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

Incredibly tight

This was the second concert Deep Purple played with Don Airey temporarily replacing Jon Lord, who was about to have a knee operation. Having had a chance to let the idea of seeing Deep Purple without Jon Lord sink in, it didn't feel so bad. In fact it sounded interesting, especially after reading the reviews from the first night. I was most concerned about the audience reaction towards Jon's absence, as it hadn't been announced in the press, nor at the festival site. Happily, this was no problem.

Deep Purple with temp Don Airey delivered a tight, energetic set, and had the audience eating out of their hands from the opening track, "Woman From Tokyo", as usual these days. They managed to retain the enthusiasm amongst the audience during the 'not taken from a greatest hits-collection' section which followed: "Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic", "Mary Long", "No One Came", "Fools" and "Well Dressed Guitar". The latter was cleverly put in place of the longish guitar solo spot on many previous tours, and worked out well, and got a good reaction from the crowd.

"Lazy" was played between "Ted" and "Mary Long", and Don Airey was introduced before this song started. He was enthusiastically greeted by the crowd, and there were no signs of the heckling that was reported from Denmark the night before. He quickly put any doubts to shame with an intro to "Lazy" that convinced most and raised many a smile.

"Perfect Strangers" was introduced with some classical snippets which could easily have been found in a Lord-solo, naturally including a little Grieg here in Norway. The song was impressive as ever. "When A Blind Man Cries" followed, the blues track deftly timed to fit in with the only rain shower of the evening. Don Airey carried the first solo of the song excellently. He has all the precision and technique you can ask for, and with his musical background, it's no wonder he fitted very well into the Deep Purple set.

After the "Guitar Riff Parade", now featuring full backing on all songs (which included a fairly typical selection of "Sweet Home Alabama", "Whole Lotta Love", "All Right Now", "Little Wing", "Stairway To Heaven" and quite possibly a few others...) they broke into the inevitable (it seems) "Smoke On The Water", which naturally got everyone going. Ian Gillan was in good voice throughout the concert, he's gotten better on every consequent Purple concert I've seen him play since 1987. He's obviously in better physical shape than when I last saw him (1998), and this probably is reflected in his voice.

I was a bit surprised when "Speed King" followed, as it signifies the ending of the show proper, and they'd not played for very long. I'm no big fan of the version of "Speed King" they're playing now, with interspersed individual solos and a few r'n'r classics thrown in for good measure, but I actually enjoyed seeing it this night. Ian Gillan's comic talent got an outing during a seemingly impromptu song about your wife yelling at you, so you're going out to walk the dog - down to the pub. The trading of solos between Steve Morse and Don Airey were ferocious. Steve had a good tone in his guitar, and played great throughout the night.

Encore, and pretty much straight into "Hush", which is an audience pleaser and one of the stronger singalong opportunities of the night. Having read the setlist from the night before, I was a bit surprised when they ripped straight into the usual set closer "Highway Star" after this, as they'd played another encore ("Black Night") the night before. "Highway Star" brought the proceedings to an end in fine fashion, and the whole thing was over, after not much more than 90 minutes.

Still, it was a very refreshing, very energetic, and highly enjoyable concert. The way Deep Purple won over the audience was a joy to behold. Don Airey fitted in well, his technical abilities probably matching what Jon Lord did 30 years ago. That said, Jon is one of these truly unique, character musicians, and of course it wasn't the same without him. But Don was playing so well that you didn't feel something was seriously missing.

The incredible tightness reported on the US tour earlier this summer persists even with the temp in the band - although it will be interesting to hear the reviews from the people who actually saw the US concerts.

I noticed a few glitches, which probably is due to the situation the band is in - a couple of tempo- and synchronization problems at the beginning of the show, but these musicians have small problems getting back on the track again. I was a little let down that Steve hadn't taken over (back) the solo on "Fools", which originally was done with volume control on guitar. This was the first time I've heard "Mary Long" and "Fools" live, and both worked out well now, sounding much better than earlier recordings I've heard ("Mary Long" from 1996, "Fools" only from last year.)

Paragraphs can and will be written about unimaginary setlists, lack of songs from the newer albums, not varying the setlists from night to night, etc. I agree with many of these views. But even though this setlist might look weak on paper, it worked out really well. This is a festival tour, and the band is in a stressed situation, due to Jon's temporary abscence. The concert was highly enjoyable, due to great musicians playing great music. Nothing more or less. Enjoy it if you can.

Setlist, possibly not in exactly correct order:

Woman From Tokyo
Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic
Mary Long
Lazy
Fools
No One Came
Well Dressed Guitar
When A Blind Man Cries
Smoke On The Water
Speed King
encore:
Hush
Highway Star

Total approx. 95 minutes.

Trond J. StrÝm


[ reviews | the highway star ]