In a secret location within the Cambridgeshire countryside, a select throng gathered for the annual Don Airey mini rock concert. Every year this well known Deep Purple keyboard player hosts a charity gig near his home, inviting guest stars along to wow the audience with him.
We arrived just after 8 pm to find the place already buzzing with excited guests, some gathered around the aromatic barbeque while others queued to get a drink before the music began. The weather was perfect, warm with a gentle breeze, but the large white marquee over our heads gave a smarter feel to the evening.
After a very convincing support act had finished everyone was ready for a good sing-a-long to some classic rock songs. Joining Airey on stage was Ian Paice, Deep Purple’s supreme drummer, Chris Childs (bassist) and Gary James (drummer) from hard rock band Thunder, a staggeringly talented Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake, and singer Carl Sentance. It was immediately apparent that these musicians ‘still had it’, playing with vigour and zeal excelling on even the most complex solos, and often improvising, but always with unfaltering conviction.
The majority of the set was familiar motown songs: ‘Since you’ve been gone’, ‘Soul Man’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ were my favourites on the night. Between sets Don held a raffle and auction, both of which had amazing musical prizes, I was particularly interested in winning the beautiful Deep Purple bass guitar on offer, so spent every last pound on raffle coupons... sadly it wasn’t to be.
Despite his legendary rockstar status, Don Airey is a down to earth friendly musician who clearly loves nothing more than a good jam on stage, sharing in his passion on this special summer evening was a memory I will never forget.