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Wembley Arena June 21 2003

Oh dear, Purple slightly off-colour but Skynyrd back to full fitness...

So, to Wembley again for what could be called `Monsters Of Rock, Part 2'. Now, can someone explain to me why, when the front of the arena is set aside for standing that you are not allowed to take drinks in, but when it is seated, you are? Very, very strange!

First up tonight are The Darkness. You are all probably familiar with this band, currently enjoying chart success with their latest single `Growing On Me', and have made your own opinions. What cannot be denied, whether you love them or hate them, is that their music is based on classic rock style riffs and any mass-market exposure is a good thing. Live, they are energetic, entertaining, and have full belief in themselves. Personally, I find it hard to relate to Justin Hawkins' helium-charged vocal histrionics, but the music is good, and they did a fine job opening the show.

It's redneck time in North London, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what a show they put on! For once the sound was spot on at Wembley, and you could clearly hear all aspects of the band's performance, including the great piano of Billy Powell throughout. Great songs were pounded out with lead, rhythm and slide guitars in abundance - `Whisky Road', `Gimme Three Steps', and `That Smell' the early highlights. Then new song `Red, White and Blue', which could be a classic in the making. Throughout, Johnny Van Zant is playing to the crowd and paying tribute to previous members of the band. They all seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and very appreciative of the response.

Some great guitar work leads in to set closer `Sweet Home Alabama' and they leave stage. Now the loudest call for encore I have ever heard at Wembley goes on for about 3-4 minutes before they return and Johnny asks "Tell me, what song was it you wanted to hear?" Around 15000 people reply `Freebird' as one. A truly great moment to remember followed by a fantastic rendition of a truly great rock anthem. Awesome performance. Follow that Purple!!!

Follow, they did, but without reaching the heights that LS had scaled 30 minutes before them unfortunately. Crowd reaction seemed almost muted at times in comparison, and the sound wasn't as clear with Don's keys getting lost in the mix, and Roger's bass not as punchy as it was last year at Hammersmith. Ian Paice was as clinical as ever, and Steve Morse technically perfect in every respect, but as a band they just didn't buzz tonight. They obviously realised they had a tough act to follow, as they kicked off with a number usually reserved for the encore, "Highway Star", but even that couldn't drive away the memories of earlier.

Set list was OK, with "I'm Alone" making a rare appearance, but a bit lacking in variation of the classic material since last time out. Two new songs from the forthcoming "Bananas" album were included - "Haunted", a power ballad which sounded quite good, and "I've Got Your Number", which seemed a bit pedestrian. "Perfect Strangers" was the best part of the set for me, played with power and belief.

Lots of instrumental breaks, the highlight of which was Don's keyboard solo - proving he is deserving of following in the great Jon Lord's footsteps. I really think they could drop "The Well Dressed Guitar" in favour of something else ("Child In Time" maybe), as Steve gets plenty of other chances to show off.

His guitar solo involved going through various classic intro riffs, before leading in to the obvious one, and the set finished well with "Smoke On The Water" and "Space Truckin'". Not as much noise as earlier calling for the encore, but the 2 chosen songs "Hush" and "Black Night" were excellent, the latter at least had the effect of making me leave the venue humming a Deep Purple riff.

Some may think I'm being overly harsh on Purple, and that may be true as they probably would have got a great review on another night with a different bill, but tonight they were second best!

Lynyrd Skynyrd 10/10
Deep Purple 8/10
The Darkness 6.5/10


Ian Gillan - Vocals and tambourine Steve Morse - Lead guitars Don Airey - Keyboards and Hammond Organ Roger Glover - Bass guitar Ian Paice - Drums


Highway Star Mary Long I'm Alone Pictures Of Home Haunted Speed King The Well Dressed Guitar Lazy I've Got Your Number Keyboard Solo Perfect Strangers Guitar Solo Smoke On The Water Space Truckin'
Encores Hush Black Night

Text © 2003 Ian Pollard

Jason Ritchie writes:

Deep Purple had a hard act to follow (and I noticed over a dozen people near us left after Skynyrd's set finished which is strange as Purple are a rock band, hardly S Club 7!)... Purple's problem was they needed to play a tight set as they had only just over 90 minutes. They did too many solo spots which are fine in a Hammersmith sized venue, with a loyal fanbase but lost in a big arena. Steve Morse is a key to keeping Purple going I feel, as his guitar playing and interaction with the rest of the band are so natural. But even Morse was gulity - why play the riff from 'Back In Black'? Surely another Purple song could have been squeezed in?

If they had kept the solo spots down they could have stole the show. But that belonged to Skynyrd, who really did go down a storm...

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