Deep Purple – Manchester, MEN Arena – 18 November 2017 Print
Written by DJ Astrocreep and David O'Neill   
Thursday, 07 December 2017 04:40

A legend in their own lifetimes, Deep Purple announced a worldwide tour named ‘The Long Goodbye’. Featuring very long term members Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Ian Gillan, with Steve Morse also having played lead guitar for over 20 years for them and Don Airey having been their keyboard maestro for the last 15, I couldn't take the risk of it being the actual final tour of the band, so made sure to get there. Somewhat bizzarely, both for a rock gig and an arena performance, the show is all seated.

 

Deep Purple 4

 

Opening the night are Cats In Space, a power pop rock band I recently missed in Manchester, due to a conflict in timing with other bands touring. Time to see what I missed. In truth, they are not too bad at all. They seem to not quite fit the stage, being in a large arena, and their lack of energy on stage doesn't translate too well, but this is partially compensated for by being quite enjoyable. Vocalist Paul Mansi tries on several occasions to engage with the crowd, trying to get them to clap along. This has limited response from an audience that is just beginning to swell in number, perhaps due to it being an all seated performance, so a lack of energy from the crowd. They do an ok job overall, but there is definitely a feeling that they would likely have had a better response from a standing crowd in front of them to feed them energy, or perhaps at a different stage of their career, rather than so early in it.

 

Next up, a headline act in their own right, is Europe. Known for their worldwide hit ‘The Final Countdown’, they have themselves been going for almost 40 years. Opening song ‘Walk The Earth’, the title track from their latest album, showed a harder AOR glean to their sound than the aforementioned big single. There is a fairly heavy echo on vocalist Joey Tempest's mic to add some depth to his voice, though this sits quite well in the mix. Followed by ‘The Siege’, an almost prog track at times, and it's obvious that they are deliberately showing the different strings to their bow beyond the obvious, doing a very creditable job of it, too.

 

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With ‘Rock The Night’ following, the second single from the ‘The Final Countdown’ album, more of the crowd start singing along, turning the volume and energy up a notch. Feeding from this, Joey has the crowd slowly rising to their feet to join him in clapping along. This continues through a lot of their ten track set, with Joey sneering down the microphone, “You guys look great... but not as good as us”, showing the kind of bravado you would expect of a band from this era and a good example of why they are so fitting on this bill.

 

As it continues, Joey starts chatting a little more between songs, telling of his own personal love of Deep Purple, saying that their ‘Made In Japan’ album made him think of them being made in Europe, where he got the name from - though whether this is a red herring or not is another thing entirely. Finally, the keyboard intro to ‘The Final Countdown’ starts, and a roar erupts from the crowd. They spring to their feet, singing loudly along as the band go through the track and it finally feels like a stadium performance, rather than the somewhat quieter affair it has been until this point. The end is greeted with another loud cheer from the captivated audience, who are by now well and truly in the mood for the headline act. Once again, job done by Europe!

 

Deep Purple 2

 

Now for Deep Purple, and the sense of excitement from the crowd, spurred on by Europe, is almost palpable. On they come to ‘Time For Bedlam’, a fitting choice considering what is to come, from their latest album, ‘Infinite’. There are initially a couple of mic issues with the sound, but they are quickly rectified as they blast straight into an extended version of old favourite ‘Fireball’, then ‘Bloodsucker’, giving all of the band, from vocals to keys to drums, guitar and bass a chance to shine.

 

They finally take a short break from playing after this, just long enough for Ian Gillan to apologise for the gig being seated, remarking that he had instead asked for settees, chaise longues, labradoodles and goldfish, amongst other things, to laughter from the crowd. This sets the tone for the rest of the set, with some truly breathtaking solos on each instrument at different times, with even keyboard supremo Don Airey, the newcomer to the band at a mere 15 years, following the death of Jon Lord, showing some breathtaking ability during his solo after a supremely performed ‘Knocking At Your Back Door’ two-thirds of the way through the main set: starting with ‘Mr Crowley’ by Ozzy Osbourne, before finishing with the ‘Coronation Street’ theme - an obvious nod to the location - this is performed with jaw-droppingly astounding skill. With the obvious hits still to come, it is something to truly think on that there had been a solo from almost each one of the instrumentalists at this point without the audience being lost, or any sense of meandering or wasting of time, just a complete feeling of awe at such technical ability shown, giving Ian Gillan the chance to catch his breath off stage.

 

Deep Purple 3

 

After the keyboard solo, it's time for the hits, with 1984's fantastic comeback album, following their eight-year hiatus, ‘Perfect Strangers’, being featured by the title track, dragging the audience to their feet to sing loudly along, myself included (unfortunately for those around me!). Followed quickly by the hits ‘Space Truckin' and ‘Smoke On The Water’, it's time for nothing but the big sing-a-longs, the crowd are fully enraptured, almost as if performing on stage themselves, giving the truest sense of belonging to everyone around the arena. The band edge slowly off stage, to await the loud shouts of encore from the crowd.

 

Back on they come, to cover the Booker T & the MGs song 'Green Onions', before heading on to another in the form of ‘Hush’ by Joe South, albeit one they are well known for in this case. A bass solo follows from Roger Glover, taking the time to demonstrate his own technical skills, before the band move on to the final track of the night in ‘Black Night’, with snippets of ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, in tribute to Malcolm Young, and ‘How Many More Times’, before they finally exit the stage for the night.

 

If this was the final tour, they have certainly gone out on a high.

 

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