Tonight was my first time at the NIA since they changed it to the “Arena Birmingham” name – an obvious wasy of saying “We couldnt find a new sponsor so we left their name blank”. Like many fans I think they should have just reverted to its original name – National Indoor Arena (NIA), especially since that’s what a lot of people still call it.
First up tonight were Cats in space. I’d heard a lot of good things from people who have seen them before so I was looking forward to their set, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. They’re still fairly new having only formed a couple of years ago but they look and sound like they’ve been playing together for a long time. They’ve got a great sound – 70s classic rock with a bit of 80s rock thrown in. It’s a great set and what was very nice (and quite unusual for an arena gig) was to see them head straight to the mech stand after their set to meet fans.
Then it was time for Europe. They kicked off their set with the title track of the new album, “Walk the earth”, the first of three songs from the album in a well balanced set. Some bands overdo the new album, but when doing a support set in particular as Europe are tonight, supporting Deep Purple, it’s important to not assume the venue is filled with fans who have heard the new album. I’ve seen bands do that before and their set fell flat, but Europe are experienced enough to get things just right – a few from the new album mixed in with some songs from their recent albums such as “War of Kings”, but with a good dose of the classic songs that everyone knows – “Rock the night”, “Superstitious” and of course the song that every rock fan in the world knows and expects to hear in a Europe show – “The final countdown”. A great set, and it was nice to see them given a long set – almost an hour.
Finally it was time for Deep Purple, on their “The long goodbye” tour. Deep Purple have a difficult balancing act to do on their tours – on the one hand they want to play the recent material, but on the other the fans mainly want to hear the classics from the 70s. With the early material being very different from the 70s classics and from the newer material it’s a harder balancing act than most bands face as the music really is very different. With many fans disappointed by the new album, the fact we got four songs from that album wasn’t ideal and the crowd reaction while positive was definitely muted compared to when they played the classics – “Lazy”, “Perfect strangers”, “Space truckin” and of course “Smoke on the water”.
It’s still a great show from Deep Purple, but it was noticeable that Roger Glover looked far more animated and happy when playing the classics. We get a good keyboard solo during the set that gave a nod to the main support act with a short bit of “The final countdown”, a guitar solo during “Black night” and during the encore we get a bass solo.
I did enjoy Deep Purple’s set. This was my 7th time seeing them over the years, so I wasn’t expecting a full-on hard rock set even though that’s exactly what many fans would dearly love to hear one last time from them.
A great night with three excellent bands.