Deep Purple

Manchester Arena

18 November 2017

The second night of a tour, the set is more familiar, the songs are the same, so you can concentrate on different things, differences in how the songs are played, obviously nothing like the album versions, but sounding different to my memories of last night, too.

Weirdly, Gillan is mixed very low in Time for Bedlam again, but by the second song (Fireball) everything sounds properly balanced again. Third song is Bloodsucker, and although he's not screaming the final verse the way he used to, he's still handling everything with no apparent effort and sounds all the better for not trying (and failing) to scream. The band don't slow down enough to let him speak until after Bloodsucker, and he prattles away introducing All I Got Is You.

Two things to note about AIGIY: first, Steve's tone on the intro is absolutely beautiful, he plays basically the same intro as on the album, and it's perfect, he could have spent the rest of the night on his own improvising sounds like this and I've have been happy. Second thing to note is the crowd reaction: the new songs get just as big a reception as the old ones. Of course nothing's ever going to match the impact of Smoke on the Water, but it's solid proof that Purple need to have more confidence in putting new songs in the set, because everybody is going to love them regardless.

Sticking with new songs, Steve's guitar intro to Uncommon Man stays close the the album's beautiful, drawn out, emotional tour de force, with that keyboard riff then waking everybody up. To start The Surprising, Don's keyboard sound is even more eerie than the album version, and I'm not sure if it's actually a different sound or just the power of the amplification adding a new dimension to it. I love how this song is constructed, winding down for a lengthy piano break and a slow verse before the machine-gun drums come back in for the end. And once again, huge crowd reaction even though they're playing "new" songs.

The last new song they play is Birds of Prey, and I know a lot of people think it's the highlight of the album but I've not been too excited by it, thinking it's a bit plodding—until hearing it live, when the contrast of the monstrous riff and the intricate guitar and keyboard passages really makes the song one of the highlights of the set. The instrument sections are drawn out, and when Ian comes back in to sing the final verse, that last note he holds, the drawn-out tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime is just the most beautiful thing he's done all night, and Steve's solo flows from it and goes on and on, and really the song is just so well constructed, I'm completely out of adjectives to describe how much I love it.

Lazy (which actually came before Birds of Prey, I'm slightly out of order) has a long instrumental intro, first just Don, then Don and Ian (Paice), then Steve and Roger joining in for a long, long jam, and they could play the whole thing as an instrumental (including Ian on harmonica) and it would work perfectly, but they add a couple of verses anyway.

Don's solo: I usually pride myself on being able to name most classical pieces that keyboard players throw into their solos, but this one stumps me. It sounds modern and it sounds like it was written for piano, but I don't know it--maybe it's not classical, maybe it's one of Don's own compositions?

Anyway, Don Airey is phenomenal.

Finishing off the set, Perfect Strangers, Space Truckin’, and Smoke, all as expected.

They come back on for an encore, and instead of Don playing a solo before Hush they all go into a short jam that sounds suspiciously like it might be Green Onions, before they all spontaneously start playing Hush instead, like magic. Hush get the guitar/organ duel again, Don playing ever- longer lines that somehow Steve copies perfectly no matter how long they get.

Bass solo again, then Black Night. And I always say I've heard enough Black Night and I wouldn't mind if they finally dropped it from the set, but as soon as I hear it it's exactly what I want to hear, it's the perfect, familiar, crowd-pleasing end to a concert. And it's used as the vehicle for Steve to get another really long solo, and in the middle he plays a few bars of You Shook Me All Night Long, getting a huge cheer (you've all heard the news, right?). When he's played enough by himself, he goes back to the Black Night riff, and the crowd sings it back to him—some bands have to tell the audience to sing, Steve Morse just needs to play a guitar riff and pause and we're doing it anyway.

And the show finishes at precisely 11pm (how did he know exactly how long to solo for?), and that's it. For tonight. Cardiff next, and I expect it will be an anti-climax because this was the best concert I've ever seen and how can they get better than that?