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Asia 2002 reviews  

From Lord to Don

It's the hottest season in Thailand (aaargh!), and my friend and I are not really sure whether the venue for this show is going to be at an outdoor, indoor or semi-covered arena. As I can't handle extremely hot and humid weather (clever flying in to south east Asia for the Purple dates, eh?), I'm half-filled with dread as we catch a taxi to Impact Arena, half an hour out of town, not far from the airport. To my relief, it turns out to be a covered arena with an efficient air-conditioning system.

As we arrive just after 5pm, three hours before the announced show start time, there are already dozens of fans hanging around in the covered area around the circular venue, which is lined with beer, snack and food stands. We help set up the merchandising stand and start selling the stuff. Although the doors are not due to open until 7:30pm, by 6:30pm we are swamped by fans asking to have a look at the t-shirts, baseball caps and bandanas. I noticed that many of them look very closely at the stiches and the prints before buying, which is not surprising: 800 Baht (12 GBP) for a t-shirt or 300 Baht (4.50 GBP) for a bandana is a *lot* of money for the locals. Nevertheless, all the large t-shirts are sold out before 7pm, and we had to apologize to many a disappointed customer for the next hour...

All the while, there is a PA system right next to our stand, blaring out Smoke On The Water again and again, interspersed with the occasional Black Night and a jingle for Singha Beer, which seems to be the sponsor for tonight's concert. On the other side is a information and registration stand for the press - I believe there was a press conference before the show, and there are a few TV crews around.

The show is supposed to be starting at 8pm, but there are still lots of people outside at the appointed hour. I leave the merchandising stand, go backstage and learn that the rescheduled start time is 8:45-8:50pm. As the house light goes off and band come onstage, there is a roar of cheering from the audience - but not a thunderous one as I had expected to hear after hearing some reports of the Jakarta show last week, where, apparently, the audience reaction was totally wild throughout the show. No one stands up and rushes to the front of the stage at this point - although, as the band start playing, some start, hesitantly, coming forward to the front, and then more and more follow, gradually - so that by the end of the first number, Woman From Tokyo, the area between the front barrier and the first row, as well as the centre aisle, filled with people standing (about sixrows?)

I'll go through the setlist and things that have come to my attention.

1. Woman From Tokyo - Although the whole audience cheered when the band came onstage, they go quieter when the band start playing - and throughout the number they are a lot quieter than, say, the German audiences during the last European tour, only cheering and clapping when the song is finished. Don's keyboard arrangement during the quiet middle section is beautiful. It's totally different from Jon Lord's, and I think it's also different from Don's arrangement during the European tour last year.

2. Ted The Mechanic - The little quiet bit towards the end, where IG sings on top of the organ tremolo - well, he doesn't start singing for quite a while (I fail to catch exactly what he's doing at that moment, so I don't know whether this is intentional or not) so the organ tremolo goes on for a loooong time on its own, and the audience starts clapping in time.

3. Mary Long - IG's introduction is simple and short.

4. Lazy - "Here's something totally different," announces IG and walks off... leaving Don to play an extensive keyboard solo, which starts off with a symphonic build-up (on the keyboard) and then moving onto the Hammond.

5. The Aviator - As IG announces the number, he sits down, cross-legged, at the front of the stage, and SM and RG follow, on either side of him. So the first verse is performed with three of them on the floor, and the audience in the front section seem to love this - many of them are holding their hands up, clapping in rhythm. All three members stand up at the end of the first verse, go back to their usual positions, and this time again, SM and RG sing the chorus along with IG.

6. No One Came - Introduced by IG as "something from... (looking in RG's direction) what was it? Fireball?"

7. Sometimes I feel Like Screaming - Again a different touch added to Don's arrangement: the electric piano parts are the same as on the original, but it is overlaid with the same melody in a more spacey synth voice.

8. Well-Dressed Guitar

9. Fools - Good to see this this number being appreciated here as well - quite a few banging heads, as well as many arms in the air, some punching the air, witnessed in the first few rows :-)

10. Keyboard Solo - Perfect Strangers - Don's solo is, like during the last year's European tour, a mixture of various quotes arranged in hiw own style, the repertoire of which, like Steve's guitar parade, seems to vary from night to night. There are a few bits and pieces that we've heard last year (like Bach's Prelude and Mozart's A la Turca), but there are many others which are new. Bach seems to go down quite well - and many seem, without recognising the individual quotes, to be simply awed by the intensity of his performance. Mozart proves to be an international hit, even down here in Bangkok, the audience start clapping. Don then goes straight into a melody which is unknown to me, but the whole venue goes up in a roar - it's obviously a well-known Thai tune**, and everyone claps their hands. After this, he changes the voice of his keyboards (something he didn't do last year) to a kind of 3-D spacey sound, plays some of his own improvisations (I presume), then changing the voice again to pipe organ, he plays a pretty-hard-to-recognise-and-by-the-time-you've-recognised-it's-over arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (not the beginning of the toccata but the end of the Fugue) before moving onto the Hammond, while the pipe organ sound is still sustained - then more or less straight into the opening chords of Perfect Strangers.

[** I asked Don after the show what the tune was, and he told me it was a Thai folk tune, which he learnt from one of the catering staff at the venue earlier on that evening. In Goa he played a local folk song, taught to him by a taxi driver!! And yes, he said to me as well that I should have heard his arrangement of the Indonesian national anthem - damn, does anyone have a bootleg?! ]

Perfect Strangers is very enthusiastically received here too - as soon as Don plays the opening chords, lots of cheering is heard from all corners, and throughout the song people are clapping, and I can see quite a few people up on their feet in the Lower Circles as well.

11. When A Blind Man Cries - Starts off very quietly, but as soon as IG starts to sing, a huge cheering breaks out from the audience. Everyone listens intently to IG's singing throughout the song, but at the end, they are impatient to applaud - even before he has finished singing! - so he extends the ending, and when it's over, he receives a huge ovation. This number, and Don's keyboard solo, have been the highlights of the evening so far.

12. Guitar Parade - Smoke On The Water ... but there is more to come! The audience loves the Guitar Parade. Many are dancing, head-banging, punching the air, cheering, clapping their hands... at almost every quote SM plays. And yet, the superlative in frenetic audience is yet to come: as soon as SM goes into SOTW, the entire audience erupts in one big roar. Yes, this is *the* highlight. Unlike Indonesia, though, not many are singing along all the lyrics. Not even the local Westerners. But when it comes to the sing-along bit, everyone knows what to do, and they do quite a good job.

13. Speed King Introduced by IG as "a little Bangkok ballad..." accompanied by some silly melodies from Don and Steve as a back drop, "yes, something like that." Again featuring quite lengthy bass and drum solos, but no guitar/vocal duell.

14. Hush - During the main set, most of the stalls (except for the front rows, aisles and sides) have remained sitting, with not so many in the Lower Circles and no one in the Upper Circles standing up, but now, finally, I can see several people up there in the Upper Circles also on their feet.

15. Black Night - I don't think this was planned - the printed setlist only had two numbers for encore. That's why I'm a little puzzled when Paicey's drums doesn't sound like intro to Highway Star. I soon realise it's Black Night, but the band play totally different melodies for a while, until Steve drops a very brief hint, very quietly, and the audience starts singing "daa daa da-daa daa-da-daa da-da-daa da-da da-da da-da" before they start playing the tune themselves. Thus, later on in the number, the guitar/audience interaction works perfectly too :-)

16. Highway Star - OK, another number with the audience going wild. I see a guy near the front, standing on his seat (which I noticed many don't do, in respect of the people behind them - this is Asia ;-), having taken his t-shirt off and swinging it around with his raised right arm all the way through the song!! By the end of this number, most of the Lower Circles are standing up, though many in the Upper Circles are still sitting.

The show has lasted for exactly two hours. The total impression was that, although it was a relatively quiet audience in comparison to some of the other countries, and although the evening started off very quietly, they soon picked it up and it was obvious that the audience enjoyed the show.

Another thing to note is that Don has obviously put in a lot of extra work again this time, and a lot of his parts are different from those heard on the last European tour - he sounds more properly like Don Airey than Don Lord now, and this not only still fits with the whole band's performance but manages to strengthen it even more. Musically he has certainly established himself as a full-time member of Deep Purple. Which is why it was a bit sad to see him, right at the end of the show, leaving the stage alone straight away, while the other four members stayed on for a good while to thank the audience by waving at them and throwing their picks/drumsticks.

Akiko Hada

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