Deep Purple – England Tour 2017

Some of us wondered for Tim Summers’s sanity when he said he was doing three of the UK shows, but looks like he got the last laugh!  So we nicked (with permission) his tour diary report for the site. Photo : Vince Chong

Roger Glover Manchester 2017 photo Vince Chong

Yes, I know they did a UK tour, but for reasons that had more to do with logistics than xenophobia, I just saw the 3 dates that happened to be in England. Birmingham was the opening night of the tour, followed the next night by Manchester, and then 5 days later there was the London O2 show.
The sound and lighting at the shows was great (the entire backdrop being a giant video screen was cool), and both support bands (Cats in Space and Europe) were worth a look – Cats (featuring one time Ian Gillan guitarist Dean Howard) sort of defy description, whereas Europe are a whole different kettle of fish to that song which they’re so well-known for – they’re big Purple fans too, with singer Joey Tempest eulogising them at all 3 gigs (and at one, confirming that his band is actually named after ‘Made in Europe’).
Purple’s set-list remained largely constant throughout (including the 4 InFinite numbers – yay!) and was pretty well-balanced to my mind – obviously I doubt a set-list exists which would please everybody, with some people grumbling about the amount of new material being played…
New track ‘Time for Bedlam’ opened proceedings, with effects-swathed spoken vocal intro from Ian Gillan sounding much stronger than the rather tentative debut live performances some months back. In fact, it’s a novel (and great) experience for the UK not to be ‘the rehearsal’ shows at the beginning of a world tour (and still to have all the new songs intact).  There was the odd lyrical variation by IG during ‘Bedlam’ performances, but it all rhymed, and t’was ever thus really. A great opening number and there was barely time for the audience to catch their collective breath before Paicey’s flurry of frenzied familiar beats heralded the arrival of ‘Fireball’.  Not an easy song for a man in his 70’s to sing you’d imagine, but Gillan gives it a good go and sounds in mighty fine form where I was standing (all three times).  ‘Bloodsucker’ is next, nice and heavy with every lyric intact and delivered forcefully.  The last verse being sung rather than screamed took nothing away from a great version.  No lyric sheets required either.
Next new track ‘All I Got Is You’ follows on from IG saying hello and apologising for the chairs in the venue (“I ordered sofas and futons”).  The odd reference to his lyric sheets is needed here, and in London Ian G missed his cue at the start, but still managed to dive in at the right place before too long.  The song comes across great live with Don’s space age keyboard solo ringing out loud and clear.  Ian dedicates the next track to “our beloved Jon Lord” to warm applause – ‘Uncommon Man’ is still a beautiful piece, with Steve and Don wringing out the emotion of every note of the extended intro – great that this song at least has survived in the set-list from the ‘Now What?!’ tour. A nice kiss-to-the-rock-n-roll-sky from IG at the end too. ‘The Surprising’ is next, preceded by some different words of introduction from Ian G at each of the 3 shows I saw.  He saved the best until last with a rather hilarious Christmas tale from his childhood before the opening eerie (and loud) notes from Don appear to almost literally knock him sideways.  Great performance, although disappointingly a swathe of the Manchester and London crowds in the floor seats seems to take the slower pace as a cue to sit down… (some of us are getting on a bit Tim. Ed)
A majestic ‘Lazy’ perks the slackers back up again. A massive organ (oo-er) intro with psychedelic lighting effects on the huge screen/backdrop precede a very grand version of the Machine Head classic.  It’s been through a number of permutations over the years when you think about it.  A bit of a centrepiece these days – a worthy inclusion, preceded by an amusing story from Ian degenerates into a staccato vocal noise, which merges seamlessly into Don’s opening flurry of notes.  The last of the new songs follows, ‘Birds of Prey’ – this seems to be the one that Ian Gillan has the most trouble remembering the words to, but his being rooted to the spot, eyes averted (to where the printed lyric sheets are at his feet) kind of suits the serious nature of the lyrics and their delivery.  Steve Morse shines at the end of the song as he builds and builds to a shattering crescendo that is just awesome.  I was a bit worried about Steve even before I saw the Brum show – the BBC footage seemed to show less of the old ever-smiling Steve, and more grimacing that made me fear that the pain in his wrist was getting worse.  I decided in the end that it might just be guitar-hero posturing, but whatever the reason, his playing is thankfully unaffected.  Anyway a favourite from the new album for me, so very happy it’s in the set-list – may it remain so until the death, until the death of T-I-M-E!!
The return of ‘Knocking at Your Back Door’ creates a stir – slowed down a touch which gives the opening something of a grandeur – in fact my first exposure to it (at Birmingham) caused me to think the verses dragged a bit at the new tempo, but by Manchester it had either improved, or I was used to it.  A big solo from Don followed – rather wonderful it was too, with ‘personalised’ touches depending on which city he was in (‘Iron Man’ in Brum, ‘Coronation Street’ in Manchester and ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner’ in…well, you know where). On recent tours (but not this one) Paicey has famously demonstrated his one-handed drum roll; Don goes one better and pulls-off a no-handed keyboard moment.
The inevitable ‘Perfect Strangers’ is next – strands of silver, 1000 illuminated warriors…fabulous stuff.  On paper I’d say that ‘Space Truckin’ had outstayed its welcome in the set-list, and Ian’s over-enthusiastic introduction of it made me fear he wouldn’t have enough voice left to tackle it in any meaningful way, and yet he does and it still manages to pack a punch – very powerful stuff indeed.
Steve is left alone to introduce ‘Smoke’ which he does in a straight forward way – into the riff without preamble.  Except in London that is, when Don Airey can be seen frantically gesturing into the wings for someone to join them on stage; a man in black emerges, carrying a white Strat (or was it cream?), the video screens show him to be a little chubbier than he used to be, yes, it’s …. John Norum of support band Europe, getting to play with his musical heroes (and seeming to love every minute of it).  Steve gracefully urges him to do the solo, which he does in a very respectful way.
The encores began slightly differently at the 3 shows I saw; ‘Goin’ Down’ was the instrumental played as the band returned to the stage at Birmingham, whilst it was ‘Green Onions’ at Manchester and ‘Peter Gunn Theme’ at the London show.  All great, and all curtailed when Paicey’s cymbal beat cued in ‘Hush’.  Great lively version with Don and Steve trading increasingly fast runs part way through.  Roger and Paicey are left on stage at the end for some drum and bass (ha) – essentially Rog’s bass solo briskly backed by the-man-at-the-back, before the rest of the band return for ‘Black Night’ (of course).  An homage to AC/DC is played by Steve at the Manchester show following news of Malcolm Young’s passing, then there’s guitar noodling (including ‘How Many More Times’) before Mr Morse’s call-and-response with the audience which is enthusiastically received at all three of the shows I saw. In London Steve played a snatch of ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, gesturing to the rest of the band.  I’ve heard many gripes over the last few tours about the static nature of the encore numbers, but the fact is that they work, providing a rousing way of bringing the proceedings to an end.
And there we have it – is it the end?  Who knows – the signs are positive that they will carry on a bit longer yet – Ian G even announced from the stage at Birmingham that they might do another studio album.  But as Paicey mentioned in a recent ‘Classic Rock’ Q&A, one of them could keel over and ‘that would be that’. After seeing these shows, I get the impression that it would take something catastrophic like that to stop them.
As always with these road trips, half of the fun is meeting other hardy road warriors along the way, and it was an absolute pleasure to meet quite a few this time out – you know who you are, thank you all.
Until the next time…  Tim Summers

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9 Responses to “Deep Purple – England Tour 2017”

  1. Stuart Roberts Says:

    Manchester was great too. If this is to be the end I would like to see them do something to reach a wider younger audience. Glastonbury legends stage with a greatest hits set ? Important that the music the band have produced lives on and that means getting greater numbers of younger people connected.

    Also, I would like to hear their views on whether it is just the end of touring ? The last two studio albums have been too high in quality for them to just stop making music.

  2. Martin Paretti Says:

    Flew in from Los Angeles for the O2 show. Compared to the double bill-greatest hits set-no-talking-Ian Gillan we get in the States,this was a tour de force. Loved every minute.

  3. Augusto Says:

    Pedreira Paulo Leminski holds 30.000 people.

  4. Augusto Says:

    Here in Curitiba, Brazil with Cheap Trick and Tesla.Very poor attendence. 5.000 people.

  5. Steve Richards Says:

    I was at the O2 gig and loved every minute of it, Tim’s review is spot on, great to hear four songs from InFinite and hope they keep them in, a live album from the tour which includes All I Got Is You would be very welcome.
    Thought Ian’s voice was very strong and liked his amusing quips, whole band sounded very tight, let’s hope this is not the last time we see them in the UK.

  6. mike whiteley Says:

    Very well done,Tim !! Thanks so much. I like that the England shows were as much to promote inFinite as a Greatest Hits Goodbye.
    Merry Christmas to all who gather here !!

  7. davidx66 Says:

    Lightweight. I did four shows…

    But seriously, that’s a nice write-up!

  8. ghcooke Says:

    Great review – Thanks Tim. I did Birmingham and Cardiff and they were great at both – a lovely Welsh lyrical piece from Don in his solo had all those around me cheering. Steve seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself and what a joy it is to see Roger centre stage from time to time.

    Birds of Prey is a monster – Steve played the final parts slightly differently but both were majestic. A band at the end of its days? No, a band content with what they are doing and enjoying themselves.

    Graham Cooke

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