Barrowland Ballroom Reviews

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Deep Purple Rocks The Barrowland

2 Mar 1996

It had been more years than anyone cared to remember since Deep Purple had graced Glasgow with their presence and, although most of their off-shoots had been in the city over the years, there was a distinct air of anticipation around the world-famous Barrowlands that night. However, questions as to whether this was just a bunch of fifty-something-year-olds trying to rejuvenate the heady days of their past or if indeed they really did have something to offer still remained?

Their new album, Purpendicular, with Ritchie Blackmore replacement, Steve Morse, was certainly good, but would it be enough to keep the 1900 or so fans that packed the Barrowlands happy? As usual, there was the obligatory, but instantly-forgettable, support act who sounded as though there were playing in a tin can. This didn't bode well for the rest of the evening. Nine o'clock, lights down and it was down to business then and as Ian Paice thundered out the familiar drum roll to the title track from the 1972 album Fireball to set the proceedings in motion, any misgivings about the sound quality were soon dispelled. Of course, if Purple are veterans when it comes to rock 'n roll, Glasgow's Barrowlands is positively in the Dinosaur era, but when it comes to atmosphere, sound and all-round excitement, there's no-where better.

Almost instantly the crowd were jumping up and down and, whether it was those among them who were around in the early days of the group or those witnessing them for the first time, the atmosphere was electric. Blazing through Fireball, it was on to Maybe I'm A Leo from the Machine Head album before Ian Gillan and his merry band of rockers hit us with Ted The Mechanic, the first of several numbers from Purpendicular. Steve Morse's blistering opening chords to the number sent the crowd into a frenzy. You could bet a pound to a penny the muscles of the 40 to 50-year-olds who were jumping up and down would be reminding them of the previous evening's happenings - and their advancing years, of course. If you hadn't known better, you'd have thought Jon Lord and that man Morse with his blond, straggly hair had been trading licks for 20 years rather than two, such was the rapport between them.

On a few previous occasions during visits to Glasgow with his self-named band, there were time when Ian Gillan looked as though his famous, piercing scream was beginning to lose its edge, but not tonight. Scream for scream he was matched by the audience and when the band launched into their second number from Machine Head, Pictures Of Home, it became clear they were as tight as ever. Fireball, Maybe I'm A Leo, Pictures Of Home, Bloodsucker, No One Came and When A Blind Man Cries were all numbers which had rarely, if ever, been seen live in the UK, but they sounded as fresh and exciting as they did when first heard on their various albums.

One thing that was noticeable about the '90s version of a Purple gig was the amount of time Ian Gillan spent on stage as opposed to the days of old. Gone were the 15-minutes solos, in were more songs, which meant the front man had a far bigger role to play, but despite hitting the ripe old age of 51 in 1996, he was in as fine voice as ever. If the first four numbers hammered home the fact that Purple two decades-plus on were a force still to be reckoned with, as soon as the first chords of Black Night were thrashed out, Glasgow's Barrowlands erupted. Of course, maybe that's why Gillian can still curdle the milk with his piercing scream because by this time the 1900 rock 'n roll revelers were doing his job for him and he could have simply taken on the role of conductor of the proceedings. 

After battering out another couple of numbers from Purpendicular it was back to the oldies, but goodies with Woman From Tokyo from the Who Do We Think We Are album and Bloodsucker from the In Rock platter. Blackmore may have been king of Purple, but Morse, with his distinctive style and sound all of his own is more than an adequate replacement and his little spats with Jon Lord during Bloodsucker more than convinced even the staunchest fan of the departed Man in Black. Continue to play your Medieval music with your band of minstrels, Mr Blackmore was the cry. Of course, there was the guitar solo, the keyboard solo though, strangely enough, not the ubiquitous Ian Paice drum solo, though the man at the back's playing was better than it has ever been. Whether you like Jurassic rock or not, there's no denying that when a bunch of guys who have played together for over 25 years hit the stage, you can be guaranteed a flawless, faultless example of musicianship. Take note today's imposters. 

The Perpendicular Waltz from Purpendicular, No One Came off Fireball and Rose's Cantina preceded the much-loved anthem that is the bane of guitar shop owners the world over. Smoke On The Water, complete with Jon Lord's keyboard solo with his arrangement of "I Belong To Glasgow" brought the house down, but the proceedings were far from over. Another live rareity, When A Blind Man Cries, the original "B" side of Never Before single lifted off the Machine Head platter had the Barrowlands silenced to the point where you could have heard a pin drop. Then it was back to the crashing chords of Somebody Stole My Guitar from Purpendicular. Watching Steve Morse solo his way to capturing the crowd, most of whom had probably never seen him live before, it was obvious no one ever stole this Yank's guitar when he was a little boy.

To end proceedings the classic Speed King saw Morse and Lord flirt with each other for a lengthy period in the middle of the song before the familiar crashing licks which summon the end had the crowd in seventh heaven.
After performing 16 numbers the band - whose four original members, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice have a combined age of 206 between them - could have been forgiven for jumping into their limos and heading back to base for a well-earned cup of cocoa, laced with a small brandy. Whoever wrote the Rock 'n Roll rulebook though must have decided from an early age that this was never going to be just a young man's game because as the Barrowlands crowd reached their crescendo in calling for more, the band were back on stage. Not one, not two, but three numbers were still on the set list and it seemed as though taxis were going to be the order of the evening as thoughts of catching the last bus home were dismissed in exchange for some extra Purplemania.
Perfect Strangers from the 1985 album of the same name which saw the band reformed for the first time in 12 years, Hey Cisco from Purpendicular and the classic Highway Star with its subtle drum introduction closed the

And this was one happy audience who, not once, shouted for the return of the Man In Black and, instead, readily accepted Steve Morse as Deep Purple's six-string strummer. "It was just like Sauchiehall Street in 1969!" one of the more mature fans was heard to mutter as the Barrowlands emptied that night. Naturally, the younger among them wondered what he was talking about. If only they'd been there 25 years ago they'd have known that history was, in fact, just repeating itself.

 This Review by Bill Hicks was submitted by Email


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