Majestic Theatre, San Antonio + Saengerfest Park, Galveston,
San Antonio and Galveston marked my ninth and tenth Deep Purple concerts since the Perfect Strangers your came to Dallas in 1985. They were also the third consecutive tour that has played San Antonio and the Houston area. Both shows were musically stunning - as good as any show I've seen them do. The performances were technically spot on and emotionally exhausting with the band in great form, having a ball and obviously loving every minute of the gigs. The big differences were in venue and playing time.
The Friday show was held at San Antonio's Majestic Theater - an incredibly ornate, old fashioned theater that's designated as a Texas Historical Landmark - and the home of the San Antonio symphony apparently. It looked more like an old European opera house with all this incredibly detailed wood sculpting around the walls and over the stage - complete with theater-style 'boxes' along the walls.
The Saturday show was the closing act at Galveston Islands two week Mardi Gras celebration, held on the historic Strand and complete with New Orleans style streets, balconies, parades and lots of bead throwing. On Friday the band played a lush two hour set with the richest set list I've seen since the House of Blues Tour during the recording of Abandon. For the Saturday Mardi Gras show the band was forced to trim things down to 90 minutes to fit within the constraints of the larger Mardi Gras program. The concert was held on a street corner in a small park with people, my wife and I included, standing in/on bushes, concrete ledges, climbing trees and spilling out into the street. The set lists were basically in the same order but the songs that were cut were Bananas, Contact Lost, Never Before, When a Blind Man Cries and Speed King.
I think I've now seen this band in almost every conceivable setting from the enormous Reunion arena in Dallas to the tiny standing room only House of Blues shows and everything in between: outdoor arenas, the mediumish Sunrise Theater in Florida and now a symphony hall and a street corner in a small park (albeit with thousands of people in attendance.)
Crowd reactions at both shows were enormously enthusiastic - granted things were a little quieter during the Bananas tunes which were probably new to most of the audience given they probably get little, or more likely no radio airplay. Applause at the end of each was quite strong and I can't thank the band enough for working so much of the new material into the set. I loved Bananas from the get go and the live versions continue to grow and improve on the album cuts like all Deep Purple songs. They improve with age. Silver Tongue is a perfect example. I'd already heard the live version on the two webcast concerts but the power of the new ending is just stunning live (the studio version is a fade out).
The Galveston Mardi Gras show was remarkable for the beaded Mardi Gras necklaces that the audience seemed to have acquired in vast amounts. Many felt compelled to share beads with the band by throwing them to/at the band members. Gillan scooped quite a number out of the air and the band began slowing adorning themselves. My wife later pointed out that they were only putting on the purple ones. Poor Steve on the other hand was taking a constant shelling. Some over eager concert goers seemed to be taking great pleasure in nailing Steve during guitar solos. Despite a few looks of annoyance and exasperation Steve kept a smile on and I think really tried to make the best of it - this was true professionalism!
One exceptionally good throw early in the show actually looped over neck of Steve's guitar in mid solo and Steve executed a violent whip to sling the beads off without missing a note. Later in the show (I think it was during Smoke) Steve had actually hung a set of beads on the headstock but during some more frenetic playing he managed to get it tangled around the neck of the guitar. Ian Gillan rushed forward and gingerly unwound the beads and removed them as Steve continued to solo.
A few other random observations to share:
Ian's congas were nowhere to be seen. Someone's probably already noted this at earlier shows but I'd missed it in skimming their reviews. In fact I didn't even notice. A friend pointed it out to me. Ian seemed to content himself with banging on a tambourine and dancing about when not called on to be singing.
During the first moments of the San Antonio show Rogers bass went dead as the opened with Silver Tongue. He dove into the wings and quickly swapped basses with his tech and slipped right back into the groove. That super heavy bass riff is doubled by Airey on his synth so there was cover for Roger to make the swap without a major impact to the song.
Gillan wore his traditional bare feet at the San Antonio Show but appeared in a pair of red shoes for the Galveston show. I'm assuming this was because of the cool weather. In light of the beads it was probably a good thing. The stage became littered with them and I think stepping on them barefoot would not have been comfortable.
Airey's solo included a bit of Yellow Rose of Texas each night. In addition to the customary Star Wars bit he worked in The Simpsons in San Antonio and in Galveston we were treated to Bach's Tocata and Fugue in D minor and a bit of Revolution Mother Earth from his Ozzy days.
The intro to Highway Star was played as recorded on the album with the descending guitar chords leading into the organ intro (all over Rogers bass line) before the first Duh-dunh that kicks off the vocal. For years Steve's been doing a sort of revving engine noise with his tremolo bar in this section.
Another difference in the show was obviously the deviation from the play Machine Head in it's entirety gimmick. To make the show fit, Never Before and When a Blind Man Cries Were Cut. They also did away with the projection screen during the Machine Head segment. As described at the earlier show on the tour, the San Antonio show featured a screen behind the band that counted down the years from 2004 to 1972 during the intro to Highway Star and continued to flash photo's from the late sixties and early seventies during the remainder of the Machine Head set.
All in all, another two superb Deep Purple shows. My wife was blown away by the Galveston show and was almost verging on anger when I explained we'd gotten an extra 30 minutes the night before. Her only other live Deep Purple experience was the San Antonio show 18 months ago on the Scorpions/Dio Tour. That had been a strange off-kilter sort of show with an audience that seemed to be largely Scorpions focused head bangers. She hadn't been impressed and of my ten shows it was the only one that hadn't completely awed me. Unfortunately she hadn't gone with me to the next nights brilliant show in Houston where they'd completely altered the set list and come on like complete gang busters. So it was great to hear her go on about how good the show was as we walked back to our hotel. That's what it's usually like, I reassured her - a stunning, awe inspiring and exhausting tour de force live performance from the most amazing band on the planet.
Here's to many more albums and tours!
Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as
the real thing (with apologies to Ani)|
(c) 2005, The Highway Star