Roger sings, Steve smiles
I gathered it had been raining every now and then during Deep Purple's 4-day Scandinavian tour, but as soon as they set their feet on the German soil, the sun has come out, and the daytime temperature here in Dresden is 35C! I'm working at the merchandise stand today in this heat, and I end up covered in sweat and exhausted by the time the doors open at 6:30pm...
aprilDAZE, the band who are appearing as the support act at most of the German dates (except Mosbach??), play light-ish, poppy-ish kind of rock, and one wonders why the promoters have chosen this particular band for this tour. Still, there's no booing from the audience (perhaps they are all too busy enjoying the sun and drinking beer?), and some seem to positively like their music, as we had at least one customer at the merchandising stand afterwards asking if we had their CD. (Sorry, this is the Deep Purple merchandising stand...) The support act lasts around 45 minutes, and when that's over, the audience begin to gradually move towards the front. By 9pm, the area in front of the stage is physically full of people, and when the band members finally appear onstage, they are welcomed with a thunderous cheering from all corners of the venue. Germany, it seems, remans one of this group's biggest strongholds. During the intro of the first number, "Woman From Tokyo", and well into the song, many fans at the front are clapping their hands high up in the air.
The members have very summerly outfits on: IG in a sleeveless, orange shirt and white trousers, his hair shorter than previously seen during the US tour; RG wearing a white, also sleeveless, shirt; IP and SM have black sleeveless T-shirts. Only Don Airey is dressed in a plain, black, long-sleeved shirt and black jeans. His visual presence doesn't stand out at all, so much so that I almost forget the fact he was there instead of Jon Lord tonight, until well into the first song. No, you couldn't really tell from the music, until the piece reached the piano solo section, where it became clear enough that tonight's arrangement was different from usual, but it didn't feel out of place at all. I think he was using the same gear as Jon, as the sound itself is the same. Right at the end of the song there is a short but great organ solo part, prompting the audience to cheer again. His short organ solo in "Ted The Mechanic" gets them clapping their hands again, it's clear the crowd is having a great time.
Organ tremolo is continuously played in the background to IG's introduction of the next number, "Mary Long", and this continues into the song itself for a while. It's only my second time to hear this one live (the last time being in Sendai, Japan in March), so I can't make the comparison between tonight's and the 'usual' renditions of the track, but I find the arrangement, with a long solo from Steve, very refreshing. Don is introduced before they launch into the next piece, "Lazy", and the audience welcomes him with applause. The organ solo during the intro to this song, too, is different from what Jon normally plays, but it sits in very well with the piece, and neither the style nor the sound feels unfamiliar or out of place to a Purple fan. The keyboard-guitar duel is as thrilling as ever, too. While I'm watching Don and Steve, IG must have disappeared and come back again, as he now has a white shirt (exactly the same design as the orange one he was previously wearing) and dark navy trousers on. The audience reaction to this number is extremely positive as well. IG thanks them for being fantastic, etc at the end of each song.
I only got to hear "No One Came" once during the US tour, so I was very glad it made its way back into the setlist for this tour. It seems that I was not the only one happy to hear this track live though - most people near the front are going crazy. The organ solo during this piece is excellent, and Steve and Roger are keeping up their comedian act (as I saw at Jones Beach, too), which brings out another wave of cheering from the audience. The drums build-up before the guitar solo section gets them clapping their hands again.
Next, "Fools". More or less the same arrangement as heard throughout last year's European and this year's Japanese/North American tours. The atmosphere among the audience remains very good, with many clapping their hands during the quieter parts (organ intro, the long solo section in the middle) of this number.
By the way, the venue is located, as the name suggests, on the bank of the Elbe, with the stage with its back to the river, open space for standing in front of it, and seating in the back section. Behind that are rows of stands selling beer and snacks, and a grandiose, classic building towers over the whole area in the background. There is a bridge right next to the venue, several hundred metres away from the stage, and it's filled with people who are listening to the concert for free! (The stage is angled so that it cannot be seen from the bridge, but the sound must have been pretty good.) The main entrance to the venue is on the other side, again several hundred metres away. As I went to use the loo in the middle of the show, I saw hundreds of people outside the gate, standing or lying on the grass, listening to the music here as well.
The capacity of the venue itself can't be more than 3-4000. It's not a particularly large venue. Nevertheless, IG told us after the show that it was such a fantastic experience for him to sing looking at the magnificient view and to feel all the positive vibes coming from the audience, while he stood there on stage along with his colleagues who were playing some incredible stuff and who were all enjoying it.
Next comes "Well Dressed Guitar", a piece written for the orchestra tour, but it still sounds excellent with keyboards covering the orchestra parts.
Then a piano solo from Don. After some grand and dramatic playing, he treats us to some well-known classical quotes: Bach's "Two-Part Invention in F Major", Mozart's "Piano Sonata 'Alla Turca'" (this one - first played straight, and then in jazzy style - gets the audience clapping their hands yet again), I forget the next quote but it's followed by Gerswin's "Rhapsody In Blue", and then comes the "hit the piano keys, keep the foot on the pedal and play some phrases on the Hammond, then back to the piano, etc." routine that JL often does - but here the piano is played much more aggressively than in Jon's solo, it's dramatic and wonderful. Then, without a warning, the heavy opening chord to "Perfect Strangers" fills the place, bringing out some more jubilant cheering from the crowd. I see IG has changed into a black shirt (again, the same design as what he had on earlier) in the meantime, though he still has the same trousers on. This song is played more or less the same way as usual, including IG's flamenco dance routine.
IG's soulful singing in "When A Blind Man Cries" is as moving as ever, but the audience reaction at the end of the piece is slightly cooler than that witnessed during the US tour. He babbles on for a while after this, finally saying "Loose Connections... that's what this next one is called," and Steve's guitar parade begins. This time it combines longer quotes with some very short ones, many familiar ones with some new stuff. I think I heard "Here Comes The Sun" for the first time tonight, as well as "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Paranoid" (although there were some arguments among us fans afterwards whether that really had been "Paranoid" or not. It was very late at night and I was exhausted, so I didn't catch what we agreed on in the end.) Many of the quotes are backed by bass, drums and IG on tambourine, but no keyboards. I suppose it would have been impossible to rehearse this on top of the whole set within a space of a day... [I think the point is it's unrehearsed... Rasmus]
And so into "Smoke On The Water". This still remains the absolute crowd pleaser in Germany. Many in the back sections of the venue are standing up now, everyone singing along the chorus. IG puts his hand behind his ear during the second chorus, listening to the crowd, and then he gives them his thumbs-up.
"The next one is a beer song. I think it's a beer song, I don't know what it's about... It's a song about congas. You think congas always come in twos, but you're wrong, they sometimes come in threes and fours, and then they have their little sisters and brothers, like bongos..." so IG goes on talking, and then suddenly they start playing "Speed King". The guitar solo as usual, the organ-duel, again, is played differently from that between Steve and Jon and yet remains in the same spirit and style, with Don and Steve challenging each other with big smiles on their faces. The bass solo, however, is different from usual, and is much longer as well tonight - great stuff! The drum solo, in contrast, felt a bit shorter than usual, but that might have been just because it followed the long bass solo. And IG's improvisation with classic standards goes on longer as usual: during "Gulf of Mexico", he says "Roger, you know this song, so you can sing it" and holds the microphone out to Roger, who sings a whole verse before dueting with IG! When that is over, Ian walks across the stage, spots Steve who has been watching the two of them with his usual smile, and Ian points the mic out to him, but Steve shakes his head (laughter breaks out from the crowd). With so many fun-filled improvisations, this number ends up a lot longer than usual.
So the main part of the show is over. As soon as the band disappears from the stage, some in the audience start singing the "Black Night" riff. Not the entire venue singing along, as heard on "Total Abandon", but it's loud enough, and they don't give up for a long time. The band eventually comes back onstage. IG says "we only came back to tell you that you're singing it a bit too fast" and starts conducting the crowd with both his index fingers... And the encore starts with "Black Night", followed by "Hush" and "Highway Star". The entire show lasted for 1 hour 45 minutes approximately.