Deep Purple rock Cardiff
Wednesday 25th April.
7pm Head into town to the Cardiff International Arena to catch Deep Purple. I've arranged to meet the band's bass player Roger Glover backstage to mull over a project I have in mind. My friend Andrew Pritchard comes along to take photos of the event and happenings backstage.
7-30pm -- Arrive at the CIA and pick up our guest passes. These take the form of a red laminated pass featuring the cover of Purple's last album Rapture Of The Deep on the front, along with the 3-d holographic trickery embedded to prevent fraud. On the back it simply reads GUEST : 25th April 2007 Cardiff.
There are two queues snaking into the arena. One for men and one for women. But most fans simply head for the nearest line ignoring this segregation-- promptling one aggressive, balding, burly bouncer to shout at any poor woman unfortunate enough to take the wrong line --- "Men Only!!!" He barks at them and gives them a menacing stare. Watching the ladies flinch and retreat, cowed, to the proper line gives him a satisfactory glow. Lets hope when Take That play here they put him on duty front stage as a punishment!!!!!!
7-45pm --- Andrew and I make our way backstage. We are taken on a rather lengthy, twisty route which seems to cover every floor. Ten minutes later and I can see how Spinal Tap once got lost backstage! This is a tricky business. The maze of corridors at the CIA all look alike but the band's Stage Manager, who is leading the way, remains unfazed ands seems to have no trouble homing in on the dressing rooms and soon we are backstage. There we wait with two security guards while another of the band's entourage goes to fetch Mr Glover. "Never heard of him" says the younger of the security guards. The old man tuts at his colleagues ignorance and says to me and Andrew "Never heard of Roger Glover! What's the world coming to?"
My attention strays to a notice posted on the wall by the dressing room.
TEAM BRIEFING - it announces proudly in bold ink. It details the start times of the three bands. Thin Lizzy at 7pm. Styx at 8pm and Deep Purple at 9-30pm. It lists the capacity (5,100) for tonight show and bizzarely has a section entitled AUDIENCE PROFILE: next to that heading it describes tonights crowd as "Old Rockers In Denim And Leather". Well. There's no need to be insulting now is there!!! Surely it should read "Streetwise Classic Rockers With A Sense of Style, High Intelligence, And Good Perspective Of The World Around!" Still no time to quibble.
Roger Glover suddenly comes through the doors beer in hand and cigarette in mouth. "Hi Guys. Can I get you a drink?" A charming and amiable man, we chat about the latest leg of the tour - his Welsh homecoming. Roger was born just down the down in Brecon. After 15 minutes or so, Roger departs to check out the stage -It's his his pre-gig ritual. "See you later" he says disappearing to watch the end of the Styx set.
9-30pm. Deep Purple burst onto stage and plough straight into Pictures of Home from the great Machinehead album. Ian Gillan - barefoot - stalks the stage belting out classic Purple tracks in a clear and strong voice. The stage show is also magnificent with a terrific lighting set-up. All too soon though its time for the encore. "This is a very old song" smiles Ian Gillan. "Very, very old. Its from 1968." The band launch into a superb version of Hush before ending the evening on a high with Black Night. With three of the classic Mark II line-up in Roger Glover, Ian Gillan and Ian Paice plus two superb new members in Rainbow, Whitesnake and Gary Moore keyboard player Don Airey and former Dixie Dregs and Kansas guitarist Steve Morse, this is a very tight, and talented line-up. The two newcomers add a vitality and energy to the band and the performance of the three long-time members is visibly lifted by the enthusiasm of their comrades on stage. The band seem to throughly enjoy themselves. At the end of an exhilarating 90 minutes --- which includes The battle Rages On and When A Blind Man Cries among the stand out moments -- Andrew and I reflect that it was worth the admission price alone (Ok we didn't pay but you know what I mean!!) just to watch this legendary band perform Smoke On The Water. Glorious!!!!
Lets hope they come around again soon. Deep Purple are far, far from a spent force.
JEFF COLLINS is the author of ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD now available for pre-order from Amazon, Waterstones, Wal-mart and all good bookshops. IT's published on September 15th.