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

We were gobsmacked

Back in 1996 I introduced a friend of mine's rowdy five and six-year-old kids to the opening riff of "Smoke On The Water". They lapped it up and made it their anthem. So taken with it were they that, when asked who their favorite pop group was during a recent school interview, they declared in unison "Deep Purple". Far from detracting from how well the interview had already gone, it transported the 40-something-year-old headmaster back to an era of a full head of hair and many a night of air-guitaring along with Ritchie and the gang, putting the cherry on the cake.

So when this years' Salle des Etoiles Summer Nights concert programme passed across my desk, I immediately booked a table two months in advance.

Now five years older, and musically more mature (not only do they know "Machine Head" backwards but also "In Rock"), I thought seeing their beloved Deep Purple would make a suitably spectacular baptism into the world of live rock.

Having kept the evening's entertainment a closely guarded secret and having dressed them to the nines, their expressions of utter amazement and delight upon seeing the poster outside the entrance to the Salle would have been reward enough. But no one could have foretold the brilliance awaiting us inside.

As you enter into the elegant surrounds of the air-conditioned atrium you can feel the opulence ooze from its mirrored walls and marbled floors. The subtle, distant whirring of the roulette tables and, (are those harps?) soothing music emanating from behind a velvet curtained entrance, all combine to make you forget that you are here to listen to one of the world's most eminent hard rock groups.

Once settled at our table, we were "entertained" by one of the most incongruous warm-up groups ever present at a rock concert. Luckily, the lady with the chrome hula-hoops showed us what a female body can really do and brought the heart beat and adrenaline levels up to a normal anticipatory level. [Enough of that! This is a family-oriented site! Rasmus]

Then it began.

I have been to many concerts here, but never, ever have I experienced such an electrifying blast (well, not musically at least). Here were five guys, 10/15 years older than I am, rocking like over-active teenagers. I am definitely not qualified to comment on the quality of the music or compare this performance to any others, all I can say is that I found it fantastic. We were gobsmacked. The Salle des Etoiles has never been so rocked. I am still grinning like a Cheshire cat with pleasure. And the boys were delirious, mouths agape at seeing their deity come to earth.

Unfortunately, local laws do not allow any performance to go on much beyond midnight, and so the show came to a close. The boys rushed the stage and were rewarded with a selection of guitar picks, one of which has ended up in my possession (thanks Steve). We slowly made our way back out into the balmy night, still buzzing, ears pleasantly throbbing.

At this point the enterprising youngsters, blissfully unaware of the unwritten protocol that one should calmly await the valet to bring one's car and depart, decided that a further glimpse of their heroes would be imperative. So, having found the group's bus next to one of the side entrances, they patiently awaited their exit and were happy to find one of the most approachable groups of celebrities in existence. Photographs and signatures all round. Ian Gillan even came back off the bus to ensure that the two had a photograph of him standing with them.

Chapeau! mate.

Yours truly dazzled,

Iain Cain

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