Three in one: Amazing!
What a great week - three Deep Purple concerts, each within two hours of my front door, these being the Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle shows. They were played in that order, the venue/audience size fell in that order, and I would probably rank the performances in that order too. Each show was immensely enjoyable, however, with each providing plenty of opportunity to witness just how extraordinary and spellbinding these five musicians are.
The set lists (see below) were identical for the three shows and two songs shorter than the earlier Australian gigs with the dropping of "Pictures Of Home" and "í69", the latter being the only song from the bandís most recent album that had been on the set list. Considering that Ian Gillan, as recently as the Telstra web chat on March 7, said that the song is currently one of his favourites to perform, it is puzzling why this one was dropped. Apparently the extra songs made the set just that bit too long - but the omission of "í69" also meant that we missed out on Steveís showcase solo.
In Sydney, the 10,000 capacity venue, although not sold out, was respectably filled, and the crowd, although somewhat tame (mostly keeping their bums on their assigned seats), were very appreciative. I had a front row ticket for the show, so was able to watch the whole band, and in particular, Ian and Steve, very closely. Iíd been looking forward to being part of the front row squash (most large venue concerts have assigned seating in Australia and only the first few rows are allowed to stand up against the front fence) but it took four or five songs before anyone (bar a few here and there) made a move to stand, and even then there was really no great enthusiasm over it. Whatís wrong with Australian audiences!?
Iíd wanted to keep the set list a surprise for the night, but then couldnít resist finding out before hand what they were playing. Shame really as it would have been so exciting to have been surprised by "Mary Long" and "Hey Cisco". Iíd been lucky enough to hear "Fools" and "When a Blind Man Cries" during the Albert 2000 tour, but it was great to hear them again. Ian was just wonderful with "When a Blind Man Cries", his voice gorgeous and never faltering. This and "No One Came" were probably my two favourite performances of the show, with the ending of "No One Came" seeing the bare footed Gillan dancing and swinging his mic stand in circles under strobe lights, whilst Steve went cosmic with his guitar. Unforgettable.
For the Australian tour, the band has been accompanied by a brass trio and three female backing singers. To be honest, I think they add little, if anything, to the show, save for some entertainment for Jon Lord, who, during the Sydney show, appeared to be pleased to be playing so close to the three singers! ;^)
It was a ton of fun, but it wasnít perfect! Steve missed the intro to "Black Night" and "Perfect Strangers", the latter being responsible (I think) for a rather pissed-off look from Jon; a few bars into the song Steve had a chat to Jon, I guess to explain what had happened, and all was well. Jon also seemed a little subdued this night (and perhaps a little low in the mix?), and Ian forgot which album "Fools" came from, telling us it was from "Who Do We Think We Are" before realising his mistake and having to refer to Roger for help. But then what kind of Deep Purple concert would it be without Ian forgetting something!? :-)
There were the usual fun things: The organ/guitar duel and (albeit very short) vocal/guitar duel in "Speed King", as well as Steveís Ďwhat riff am I supposed to be playing?í intro to "Smoke On The Water". In Sydney this was quite lengthy and included bits from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin (a nice chunk out of "Stairway To Heaven") plus several others. Ian was in pretty good form in his between-songs banter and led the crowd with his usual "I canít hear you" "Smoke On The Water" sing-along, which apparently was one of the longest done in years. At the end of the song Ian himself said weíd been the best crowd ever in singing this, but I donít necessarily take that literally.
After years of extolling the virtues of Deep Purple to my guitar-playing boss, he went along to the show and was hugely impressed, completely taken with the bandís musical ability and style. His comment to me Monday morning: "So when are they coming back.....? Do I have to wait another two years!?!?"
Fortunately, I didnít have to wait another two years. I had two more shows to go to... :-)
The Wollongong show was three nights later and it was nice to have time to enjoy the anticipation. This time I was seated about 2/3 of the way back, a great spot to just sit back and watch the show. I guess most of the audience was paying attention, but there seemed to be so many people annoyingly wandering in and out of and around the venue throughout the show - it was almost as if they were at a tea-party and some band was there for entertainment. [Some tea party!! Ed.] Later, even Steve Morse said he thought the audience seemed surprised to find Deep Purple there!
But that aside, it was another great show. Perhaps it was just my seat, but Jonís organ was much more present in the songs and he definitely seemed much more spirited in his playing. Ianís singing was just wonderful again, from his great screams in "Woman From Tokyo", to his gorgeous bluesy tones in "Lazy" and "When A Blind Man Cries", to his powerful performance in "Fools" (he got the album right this night!), and back to the spot-on screams in "Highway Star".
We were introduced to "Speed King" this night as "a Scottish uninterrupted ballad, with tartan undertones..." It followed its usual pattern of the Jon/Steve duel, bass solo, drum solo and we were just waiting for Ian and Steve to start their thing when Steve started playing some familiar, but not Deep Purple, chords... It took me a second to recognise what it was and by the time I realised that the rumours of Jimmy Barnes joining Ian on stage one night must be true, there he was, the man himself, launching into "Good Time Tonight" with Ian. (This is a duet Barnes once did with INXS.) Iím not sure how much of a duet it was supposed to be this night, because it appeared that Ian missed nearly every word and cue to sing, leaving Jimmy to sing just about the whole song! ;^) They both then finished "Speed King" off together, with Jimmy this time being the one barely audible - did they have his mic turned down?
Barnesy again joined in for the encores, accompanying the backing singers for the first part of "Hush", which elicited a "nice tits!" comment from Ian, but then finished the show alongside Ian out front with "Highway Star" which just thundered and rocked! It was partly amusing, partly annoying, hearing Jimmy add his own little "ooohs" and "yeeeeeahhhs" during instrumental parts of the songs. I guess heís never learnt the value of the bongos or disappearing behind the stage during such moments.
Iím not sure how much Jimmy actually contributed to the performance level on the night, but he did add to the excitement, with the crowdís initial astonishment/confusion, which soon led on to cheers and enthusiasm, being very palpable.
His appearance brought exactly the same effect at the next nightís show in Newcastle. This time he only joined Ian for "Speed King" (with the inserted "Good Time Tonight", the words of which Ian seemed to know a little better this night) and "Highway Star". He did however bring a friend, being accompanied by Ian Moss, fellow former Cold Chisel member (guitarist and singer - if he was in Wollongong as well, then I didnít spot him).
For the Newcastle show I had yet another new vantage point, this time watching the show from the side of the stage. This was great for observing Ian Paice and feeling Rogerís bass, but meant I didnít really hear Ian Moss at all during the encore, so am not sure how much or what he contributed. He did look a bit lost.
But being able to watch Ian Paice up close was just breathtaking - literally. How his hands donít drop off after "Hey Cisco", Iím not sure! The down side of such a close view of the band is that I tended to watch rather than listen and since Jon and Steve were on the far side of the stage I didnít notice them as much. Steve wasnít feeling too well, but Iím not sure how much this affected his performance. [He will go onstage with broken ribs and you wouldnít realise! Ed] Ian was certainly in good form again both singing and banter-wise with quite a few odd song introductions (see below). And I finally got to hear the brass section! They actually added some very nice touches to songs such as "Ted The Mechanic", "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming", and "Perfect Strangers" to name a few.
Once again I felt for the band with the reaction of the audience. For at least the first half of the show they seemed so unmoved. Sure thereís always a handful of people on their feet clapping somewhere, but when much of the audience is so silent and still it must be hard to give your all. Maybe Iím being too harsh, Ian was certainly appreciative and gracious in his comments to the crowd.
I had a ball at all three shows and canít wait to see them again. The shows have everything from exhilarating hard rock screaming to touching blues to magical improvisation to sing-along melodies, all being performed at such a high standard, but with such a sense of fun and entertainment as well. Go see them whenever you can!!!
Set List for March 10, 13 and 14, 2001:
(S = backing singers, B = brass trio)
1. "Woman From Tokyo"
The stage was set up as follows (from left to right, facing stage): Roger, with the brass trio behind his amps, Ian Paice on a raised platform, Ian Gillanís bongos (further forward), Jonís keyboards, then Steve with the singers on a platform behind his amps.
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