ROCK / Nothing flat in Fenland soul
Sunday 14 November 1993
From the moment she bowls on to the stage, Carroll's singing seems to come out of the speakers on a sharper frequency than her band's music. They are slick and smooth, but she is gritty and urgent. Even at the odd moments when her songs verge on the bland, her voice remains tough and intense. The packed and enthusiastic house is not a surprise - Carroll's astutely marketed album So Close (A&M) is the sleeper hit of the year, her 1992 Brit Award nomination a rare instance of music-industry foresight - but the boldness and confidence of the show is.
This is Carroll's first major tour, and the accompanying interviews have been full of her uncertainties, but on stage she is an ebullient and engaging presence, mix'n'matching autumn-coloured velvet ensembles with practised ease, and keeping the crowd on their toes with a shrewd appreciation of which numbers they should stand up for and which they should sit down to. Her backing singers dance with abandon, like two very drunk people at a party who are just about to fall over, but Dina's poise is never ruffled, even when shaking the hands of a succession of young men with carefully gelled hair. She has a sure grasp of her material - equally at home with the uptempo, Madonna-esque 'Express' and the stately old show-stopper 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' - and her next single, a luxurious wallow in Andrew Lloyd Webber's compellingly syrupy 'The Perfect Year', will be hard to get away from in the coming months. It's a Christmas Carroll.
The accomplishments of Deep Purple are many and significant, and an abiding interest in Manichean philosophy is only one of them. 'These songs are about the eternal struggle between hatred and love,' muses Ian Gillan to a rapt Brixton Academy. 'Why does it seem so often that hatred comes out on top?' His band's 25th-anniversary tour, entitled 'The Battle Rages On', offers one of those rare moments when love comes out on top. The interpersonal relationships of what will always be known as 'the classic line-up' have never been without friction: when fringe-jacketed guitarist Ritchie Blackmore aims a friendly karate chop at bassist Roger Glover at the end of each solo, he may well be making a
jokey reference to this. But tonight's umpteenth reunion is a thoroughly happy occasion.
Time has tied the Purple's name ever more securely to one song, the immortal Swiss fire-service anthem 'Smoke on the Water', but there is much more to them than that. The high-octane 'Highway Star', the totally crunchy 'Black Night', the epic 'Child in Time' and the uplifting 'My Woman from Tokyo' all rock with a secret pop sensibility that any of their metallic inheritors would sacrifice a goat for. Even their solos are funny - Ian Paice punishing his drum kit for getting in the way of his fabulous Technicolor trousers, ponytailed keyboard maestro Jon Lord veering dangerously between Bach, pure noise and 'Chopsticks'. And as if all this isn't entertainment enough, there's a superb light-show too.
The cat's-cradle of thick green lasers which turns the Academy into an enchanted garden provokes mixed emotions. On one hand profound enjoyment, on the other concern that Deep Purple might be spending money they are going to need in later life. But they are entertainers, and that is their decision. When Gillan finally launches into an epiphanous 'Smoke on the Water', it is even possible to forgive him for wearing his flowery waistcoat over a bare chest.
Around the world in 80 minutes is the promise of Trans-Global Underground's exhilarating debut album Dream of 100 Nations (Nation). Their show at Subterania is billed as an anti-racist benefit, but when this band plays, anti- racism always benefits. They are a melting pot with legs. There's Ghanaian rapper Tuup, Natacha the singing belly dancer, a rudeboy in a pork-pie hat, a psychobilly drummer and who knows what ethno-cultural complexities concealed behind the scary Nepalese masks of the bassist and keyboard player.
Their sound might easily be a mess - all its different novelties could cancel each other out, like a musical version of one of those shops that sells hand-crafted souvenirs from around the world - but it isn't. The individual constituents don't lose their own identities but stand out more clearly for being heard in a different context. The crowd cavorts happily, swept along by a mesh of sampled chants, crisply clanking beats and rumbling bass-lines. And Trans-Global Underground's best moments - the surging single 'Temple Head', the superb 'Shimmer', with its infectious rallying cry of 'Run, devils and demons]' - build up a formidable momentum.
Dina Carroll: Wolverhampton Civic Hall (0902 312030), tomorrow, and touring for two weeks (details: 071-736 3311). Trans- Global Underground: Club Megadog at the Holloway Rocket (071 609 1212), 26 Nov.
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