Deep Purple at Utilita Arena Birmingham 25.10.2022 with Blue Oyster Cult supporting
When I started my record collection around 1977 I never really looked back. I mean I hardly acknowledged any music released before that date. The ‘hairies’ at school would wander the corridors with albums in clear plastic sleeves for me to scoff at. I got exposed to a bit of new heavy metal as it came out and warmed to a bit of Motörhead and Iron Maiden, but I never got involved in older heavy rock. Those legends passed me by. Legends like Deep Purple.
Eventually one grows out of these things and I allowed myself the odd peek – the odd guilty pleasure. It took me a good 25 years though. By 2007 I had worked out that it might be a good idea to go and see Deep Purple before they packed it all in. I tried to get a ticket outside for a sold out gig at the Bournemouth International Centre: Deep Purple, Styx and Thin Lizzy (minus Phil Lynott). Nothing doing and I had to go home thinking that was that.
Move on another 15 years and here I am in the centre of Birmingham chatting to Deep Purple’s keyboard player Don Airey before their Arena show. I was hoping my ignorance of the band’s extensive discography would not be exposed – the only album I am properly familiar with is Machine Head, a wedding gift sent from my mate Al in France (Cheers Al).
I got away with it. Lovely guy. Don and Ian Paice were the longer time band members that did a bit of signing stuff, along with new boy Simon McBride who I was later to realise was an extrovert guitarist of jaw dropping quality.
The support band tonight are another bucket list rock act: Blue Öyster Cult. Yes they finished with Don’t Fear the Reaper (now there’s a song that’s starting to resonate!) and just before that another of their hits Godzilla. Main ingredients Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom are still with the band, a band that started in 1967. Classic rock. Glad I wore my jeans. Wish I had a leather jacket.
When the legendary Deep Purple take the stage, right in front of me – we are just a few rows back – it is the familiar ground of Machine Head to start. Indeed five of the main setlist are from that album. I got lucky.
It is Ian Gillan on vocals – still belting it out aged 77 – and Roger Glover on bass, adding to the aforementioned Airey, Paice and McBride. Deep Purple have had many reincarnations but Gillan is a frontman with his own legendary status as well as his established part in Deep Purple. Gillan’s voice has held up – the power with control. When a Blind Man Cries (Studio version) was one in the set that hits the mark best for me.
It’s a heavy rock band so everyone has their moment. McBride’s staggering guitar solos, Glover’s bass piece in the encores, Paice’s rumbling drums and Don Airey’s monster keyboard solo – that was up on the big stage screens to see as well as hear. It’s pretty damn loud but I refrain from any sound dampening plugs – it feels inappropriate for these heavy rock legends. Feel the noise.
Two from Machine Head end the main set – that’ll do me. Space Truckin’ and then yes, thank you for obliging, it’s Smoke on the Water. Got to be one of the top songs to hear live at least once. There are some very happy old boys in here (yes it’s a man-crowd); and they have waited quite a while for this while the plague cleared. Some people are going to sleep well tonight. (YouTube: Smoke on the Water live in Birmingham 2022.)
After a short rest, the claps, cheers and roars for an encore are answered. Gillan gives a warm thanks to the respectful thousands – must be 8,000 in – hard to tell as they can adjust the 14,800 capacity Arena size.
Hush first (a cover on their 1968 LP), the Glover bass solo and to end, the very familiar Black Knight. Rock on! Glad I made it. What an opportunity.