We’d been looking forward to it since we booked tickets on the day the tour was announced last June – front row seats at Wembley Arena to see Deep Purple. OK, so it wasn’t going to be a novelty, it would be my third Purple gig and Moth’s eighth or ninth, but still, front row at a big stadium gig ain’t a bad place to be! Yesterday the day finally arrived. Purple were supported by melodic rockers Thin Lizzy and US pomp rockers Styx.
Lizzy were on first.
The band includes both guitarists who were in it when the band split up and with two other personnel changes, but lacks original Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott who died in 1985. The lack of Lynott is tangible. They were certainly not as good as Lizzy tribute band Limehouse Lizzy who we saw last year. The problem Thin Lizzy have is that they CAN’T replace Lynott with a Lynott look-and-soundalike, it would be disrespectful. Whereas a tribute band has no such problem, indeed it is their duty to find and rely on such a character… So they were OK, but I found it all rather sad that they actually kept going.
Next on was Styx.
I was never a big fan of so-called stadium rock (though I quite liked Boston, ooh and Kansas actually), but they actually put on a pretty good show and one of the musicians, Tommy Shaw, was superb. It was 25 years since they last played in London, which drew some old-time Styx fans out of the woodwork – there were plenty of people with Styx T-shirts on standing, waving their arms and singing along with every song.
By now I was well and truly ready to rock… and then suddenly there they were! Deep Purple! Right in front of us!
When we saw them at the Astoria last year it was an undeniable fantastic gig, but the chaps weren’t right in front of us! The ubiquitously smiley and cute guitarist Steve Morse grinned his way to the front of the stage just three metres away:
…and vocalist Ian Gillan rushed to the front of the stage, waving at fans and grinning his way through the first song ‘Pictures of Home’.
I’d like to state quite catagorically that Ian Gillan is far better harmonica player than Bob Dylan!
Purple have been around almost since the beginning of rock and have legendary status. But instead of seeming more remote as time as has gone on, for me it has gone the other way. They are more accessible than ever, and – this is going to seem really wanky to read (as wanky as it is to write! ) – it was just like seeing a bunch of much-loved old mates on stage. Awww!
I know what you’re thinking: ‘christ-on-a-bike’ the old bird’s gone soft!’ Ack, maybe I have. But the big sweet tunes, the pumping anthems, the wizard musicianship, the chant-a-long lyrics, the solid wall of beautiful melodic music – as powerful and as moving as any Beethoven symphony – stir me to the core. This is rock music at its most exciting and most sexy and most human! I was in Purple paradise.
They finished their set with ‘Smoke on the water’ and were joined by Styx’s guitarist Tommy Shaw who grinned with delight all the way through:
I think he could hardly believe that here he was actually playing it with Purple to their home crowd! Steve Morse threw his plectrum into the crowd and I was the lucky one who caught it. *sigh!* Can’t wait to see them again.
Photos by Moth Clark. Nice job, Mein Hairy, some cracking shots there!