The unenviable task of warming-up the diehard 1970s era Deep Purple fans who were packed into the sold-out Academy 2 in Manchester last Saturday night fell to 20-something British blues wunderkind Laurence Jones. Professional and highly accomplished, Laurence and his band play assured jammy blues-rock in a way that suggests that he’s going places. Performing a selection of tracks from across his career, together with a couple of well-chosen covers, Laurence went down well, with his version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ being particularly noteworthy, featuring as it did (along with L.J.’s tasty guitar) a surprisingly effective Hammond organ solo – not the last time that particular instrument would be showcased tonight.
Since his return from the wilderness in the early 1990s, Glenn Hughes has toured consistently in support of a steady stream of impressive solo albums; each of those tours has featured a Deep Purple song or two, a tip-of-the-hat to Hughes’s 3-year tenure with the band 40-odd years ago. On the current tour though Glenn has gone the whole hog, with the set-list consisting entirely of Purple songs. His band consisted of Soren Andersen on guitar (all dressed in black, natch), Jesper Bo Hansen is a surrogate Jon Lord for the night (looking like the man himself – almost as if he’d just stepped out of the back cover of ‘Last Concert in Japan’) and recent addition Ash Sheehan provides the drums.
Preceding the performance an audio montage of vintage news reports etc set the mood for the journey back in time, and culminate in the late Jon Lord himself introducing Glenn to the stage (in a clip taken from a vintage DP live performance). Things kick off with a rollicking version of ‘Stormbringer’, sounding incredibly powerful, with the band and their leader hitting all the right notes. The audience barely has time to catch their breath before ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ is being pumped out. ‘Sail Away’ is up next, its authoritative funky drive creating a sea of nodding heads. ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ follows, played in all its extended Mk4 glory, echoing the version released on Purple’s ‘Foxbat’ live release. Another Mk4 song ‘You Keep On Moving’ is up next, still a winner even with just one lead vocalist. Purple’s ‘Made in Europe’ live release is the next to be channelled, with an extended ‘You Fool No One’, and like the Purple version before it, this includes a drum solo – surprisingly entertaining it is too, with new boy Ash Sheehan getting the audience clapping along as he gave his kit a severe, yet rhythmic, pummelling. ‘Mistreated’ is the extended blues work-out that we’ve come to expect from past live performances from Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, and indeed Hughes himself. Some lovely playing from Soren Andersen on guitar here – relishing his role as the man-in-black guitar hero. Some have questioned the inclusion of ‘Smoke on the Water’, which closes the main set, but Glenn has argued that any ‘Classic Deep Purple’ show has to include it, and the audience seems to enjoy it – Glenn’s showpiece ‘Georgia on My Mind’ coda to the song giving it extra value.
Encores are pretty much guaranteed by the vociferous reaction of the crowd, and the band returns to the stage to deliver a blistering version of ‘Burn’ – complete with the wall of noise at the start, just like DP used to do before they played it as their opening number. Glenn removes his bass for the final song of the night, his tour tech taking over the instrument for ‘Highway Star’, allowing GH to concentrate solely on the singing. A few years ago Glenn covered this Mk2 song on the ‘Re-Machined’ DP tribute album, and it was a heavy and convincing version that closed proceedings in Manchester.
Ten songs may not seem like many on paper, but when fleshed-out with extended sections and solo spots for all band members, it added up to almost 2 hours of spellbinding entertainment in which the spirit of a sometimes overlooked section of Purple history burned bright.
Words by Tim Summers | Photos by David Pickles