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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
DEEP PURPLE
The British International Motor Show Music Festival, The Excel Centre, London, July 30th 2008
Car Show
I’ve never been to a motor show before, Serge, and it strikes me that they’re pretty weird places. For a start, they’re full of cars. And they’re full of people looking at cars. To be more accurate, they mostly seem to be people taking photographs of ludicrously expensive cars that they’ll never have a cat in hell’s chance of owning. Why would anyone want to do that? And why would anyone want to have to listen to the incessant warbling of past-their-sell-by-date TV C-List ‘personalities’ extolling the virtues of the in-car entertainment system of the new Ford whatever-it’s-called? It’s ghastly. It’s a nightmare. Why are we here? Well, it’s the lure of the British International Motor Show Music Festival, a week or more of evening gigs targeted, as the marketing guys would say, at a particular demographic aligned with the core consumer of motor show products, or in other words, blokes largely aged between thirty and fifty. It’s a way of increasing footfall through the show in the evenings when punters tend to stay away. And just look at the artists – Status Quo, Jools Holland, Alice Cooper, Blondie, Chicago, Meatloaf, and a whole night of British has-beens from the 1980s, headed by Paul Young and Midge Ure. Dad rock if you ever saw it. And before anyone points an accusing finger, let me explain that I’m here as facilitator, not a fan. It’s the boy (“Have you ever heard of a band called Deep Purple, dad?”) who’s here to see the eighth incarnation of one of the UK’s longest serving rock bands, and arguably one who could, along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, be accused of writing the rule book of ‘heavy metal’.
Deep Purple   It happens to be the band’s fortieth anniversary but I have neither the space nor inclination to do their history justice. But so that you know, drummer Ian Paice is the only survivor of the original band, bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan both date from the seventies second line-up (the one that recorded all the really famous albums like Deep Purple In Rock), guitarist Steve Morse replaced Ritchie Blackmore when he walked out on the band for the last time in 1993, and organist Don Airey succeeded Jon Lord, who retired from the band in 2002. Their most recent album, their eighteenth studio work, was 2005’s generally well-received Rapture of the Deep, but it’s perhaps not surprising that only the title track makes it on to the set list. Few in this three-quarters-full 6,000-capacity stadium in the car park of the Excel Centre in London docklands (during the day it’s the ‘Honda Live Action Arena’, which no doubt accounts for the lingering aroma of burnt rubber) have come to see new stuff – and they were no doubt pleased that the majority of the material came from the band’s zenith in the seventies.
Certainly it meant that the group of ladies behind us could sing along with Ian Gillan almost all night long, which to my surprise I found the Photographer doing too. And so ubiquitous was the band’s work in the seventies (no party could be without at least one of their very useful gate-fold albums) that I even found I remembered about half of the songs they played.
It has to be said that Mr Gillan needed all the singing assistance he could get. He seemed somewhat out of sorts, and rarely came close to the sort of vocal pyrotechnics that characterised his earlier performances. He stumbled over some of the lyrics, shortcut through others, was frequently absent from the stage and was visibly being carried by the band who seemed to take on lengthy solos to cover his deficiencies. It’s a shame, as otherwise they turned in a really cracking performance, although perhaps a little benign, lacking the menace of years gone by.
Glover Gillan Morse
Glover, Gillan and Morse (L to R)
Glover was hugely exuberant on bass, and with Paice, drove the band through the set like a steam train. Airey’s keyboards adequately filled in for Jon Lord, providing much of that classical/rock Hammond sound that was one of the signatures of the band’s sound. Morse, after a slow start, delivered a master-class in heavy rock guitar techniques, without the histrionics normally associated with the genre. I’m assured that his playing involved the following techniques: two-handed tapping, sweep picking, raking, volume swells, dive bombs, alternate picking (apparently “good enough to rival Paul Gilbert”), whammy bar tomfoolery, pinched squeals, bending and pre-bending, and “more natural harmonics than most people know about”. Pretty good, eh?
For all that, what the audience had come for was the hits, and in a rather rushed set of about an hour and a half (I sensed a local authority-imposed curfew looming) they delivered ‘Fireball’, ‘Into the fire’, ‘Strange kind of woman’, the hugely dated-sounding ‘Mary Long’, ‘Space truckin’’, ‘Highway star’, ‘Smoke on the water’, and an encore of ‘Hush’ and ’Black night’. Sadly, no ‘Speed King’, which would have been a most appropriate valedictory caution to petrol-headed Motor Show devotees, and no ‘Child in time’, which frankly would have been beyond Gillan’s vocals.
Motor Home  

But as I said, a cracking performance for all that, and in listening to some of these classic songs a nice reminder of just how influential Deep Purple were, or should I say, are? And by the way, Serge, did I mention I picked up a new bus for this year’s Whiskyfun Festival Specials? Quite a bargain at one hundred and thirty-eight grand. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

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