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

Meeting up again with old friends

Superb! Fantastic! Brilliant! - Thanks a lot Ian, but you were too!

There was a lot of anticipation at the Campo Fiera here in Santa Lucia (nr. Conegliano) judging by the 11,000 or so (13,000 rumoured) that rolled peacefully into this small market town. For me, having one of rock's biggest bands here in our back yard and a touch of curiosity after all these years made it a show not to miss. Iím no dedicated follower, some of the stuff I would later hear I hadnít heard in over 20 years, spooky how I still remembered everything note for note and almost all the words, my memory of those songs coming from those 'classic' recordings. So, you could say it was a bit like meeting up again with old friends... and some new ones.

The crowd was buzzing well before Purple reached the modest stage and there was an eruption when they kicked off with "Woman From Tokyo" - fab opener. Gillan in cool Hawaiian shirt was in fine fettle, warm, smiling and with THAT voice. There was a good, fun vibe up on stage too with Gillanís cheeky banter between songs sharing it with us. The 'new boy - young but not corrupted like us' Airey was introduced before launching into "Lazy" (without its massive build-up) - great to see him again (not since Newcastle City Hall back in Rainbow days) - Mr. Lord can rest at ease - shame that Don wasnít UP in the overall mix?

"Mary Long" was a fantastic surprise, it was great to hear it live along with the other lesser known tracks and to hear how Steve Morse handled them. I was pleasantly surprised, no pyrotechnics as some had led me to believe, but 'decent' interpretations with, of course, his own touch - he paints with sound - good to watch, great to listen to - he seems to play not only as a solid band member but also as a fan. Many times I heard sounds/references to the studio recordings that often seem lost (or not played) when played live. On some occasions, he was even more 'Blackmore than Blackmore' (with respect to the mighty Ritchie) and heís cheeky too - humour-back-on-stage shock! (I know! - Blackmore had it too but he didnít smile that much). Morse adds a real spark to the band.

After sorting out his trousers and a shirt change around "No One Came" (Deep Purple in costume-change shock!) they went into "Fools" (handled brilliantly by Airey) which could have been written yesterday, sounded so contemporary - fantastic with cool (much-needed) waterspray during the organ bit (Hey! It was getting hot around the stage and it added great visual effect).

After a beautiful "When A Blind Man Cries" Gillan introduced the moment 'when the Riff-Raff come in' to which Morse and everybody kicked off into a kind of 'Time Machine in Rock' interlude with a blistering taste of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" (see also Van Halen), followed by snippets of "Voodoo Chile", "Oh Well", "Wonít Get Fooled Again" (Paicey excelling here - brilliant), "Back In Black" (AC/DC very at home here in Italy) and the guitar break from "Stairway To Heaven" (?) - all in all a bit of a show(-off) piece but very entertaining.

"Smoke" followed, a bit of a sing-a-long these days (must be a Karaoke classic in these parts - sorry, but for me this oneís a little more sacred - even the Coverdale version could be dodgy).

With Gillan's 'batteries nearly running out' they broke into "Speed King", dominated by Morseís 'chopping' guitar sound. Space here for Paicey too to break loose with a brief solo - heís still a powerhouse, THAT sound - admirable considering the boyís no spring chicken. More capers with Gillan singing "Anything you can do, I can do better!" and teasing Morse into a duet and then suddenly Gloverís in on the act singing "Down to Mississippi......."(?) Fun to see them horsing around, but to bring "Speed King" to a halt for these high-jinx was a little bit much (or am I starting to get a bit fussy too?).

Off and back in a flash for the 'studio' "Black Night" which was great - the slower version summing up something of where they are now - not quite the energy and looseness (or the youth) of that "Made In Japan" period, obviously - but a tighter, solid sound with a touch of light-heartedness and hey, thatís fine by me. Then came "Hush", Gillan making it his own - a real stonker! Oh, yeah! "Highway Star" was next and that fucking blew us away!

Mille Grazie to a great band, and to Ian and the boys - glad you had a great time too.

Woman From Tokyo - Ted The Mechanic - Mary Long - Lazy - No One Came - Fools - Well Dressed Guitar - Perfect Strangers - When A Blind Man Cries - (Medley: You Really Got Me - Voodoo Chile - Oh Well - Wonít Get Fooled Again - Back In Black - Stairway To Heaven) - Smoke On The Water - Speed King - Black Night - Hush - Highway Star.

Shame no "Pictures Of Home" - personal fav - but hey, something for next time!

Derek Stewart

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