The "Corrigan/Soveiko Travelling Circus" Rides Again!
About a 5-hour drive from Ottawa, Ontario, Saratoga Springs, NY was to be the first of three shows Nick and I had bit the bullet over after already succumbing to a five-date August European "pact" in March at Petey's place over one. Was this Triple-Bill/short-set list triumvirate worth all the time, money, gas, kilometres and home brew that were surely to pass? It's DP - what would you think? We even convinced Petey to tag along at the last minute!
We got underway about 10:30 am after picking him up. Of course my new Sony Discman got its first workout with DP - "Surprised Perfectly" 2 CDR boot from Tokyo, Japan, 26.3.00 - one of the remaining two from the six March/April 2000 shows. What a way to roll down the highway! It offered an incredible show! So it went for five hours - bumps, beer and bootlegs. We got into SS and found the quaint Springs Motel, had one to dispel some road weariness and then proceeded directly to The Sheraton to finally meet Akiko Hada and The Bunnies, retrieve our German tickets that she had so unselfishly gotten for us, have some dinner, and perhaps one.
First order of business was to educate the waitress on the beers they had, and what "The cream of Manchester" was, surprised that an American sports bar would have Boddingtons at all! We had a great time getting to know one and other. After a little detour through horse country and lots of greenery, we found the SPAC and parked. Never been confronted with Skynyrd fans before. The usually quiet resort town of Saratoga Springs looked more like the site of the Sturgis biker convention. Some strange sights were beheld. Hmmmmm. =:-0
We picked up our passes and had no problem getting in - camera equipment and all. With our passes were tickets as well (a surprise!) and they were indeed better seats than we had purchased. Very good seats for taking pictures, in fact. (Appropriate "Thank You's" have been delivered ;-) )
First order of business was to check out the merchandise stand. Some nice stuff there and Petey and I opted to purchase the new tour shirts. I wanted the "In Rock" one, but they didn't have my size.
After finding our seats we decided to go Backstage to see what was going on back there. Charlie Lewis was there. He mentioned the band was preparing for the show. As we exited, we saw Jon coming up the ramp and I nearly ran into Paicey at the bottom of the stairs! Said a quick, "Hello," then opted to get away from the sonic bombast known as Ted Nugent! Loud and distorted, this only meant one thing - time for some much-needed refreshment. :-) It was about +40oC with the humidex. You could almost drink the air!
This venue had the worst beer setup imaginable. The "tent" was way at the far end of the grounds; you had to show ID to get in, at which time they put a green wristband on you (I'm pushing 50 and got carded - didn't know whether to kiss or hit him). You then go to the gal serving the refreshments only to find out you can only purchase two at a time - Bud, Bud-light, Miller Light, etc. Who's gonna go haywire on that "water"?? Certainly not us! (I never thought I'd see the day where The King of Beer would be drinking "The King of Beers!")
So, it takes two of us to purchase 3 pints, and then we discover we can't take the bloody things to our seats, but have to drink them there. Terrible Ted had quit, so we quaffed them back and headed to the seats, set up the cameras and waited for our first DP show since the Royal Albert Hall on September 26th, 1999; Petey's first since Montreal on August 18th, 1998.
Out trod the boys just before 8 pm and the first thing we noticed was how incredibly fit Ian Gillan looked! His new salt and pepper "do" suits him admirably. He looked just great. Jon sans glasses, and Roger and Paicey with trademark bandanas. The first hi-hat strokes and bass beats began telling any DP fan that "Woman From Tokyo" was the first tune to be performed this night. The music built until, "Fly into the rising su-unn. Faaaces smiling - every one." Gillan's voice is fantastic!! We can hardly believe how great he looks and sounds! It just got better and better.
Did I miss anyone? Oh yeah, a smiling six-stringer! Make no mistake, I didn't forget. The last time we saw the band in a total r'n'r setting was in Ulm, Germany on June 20th 1999 - almost two years ago to the day. The next biggest shock for me is how much more Steve has integrated into the band, even since 1999! I've heard a lot of shows performed since, but I tell you - he really fits like a latex glove now. A recording doesn't give the visual/etc. experience that only a live performance can. I thought, "This band is *really* cookin' tonight!"
After "WFT", they launched right into "Ted The Mechanic," and this gets a good response from the crowd, however, it didn't take much figuring to know that this was largely a Skynyrd crowd. They were still firmly planted on their butts for the most part where I was, and there were still a lot of empty seats as everyone was forced to do any libating at the beer tent. "Ted" still has that classic tune aura and Paicey's ride cymbal work in the middle instrumental part still astounds. He is "Mr. Smooth."
Next up was "Lazy," and finally, the crowd seemed to sense something great was onstage. However, unlike some reviews I've read, I'd have to say the crowd was still pretty stoic. Great version of "Lazy" and Steve and Jon did very good solos. Ian Gillan did his usual blues harp thing. Someone threw a Confederate Army-style Harley-Davidson hat onstage during Steve's solo and he put it on - drawing a roar from this largely Southern-Fried Rock crowd.
I still think that "new" 3rd verse is a shot at Blackmore showing up to ask Gillan to join Rainbow..
Next came "Knocking At Your Back Door!" Here's a tune I haven't heard since 1985. Unlike some, I'm happy listening to almost any tune from this band - especially live - and they didn't disappoint on this one. Pretty powerful stuff. Steve did a great job on it. Didn't miss "you-know-who" one bit. As I predicted, the crowd recognized it right from the first note and I speculate the band may in fact act on good, constructive, critical comment from the fans. It was a valid suggestion and the song showed up only a few days later. The desired effect was certainly felt. It's a great tune. Arguably the biggest hit from the "Perfect Strangers" album in the USA.
Then the "Paice de resistance!" "Fools!!!" I've been waiting to see this tune live for 30 years! And what a worthwhile wait! This tune was just jaw dropping. A musician's smorgasbord. The dynamically light start and build to those crashing, thunderous chords - stuff that makes goose bumps the size of marbles!
But wait. They get into the middle instrumental. Dynamically down low and slow again; out comes the maracas and tambourine.
Steve does the keyboard instrumental from the album and Jon fills the background. At times it's hard to tell who's doing what as they're perfectly harmonious and in tune with each other. Steve starts to fill in the colors with real nice, clean, tasty, lead picking.
But the star of these festivities is TMIB - the man in BACK - Mr. Paice! As the dynamics of the song built again, so did the very controlled fury of Ian's drumming. Stuff that one would expect from a great Jazz band drummer, not a rock'n'roll timekeeper. It just kept building and building. Light, low, little snare diddleys; to fast, heavy, syncopated fills; to furious complete kit fills! And it just kept coming. And coming! At one point I actually had a tear in my eye. God this man can play! There's none better in the feel department and this song totally proved it without a doubt. I was absolutely speechless after it. Anyone who thinks they should drop this tune needs an EEG! This was going to be very hard to top, but I sensed the crowd's unfamiliarity with it. Nevertheless, they made quite an impression on the crowd. They made my day!
Now came "Pictures of Home." A great tune from "Machine head," and I like it.
However, nothing could possibly match that astounding version in the RAH. I guess I'm a bit spoiled here. I certainly enjoyed it though, and the crowd knew the tune. Roger's bass solo always gets a resounding cheer. He makes it look so effortless. We tend to forget at times that he's a master of his instrument as well, and is the glue that keeps it all together.
Then to "Perfect Strangers," after a rather short but very nice solo from Jon. I never tire of hearing this tune and it always brings me back to the day when I bought the album and put Side Two on first by mistake. A lot of sentimental value here. A regal tune if there ever was one and it speaks volumes. Ian Gillan's voice is so powerful and clean and his Flamenco dance across the stage during the bridge was something to behold. Can't say much more than I love this tune. Majestic.
"When A Blind Man Cries" followed and offered Steve a vehicle for a beautiful clean guitar intro. Ian sang it just wonderfully. They are just as adept at the "low & slow" as the "fast & furious." A great performance by the whole band.
By the end of it DP had conquered this largely indifferent crowd who were there for someone else. From here on they were Purple's and how Skynyrd could possibly follow this grand band, was far beyond the four of us.
But wait, they're back and as Ian says, "Here's our first hit from 30 years ago, a thing called 'Hush.'" They went wild again and the band played a very thunderous version of it. Very, very, very tight. I've got to admit, it has a great hook, especially for a song of that vintage. Great Hammond work from "Thee Lord of the Keyboard."
Finally, cross a bunch of pick-up-driving, motorcycle-riding, beer-swilling guys & gals, add "Highway Star" to the mix and you know what the reaction is going to be. It was priceless! I'm sure the band could sense their victory. From Ian's first snare strokes to when Steve got his motor running,
The crowd was now totally Purple's! Who can possibly watch them perform this and not sing along? They were having a ball performing it and great solos ensued. Steve and Rog doing their Spinal Tap riff bows. This is classic Purple and is a wonderful closer. They certainly left the crowd wanting much, much more! A crowd that could have cared less 70 minutes previous!
During our brief visit backstage we witnessed Steve give some young astounded guitarists a wonderful talk on practicing and professionalism. He is the consummate professional.
We said our goodbyes. Off we went to our Motel to have a nightcap with Akiko. She was leaving the tour and we won't see her again until August in Germany. What a night! On the way out Lynyrd Skynyrd was playing one of their classics - "Freebird." We watched for all of 2 minutes, shook our heads and left. I'd hate to be in their shoes. It was like looking at an AMC Pacer after riding in a purple Porsche!! ;-)
Hey, this was only the first show:.. :-) On to Toronto...