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

Thanks for a wonderful evening

Amazing that this show could exceed the wild expectations I had! I'd been anticipating it for weeks, checking The Highway Star every day for any bit of information. When I read that Don Airey would be filling in, I have to confess I was actually a little happy. Obviously Jon Lord is a vital part of the band and his speedy recovery is wished by all, but I knew it would be exciting to see how the other band members (and Don himself, of course) would deal with the challenge.

Deep Purple took the stage at 9:30 and played until 11:20, including the encore. The set list was the same as the other reviewers have reported, with "Black Night" in the encore. "Woman From Tokyo" was one of the highlights of the night - it was clear from the beginning that Don, after just six shows, was completely confident, playing fills at the end of songs that seemed to me (although I'm not a keyboardist) to be different from what Jon would play, but still right for the song. It was great to see the others all smiling at him (and each other). Steve in particular seemed to have a rapport with Don, as though Steve was happy not to be "the new guy" for a few days.

Don's solo at the beginning of "Lazy" featured some brilliant dynamic shifts. Maybe I'm mistaken but there seemed to be the slightest hint of an error when Don apparently wanted to continue the riff during the initial bursts of guitar from Steve. Probably done on purpose to remind that they are mortals after all! Don also handled the orchestral parts in "The Well Dressed Guitar" and provided another highlight with his solo before "Perfect Strangers," incorporating a little "Rhapsody In Blue" as well as classical riffs. Seeing Ian P. with a yellow rose in his teeth at the foot of Don's keyboards was funny - Steve and Roger tapping each other's guitar necks in "No One Came" was another example of the fun the band is having these days. Don also played a relatively fast solo in "When A Blind Man Cries" without being bombastic and Ian Gillan congratulated him for it in the middle of the song. Ian sounded great all night and this song was his peak - what expressiveness in that voice!

As far as the "Guitar Parade": did they really do a snippet of Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well"? It's one of my favorite songs and seeing Deep Purple playing even just a part of it made me think I dreamt it all! Maybe another reviewer can confirm it for me. I think I also heard "Stairway To Heaven," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Sweet Home Alabama," "La Grange," "Purple Haze" and short bits of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride" and "American Woman" by the Guess Who, and there were probably others I missed. Hearing this part of the show on CD has been great but it's so much better when you can see Steve leading the band through it, waving his arm when he wants to stop and move on.

Speed King featured Ian G. adding lyrics about being a gambling man down the pub and challenging Steve to a crazy scat duel - and winning! Roger's bass solo was so musically solid, it felt like a whole band playing and could've gone on longer. But of all the great solos during the night, Ian Paice's was the most impressive, especially his one-handed snare roll - wow! For me, Ian P. was Deep Purple's most valuable player tonight. Don Airey has done what I would have thought impossible a month ago and shown that for the short-term at least, it's possible to have a Deep Purple tour without Jon Lord. But it's still hard to imagine anyone stepping in for Ian Paice for even a single night. Thanks Ian, and everyone else too, for a wonderful evening.

Michael Lehecka

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