DEEP PURPLE, Europe, Cats In Space @Arena, Birmingham 17/11/18


Rock the (black) night as Deep Purple team up with Europe 

Cats In Space are here to enjoy their evening with the big dogs. “It’s an honour,” says singer Paul Manzi, and he means it too, you sense. Certainly, their sound is one that drips with 70s harmonies and is not out of place. “Too Many Gods” is an opener of which many would be proud, while “Timebomb” is absolutely and unashamedly bombastic. Their closing “Ten Minute Celebrity” has echoes of their former touring partners Thunder and whether or not its enough to see the Cats get lift off, there is no doubt it went purr-fectly for them here (I’ll stop with the shit puns now).

Speaking of things being an honour. Right before Europe play “Scream Of Anger” Joey Tempest relates a story that the (then) young band went to watch Deep Purple in the middle of making their “Wings Of Tomorrow” album. “They blew us away,” he remembers. “They were leading the way then, and they are still.” He is doing his own band a disservice in his modesty. Because, of all the bands that got big in the 1980s, is there one who releases better current material than Europe? Their just out “Walk The Earth” rather proves that neatly, and as if to emphasise the point that they aren’t here to do some boring nostalgia trip, they cheerfully kick off with two from it. The title track comes in with a swagger and a confidence and “The Siege” is everything that modern hard rock should be. The fact is that none of their peers are this relevant, because most of them have gone down some anodyne road. Not Europe, who instead cherry pick songs of (relatively) recent vintage, like “Last Look At Eden”, “Firebox” and “War Of Kings” with as much pride as anyone should. There are three from that glorious past and everyone knows them. “Superstitious” begins with keyboards that are clearly a nod to the headliners, while “Rock The Night” and the one about heading for Venus are as good as they ever are. But that’s the thing about Europe, this ain’t anything like their Final Countdown. They still have too much to offer.

Ian Gillan is an odd frontman. Not for him the Freddy Mercury, Paul Stanley style theatrics, instead he sings the songs, dances awkwardly and recites his jokey poems in between, but a little way through Deep Purple’s 90 minutes tonight, he says something to warm the heart. “Here’s another from our new album, InFinite. It was going to be our last, we weren’t very well a few years back, but we are all ok now so we’re carrying on, I think.”

Like Europe they have new material to play and credit to them for playing it too, in a world where many bands are scared to offer anything fresh, “Time For Bedlam” is a fine opener, “All I Got Is You” is fun (“time for a little light jazz with avant-garde passages” is how Gillan introduces it) and “The Surprising”, together with the even better “Birds Of Prey” show a fine record in superb light.

That said, they are Deep Purple and they’ve got to be vintage Deep Purple too. And they are. “Bloodsucker” thumps out, as Steve Morse – who remains a brilliant guitarist – propels things, and “Knocking At Your Back Door” is positively filthy.

They don’t forget their fallen, either. “Uncommon Man” is dedicated to Jon Lord, and it is a fitting tribute, and if anyone doubts their legacy – often a little easily overlooked in MV’s opinion, then the last three of “Space Truckin’”, “Perfect Strangers” and “Smoke On The Water” should clear that up.

However, the encore, if we are honest, rather stalls the momentum. “Hush” and “Black Night” are fabulous songs, but we’d contend that the time and place for lengthy keyboard, bass and guitar jams wasn’t in those two, on top of the already played keyboard solo from Don Airey earlier in the set.

Quibbles aside, it is wonderful to have Deep Purple still on stages at all, and it turns out the long goodbye tour (as this was billed) isn’t quite ready to say see ya just yet.

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