza is probably my favourite tune in the set. It's much more powerful than Vanessa-Mae's original, with prominent guitar and not much violin — a totally different arrangement to suit the assembled instruments.

So, I like them. And the crowd response in general has been good. I admire them for taking on a daring support slot, but then Deep Purple's audience is open-minded enough to listen to Jon's Concerto, and old enough to remember the '70s when everybody played rock/classical fusion... so maybe it wasn't such a daring move after all.

I think they are the best support band I've seen with Purple in a long, long time. If you're going to see a show later in the tour, don't sit in the bar until The Planets finish. Give them a chance. You might like it.