UK: Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord dies of cancer

IPSWICH: Legendary Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord has died at the age of 71 after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Lord’s final performance with the band was at the Ipswich Regent in September 2002.

The band had been due to perform at the theatre in February of that year, but the show had to be postponed because of illness to one of the other members.

After the end of their spring tour Lord announced his retirement, but agreed to remain when the final shows were re-scheduled during the autumn.

During the concert he handed over the keyboard duties to his replacement Don Airey, but returned for a rousing encore which was hugely emotional for everyone in the theatre.

The Star’s review of the concert summed up one of the greatest nights ever seen at the Regent and is reproduced here:

Deep Purple at the Ipswich Regent.

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WHEN it comes to heavy rock, there is no one in the world that can deliver quite like Deep Purple.

And last night they showed, after 35 years in the business, the band can still provide power-packed rock to delight their audience.

Two hours of supercharged and superloud music sent the full house into ecstasy – and had those of us lucky enough to be there recalling the old Wayne’s World chant: “We’re not Worthy!”

Several people at the show had made the difficult – not that difficult, most said – decision to come to the concert rather than the football at Portman Road. We clearly made the right choice.

From the very start the band was clearly out for a good night. Lead vocalist Ian Gillan has strong Ipswich connections – he mentioned his friendship with Paul Mariner and spoke about watching a Van Morrison concert when it was the Gaumont.

That enthusiasm for the place spread to the rest of the band as they belted out their early numbers including the classic Space Truckin’.

The audience had waited a long time for the concert – it was postponed in March after Gillan suffered a throat infection – and during that time Jon Lord has retired from the band and been replaced by Don Airey.

But last night, following the pattern of the rest of the British leg of the tour, Lord was back making a “guest” appearance – in fact playing for more than half the set!

He was the last to leave the stage at the end and got an emotional farewell from the crowd in the theatre.

The concert was a great mixture of old classics and newer material which only the die-hard fans were familiar with. There was also a brief taste of a track from next summer’s new album by the Deep Purple.

Of course the best was saved until last.

“Smoke on the Water” was the finale for the main set – but we hadn’t heard Black Night or Highway Star by then so we were all fairly confident they’d play an encore.

When all six came back on stage we were treated to another 20 minutes of musical perfection, culminating in Highway Star to send us home happy.

A truly wonderful evening.

Paul Geater

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