It’s been a busy (expensive) week for fans of Classic Rock with Neil Young bringing in 13000+ in Cologne, Carlos Santana making a rare appearance in Bonn, and in between Deep Purple at Kunst!Rasen… Even for the wealthy Rockfan over fifty it’s still physically hard on tired legs. I made my stand (pardon the pun) at Kunst!Rasens ‘Classic Rock Nacht’ where I got four bands for the price of one including current top Rockers Gov’t Mule and the legendary Deep Purple.
But first a stop-off for chicken curry and Lassi from the ‘klein aber fein’ Indigo Flamingo boothe, after all it was going to be a long (3pm to 10pm) and hot (25+ degrees) evening. It started in blistering style too with Belgien band Triggerfinger. They meant nothing to me before the show but afterwards I remembered them for A) the brightly colored Union Jack jacket of their drummer and B) The simple ‘kick-ass’ fun of their music.
Especially memorable was a laid back, eerie Son House take “We love listening to old Blues” as lead singer Ruben Block pointed out. The bands stock in trade though is no-nonsense early 70’s rock. If the lead singer looks a little like Lemmy, then that’s a good indication of what you get and despite the short set they still managed to fit in one of those obligatory early 70’s drum solos.
Definitely a band to check out on the road – you won’t be disappointed.
Crippled Black Phoenix. I knew I would have problems with this part of the evening. Wikipedia rather extravagantly calls them a British ‘Rock Supergroup’ which sort of suggests Robert Plant with Elton on piano. The labels afforded them give the game away though: ‘Stoner Prog’, ‘Freak Folk’ and ‘Doom’ are the many suggestions for their style. I remember a riff that was not unlike ‘Black Night’ somewhere in there and a number (‘Shout’?) that was Poguish in the ‘Fiesta’ sense of those esteemed Irish wizards.
There was some lyric along the lines of “Damn my Mother and damn my child” which thundered inevitably into the break – which is maybe how all the best ‘Doom Rock’ concerts end. Not my thing really and I found my eyes and mind wandering around the audience that had began appearing and thinking that if many people look like their pets after many years then many fans look like their favorite bands. I spotted at least six Roger Glovers from where I stood – little did I know that they were the closest I would get to seeing the man himself.
The upshot was that I had time to grab a beer (damn the heat) before the arrival of the band that had tipped the scales to coming to this show in the first place: Gov’t Mule. Warren Haynes ticks a lot of boxes for those who love old school Rock Blues. Haynes learned his trade with the Allman Brothers and but decision to go it alone in the late 90’s was a wise one judging by this evenings performance. In the shimmering heat I can almost see the ‘Dead Man Walking’ that the band sing about and Danny Lewis’ keyboards even manage to steal thunder occasionally from the superb guitar riffing of Haynes – a particular example coming on ‘The Storms About to Rage’.
It’s still hot but Haynes is telling us about the ‘Fools Moon’:
“Yellow moon shining like fool’s gold Slipping softly into the sea. Memories how they linger Guess we weren’t strong enough, you and me…”
There was even a taster from the upcoming CD in the shape of ‘Captured’ . A simple but oh-so-effective mid-tempo ballad to mellow out to:
“When I see you smile, I am a child, I’m captured”
We were captured too Warren – ‘Slack Town Jezebel’ was a killer and the sleazy doom of ‘Like Flies’ was my kind of ‘Doom Rock’ – one with a heart and a riff. A run through of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who do you love’ and I’m thinking Deep Purple have not made their lives easy as headliners.
That feeling increases when Ian Gillan and Co take the stage some time after 8pm. A loud cheer goes up as Ian Pace heads for his stool and a loud silence goes up as a slim youngster steps out stage right with bass guitar who is clearly not Roger Glover. Wisely, Ian Gillan hits everyone between the eyes with the classic ‘Fireball’ to concentrate minds on music. Gillan owes me a good gig too – I still remember a Winters day in Portsmouth and a gig with his band that actually featured just his band after Gillan himself had lost his voice. In comparison his vocals can only be better this evening and they are – if not always as in those halycon days of yore. Indeed, Gillan seemed to my eyes at least not too well, seeminglyisappearing backstage during every solo and between each verse. At least Gillan is here though and provides a vague but not overly helpful explanation for Roger Glovers absence “To have a head transplant” which explains the presence of Reading born Nick Fyffe where Glover normally stands. His arrival was apparently required virtually overnight and he stood the test with excellence.
The real stars of the set were oddly enough not Gillan or drummer Ian Paice but guitar hero (do they still exist?) Steve Morse and especially keyboard virtuoso Don Airey, who fittingly put some Beethoven into the mix during a wonderful solo piece that echoed the late, great and ultimately irreplaceable Jon Lord. If anyone COULD replace Lord that man was onstage.
Despite obvious problems Ian Gillan gave 110% to the show. Who else could sing ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ like him? Or ‘Lazy’ or ‘Space Trucking’ or of course ‘Smoke on the Water’ which saw Warren Haynes sharing lead with Steve Morse (and Morse also worked his butt off this evening, no mistake).
There were inevitable shouts for ‘Child in Time’ as an encore but it was ‘Hush’ that closed out the show with lots of ‘Sha na na na’s’. Gillan himself had sounded most comfortable vocally on the new single,that’s almost in Johnny Cash territory vocally and which I found particularly moving:
“Don’t worry, we have all the time in the world”
It’s from an album that’s doing excellent business here in Germany – even topping the Rock charts. I fear though that with the passing of Lord and the ageing of his colleagues Deep Purple fans may not have all the time in the world to see their heroes live onstage. Right now though Ian Gillan is still the Child in Time for a Masterclass in Rock vocals and Deep Purple still carry a mighty musical punch.