Improvisation and good spirits ran high when Jon Lord played special guest with Deep Purple at this year’s Sunflower Jam in London on September 25.
Lengthy organ solos ensured Jon Lord fans were sent home happy, and Deep Purple with Jon Lord and Bruce Dickinson guesting put smiles on everybody’s faces.
The house band – with Micky Moody on guitar (ex-Whitesnake) – open the evening’s musical proceedings with a set of soul standards incl. Respect (with Sam Brown on vocals), I Can’t Stand the Rain (with Margo Buchanan on vocals) and round off with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson appearing onstage to deliver hard hitting versions of River Deep Mountain High and With a Little Help From My Friends.
Walking in the shadow …
Then Dickinson says:
– We have a very special moment now because as you know there’s a band called Deep Pink coming on a little later, and we thought we’d have a little transition period. So we have an extra special guest – mr. Jon Lord.
Jon Lord appears to wild applause and tests the organ with a couple of striking warm-up chords which make Dickinson jokingly enquire whether the organ is working. Then he says:
– I’ll ask you to treat everybody up here very gently because we’ve never done this one before, and the band charge into a storming version of Whitesnake’s Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues complete with suitably screaming Hammond chords and guitar solo from Micky Moody.
This is pretty spine tingling stuff, puts smiles on everybody’s faces and gets the crowd nicely worked up. The band and Dickinson leave the stage with the words, ‘We may be back.’
A bid for charity
This musical feast comes after an evening in grand luxury. The Sunflower Jam is like an over-sized dinner party under grand chandeliers in the poshly styled Porchester Hall. Starting off with champagne then a delicious three-course dinner, the charity guests – including actor Jeremy Irons, tennis pro Pat Cash, and booking agent Neil Warnock – are then invited to bid in the evening’s auction of rock and sports memorabilia.
A signed Ian Paice snaredrum with a set of his signature drum sticks fetches a cool £2,200. Photographer Fin Costello – famous for capturing the essence of Deep Purple onstage in the early 70’s (on album covers like Made In Japan, Made In Europe, etc) – has donated a couple of signed prints; a screaming shot of Ian Gillan from 1978 goes for £700 and one of Deep Purple coming off the Starship in 1974 brings bidding up to £2,000.
But the real attraction is a one-on-one video filmed drum session with the governor (that’s Ian Paice!). Bidding is fierce for this special item and takes a while to conclude at a staggering £3,000. Someone is getting himself a very special experience there.
Rick Wakeman presents Deep Purple
The clock is fast approaching midnight and the crowd has thinned somewhat. The important part of contributing to the good cause is over, now it’s time to enjoy the evening’s main attraction onstage. Yes-master of keyboards, Rick Wakeman, who has compered the entire evening with dry wit and obnoxious jokes (all in good style, of course), finally ambles on to conclude his job for the day:
– Would you please welcome… I’ve always wanted to do this, I love this band, what can I say? Deep Purple!
Pictures of Home gets off to a pumping start with Ian Paice thrashing away on a Pearl rent-a-kit considerably smaller than what he’s used to – which still doesn’t diminish his power one bit. In the next songs he inadvertently drops a stick, and without the band’s usual ever-ready road crew, it is left for Ian Gillan to hand him a fresh one.
Ian Gillan obviously isn’t in the best of voice (under the weather with a nasty spot of the flu), but he fights hard and by the third song his throat seems to have cleared up well enough to justify not cancelling the show. Well done, soldier.
Still, the band often has little discussions between songs over how to continue the set considering Ian’s condition. As a consequence the crowd is awarded with an improved setlist focusing a little more on instrumentals than originally planned, which certainly doesn’t dampen the atmosphere – and even Ian Gillan often remains onstage to partake in the excitement from behind the backline of amplifiers.
He alludes to his own situation in a little duel with Steve Morse at the end of Strange Kind of Woman; ‘She was a strange one,’ he yells, ‘but on this particular night she couldn’t say much at all.’ After the song he greets the crowd and offers his usual warning under these circumstances:
– Don’t stand too close, you might catch something.
The Hammond Hush
The band gets going with Hush so swiftly that Jon Lord doesn’t make it onstage in time for the opening chord – ‘so why play the other three,’ he later quips. He’s in place for the percussive Hammond part though, and soon everybody’s swaying with the song’s ‘na-na-na-na…’ theme.
The arrangement seems a little shaky in places, but all holes are quickly filled, and Jon Lord is allowed to stretch out in an extra long solo that both swirls, boogies, whispers and screams as the meastro makes the most of the song, interplaying beautifully with Paicey who mimics bits of the solo.
– That’s Johnny Lord!, exclaims Ian Gillan afterwards, and introduces Wring That Neck from The Book of Taliesyn – ‘I must have been only 15 in those days.’
Wring that organ
The words ‘groove’ and ‘joy’ come to mind here. Of course they don’t do a 30-minute version of this – as they did 38-40 years ago – but there are solos aplenty. As Jon Lord goes for some of his old tricks, there’s a collective desire in the room for him to be good, and he damn well is. The Hammond snarls, then entices, then prods, and Steve Morse accepts the challenge, and for a few minutes Jon Lord never left Deep Purple.
Behind the amplifiers Don Airey is sipping a beer with a great big smile on his face, obviously also enjoying Lord’s display of virtuosity. Afterwards in the dressingroom they part with affirmative mutual praise and promises of ‘maybe next time’, ‘yes, any time’.
– Holy mackrel! Nice one, says Gillan and leads the band into Mary Long (which, contrary to some reviews, is not dedicated to Amy Winehouse).
Gillan does a rather excellent scream towards the end, but after Highway Star it feel like the show is over. A few moments discussion within the band end with Ian Gillan introducing ‘the inimitable, freshly manicured, freshly laundered, the amazing Steve Morse.’
We get a captivating Contact Lost followed by a lengthy guitar solo with Don, Roger and Paicey sitting ready to launch into Well Dressed Guitar – as they eventually do on Steve’s cue. What a party. From its nightlife on the world’s stages (oh yes, and as an exclusive iTunes-download and a ‘tour edition’ bonustrack), this track never fails to impress and set venues alight in a rocking frenzy – and also tonight at the Sunflower Jam. Steve Morse seems to be king.
Dickinson encore addition
Further band discussions – ‘it was a case of doing what Ian was able to do,’ Roger Glover says afterwards – end with Steve cranking the Dang Dang Song to unconfinable joy in the hall. Jon Lord joins in the mellee and Bruce Dickinson wriggles his way onto the stage – via the curtain! – and with a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales in hand, he and Ian Gillan share vocal duties in Smoke on the Water with Bruce Dickinson providing the screams.
The band thanks the crowd and disappears. Down at the front someone starts chanting the Black Night riff. It builds and soon the band is lured back onstage. Jon Lord and Bruce Dickinson join in as Paicey and Glover kick off the riff.
During the song’s solo part, Dickinson quotes Gillan and Blackmore’s famous interplay from Strange Kind of Woman (off Made In Japan) – and pronounces himself ‘just silly’.
It’s a heck of a party and prolonged cheering extracts a second encore from the band. But instead of more Purple tunes, they offer a rare boogie version of Little Richard’s Lucille, of often played in the early 70’s but rarely since.
Afterwards Jon Lord is sweaty and enthusiastic. It was a good work out and only Gillan’s poor voice put a damper on things.
– Ian’s voice was fine four days ago. Three days ago he started feeling a cold coming on, two days ago he had it in his chest and this morning he couldn’t speak, explains Jon Lord.
Nevertheless, Deep Purple’s performance felt good, very different to their usual shows, and Jon Lord radiated joy to be back in the saddle for a few ones.