[ d e e p P u r . p l e ) The Highway Star

Melbourne show

Friday March 9 2001: five long term Purple fans drink beer and eat pizza, climb into a car, turn the 1997 remixed "Machine Head" up to silly levels, get onto the freeway and make "Fools" of themselves on the way to the gig. They get to their seats two minutes before the lights go down and the show commences to an almost full house.

The set opener is "Woman From Tokyo". The Gillan scream makes its first appearance, as does the "I THAAAAANK YOU". The Australian tour is billed as "Louder than Ever"; I donít know about that, but the sound is very good indeed. Steve Morseís guitar very aggressive (and so clever), Jon Lordís Hammond very rich (and I love that spinning Leslie speaker), Big Ianís voice strong and controlled and the bottom end that (as we used to say) one could photograph.

Two points of note - augmentation of the sound in certain songs (donít ask me which ones) by three piece brass and female vocal sections and the impressive sight of Lord playing WITHOUT SUNGLASSES (and far more active than Iíve seen him).

'Happier than Ever' was the message from the stage, too - the guys were so obviously enjoying themselves (just like the four song showcase they did at the Formula One Grand Prix five days earlier). Ian Gillanís stream-of-consciousness inter-song patter (and vocal duelling with Morseís guitar) reached new levels of 'out there'. The band seemed more relaxed than the 1999 show, which admittedly was being recorded for the "Total Abandon" CD and DVD.

On with the show and "Ted The Mechanic", which set the controls for the heavy chugga chugga feel of many of the eveningís numbers. Last tour this was the opener. Then, surprised and delighted to see "Who Do We Think We Are" acknowledged, with "Mary Long". When did that last get an airing? [In February 1996 at the first few gigs on the British leg of the "Purpendicular Tour". Ed.] Let Jon loose on "Lazy" and show him off with a big white spotlight. "Have a shot Lordy" (sorry, AFL reference.)[What's that? Ed.]

Next up, my highlight - "No One Came". Ever since I heard "Fireball" 30 years ago I have loved everything about this song - you know, rhythm, lyrics, sound, "Whereís my Robin Hood outfit?" Stunning feel as played at this show, right from Paiceyís count-in - just stunning. Went nuts.

Down to earth then with "Black Night" (everyone on the ground floor seats please stand and remain standing for the rest of the evening). Down a notch for "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming", then up two for my favourite cut from "Abandon" - "'69", announced as Deep Purpleís first road song. Love the extended 'trick' ending. Only blemish was the mix on this song - rhythm section so big that Morseís melody line was hard to pick.

Onto 'Pick that Tune, with your host Mr Morse. Members on my team picked as the top 3 "Within You Without You" off "Sgt Pepper", "Paint it Black" and "Heartbreaker" off "Led Zep II". (At the Grand Prix gig, "Back in Black", "Day Tripper" and an extended "You Really Got Me" chunk with vocals - "I donít know what Iím singin" were the standouts). Into obligatory "Smoke On The Water" - no comment needed.

"Perfect Strangers" from the 'middle years', then "When A Blind Man Cries": emotional stuff indeed - stronger and tougher than the original single b-side version. Yes, Ian Gillan still has the voice.

Now I was really being spoiled - more majesty from "Fireball", in the form of "Fools". And yes, they carried it off, with all the dynamic range and power of the album track. Good choice fellas. Again went nuts. "Speed King" gave Roger and Paicey their show-off opportunities. Best rhythm section? End of Part One.

Encore time. Donít believe it, "Hush". Ian Gillan then invokes silence by requesting the audience remember and respect the track marshall who lost his life at the Grand Prix last Sunday. He meant to mention it before "Speed King", but "Highway Star" will have to do.

How many times have they played this song? It still sounded so fresh, with Ian Gillan seemingly still having (sorry, Iím this far, might as well say it) left some petrol in his tank. Lights went up, didnít catch any drumsticks, but bought my t-Shirt and left the auditorium extremely happy. Energy, humour, superb musicianship and a set list from heaven.

Paul Johnstone


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