Deep Purple Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
It’s been a long time coming but I finally got to see Deep Purple. One of my favourite bands of all time, but bizarrely I’ve never been in the right place at the right time. Putting things right at last, the band returned to Cardiff for the first time in 12 years and treated a sold-out Motorpoint Arena to a master class in hard blues soaked rock on a drizzly November evening.
First up, the hard-working Cats In Space (7), who I’ve avoided on the basis that their two albums did little for me. Hell, I even went to their headline show in the Globe a few months ago and left before they came on. As the all-seated arena filled up, Cats In Space were already into their first song and their sound was big. Their power pop filled the arena and with a bit more space for the six members to move around they impressed far more than I was expecting. Tracks from recent album Scarecrow and their debut Too Many Gods went down well and the Horsham based outfit received a deserved ovation for their short 25 minutes. The band are back on the road with Quo in December and based on this showing are worth getting in early for.
Main support Europe (6) have recently released their rather fine Walk The Earth album, which I really enjoyed. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the Swedes and once again they bored me rigid. Their sound was thin, the music in desperate need of beefing up, and apart from Joey Tempest, the band was static. Guitarist John Norum and bassist John Levén hardly moved for the entire show. Despite some heroics from Tempest, such as taking a walk into the audience early in the set, and some neat licks from Norum, they plodded through a set which could and should have been much more entertaining. A decent set list incorporated tracks from Walk The Earth, War Of Kings and some oldies including Rock The Night and a horrible Carrie came and went before they launched into that tune that got the audience on its feet. By then I’d returned to the bar.
With the band image from Infinite cast on the big screen, the lights dimmed and with little pomp or ceremony Deep Purple (9) hit the stage and launched into Time For Bedlam, the first of four tracks from Infinite. There’s little showmanship with Deep Purple, as they just let the music do the talking. For a band whose average age is 69, they are astoundingly good. The fastest Fireball I’ve ever heard was quickly followed by Bloodsucker from In Rock before Ian Gillan addressed the audience who were already on their feet and loving every minute. The jazz fused All I Got Is You was amazing before the tribute to the late Jon Lord through Uncommon Man from Now What?
By now it was clear that Don Airey’s magnificent keyboards were main billing, dominating the intros and mid-sections of the songs. Indeed, Airey was the only member of the band to deliver a full solo, and it was quite something with a strong finish including Mae Hen Wladd fy Nhadau and Men Of Harlech winning big with the crowd. Not to be outdone, Steve Morse delivered some fine guitar work, none better than his astonishing solo on the awesome Birds Of Prey. He is an underrated guitarist and his duelling with Airey was reminiscent of the Lord vs Blackmore jousts in the 1970s.
Holding it all together, Ian Paice remains an amazing drummer, locked in tightly with Roger Glover whose thumping bass lines cemented everything. Glover is not afraid to soldier forward either, interacting with the crowd from the edge of the stage, swapping sides with Morse and generally prowling like a cat on a hot tin roof. Paice’s jazz tinged drumming remains a thing of total beauty.
As the band cruised through the middle of their set, hitting the Perfect Strangers double of Knocking On Your Back Door and Perfect Strangers, I was struck with how impressive Ian Gillan’s vocals remain. Unlike his successor in 1973, Gillan can still hit the higher notes, albeit not in the same way he could in 1971. It’s astonishing to think of the longevity of a band who have always been unfashionable.
A wonderful meandering Lazy, a rampant Space Truckin’ and of course, the inevitable but irresistible Smoke On The Water concluded the main set before the double encore of Hush, and then a Glover and Paice duet which segued into the final song of the evening, the iconic Black Night. If this was the Long Goodbye, then I’m glad that I was able to say my farewells to a band that are as important as Sabbath and Zeppelin to the rock world.