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Asia 2002 reviews  

Still loud and proud

As published on Monday, May 13 in Singapore's daily newspaper Today:

As the first bar of My Woman From Tokyo (sic) came alive from Steve Morse’s guitar, the clouds hovering in the evening sky decided to hold back their second onslaught of tears. The gods were appeased because the anointed sons of heavy rock decided it was time to pay homage once again.

Deep Purple, the mega-rock stars of the 70s, who look mega-old today, were on stage and the estimated 7,000 fans on the sodden turf of Fort Canning Park on Thursday night were delirious. Never mind that Deep Purple looked like grand dads - save for Morse, who at 48 is the baby of the group. But among them were legends: Drummer Ian Paice, 54, vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, both 57 - some of the men who propelled Deep Purple onto the altar of heavy rock in the 70s. Together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they became part of the holy trinity of rock.

Apart from the occasional Smoke On The Water rendition streaming from the guitar of a void-deck rocker, I’ve not heard a Deep Purple track in years. So, when My Woman From Tokyo (sic) came on, it was like opening a box full of memorabilia. But instead of the sonic boom that I had expected, it was a steady start. I took what I could like a thirsty man taking his first sip of water: Sweet but not enough.

Gillan, in a long-sleeved white kurta and having put on few kilos, unlike in his heyday, was straining to reach his famous high octaves. Then, as Ted The Mechanic was rolled out of the workshop, followed by Mary Long, the energy began to pick up with increasing intensity. And when keyboardist Don Airey played a five-minute solo, it marked the beginning of a rocket-fuelled trip with Deep Purple. Midway through the exhilarating ride after Perfect Strangers and When A Blind Man Cries, the group introduced a song which could end up in the band’s new album next year. Tentatively called Well Dressed Guitar, it was Beethoven reincarnated through Morse’s bedevilled guitar. If it is any indication at all, the piece would mark Deep Purple’s return to its flirtation with the classical music-influenced rock of its early years.

The moment the crowd had been waiting for came when Morse, a cult figure among guitar fans, taunted them with a medley of famous guitar riffs that included, Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child Of Mine, Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven. Then he turned on the heat with the band’s own monster-hit Smoke On The Water. The song became an indelible signature of the group after it turned up in one of Deep Purple’s most successful albums, Machine Head. Smoke On The Water, driven by one of the most memorable guitar hooks in rock history, was the water that quenched my thirst. It may not have been former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s raunchy excursion on the frets but Morse’s expedition was equally nubile.

With Fools and No One Came dished out for a crowd wanting to hit the next high, Deep Purple came back for an encore to turn the evening into a Black Night. They ended the explosive ride with another trade-mark hit Highway Star. This is the song that made them stars and gave them the licence to be so even after more than 30 years of rock and roll.

Ian De Cotta

Sent in by Bob Farell

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