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The Highway Star

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Ireland & UK 2002 reviews  

Next stop Milton Keynes

Where do I start? I could mention the terrible parking problems parking in the most car hating council area in the world, or the fact that my good wifes newly cut hair got ruined in the rain but to be honest, not a lot could ruin a brilliant evening.

We got there just in time to see The Planets. Being rock'n'roll I settled down with my Kiora orange and Minstrels to watch the support. Spying a double bass on the stage gave me cause for concern and to be honest these worries were justified. I'm not denying that all of the group could play or that the girls looked very nice in leather, but I don't feel as if they were the ideal foil to one of the most exciting live bands ever. Being Oxford, the city of culture, they got a reasonable reception but I didn't go off scurrying to the merchandise stall to get a Planets t-shirt.

At 8.30 the lights went down and the crowd rose to their feet and went mad. Well, actually the crowd went crazy but stayed sitting right until Smoke On The Water despite the best efforts of a few of us to stay standing. I mean, I've been watching gigs since Whitesnake in 1979 at the same venue and I've never sat down. I couldn't believe it when I was tapped on the shoulder by a guest pass wearing guy behind and asked to sit down!!! [People without manners are everywhere. Rasmus]

So off we went into Women From Tokyo and it was evident that this band are really comfortable with each other and so happy to be treading the boards again. Gillan, resplendent in a white outfit (hard to describe but think of the Punka Wallas in It Ain't 'Alf Hot Mum and we're nearly there). The hair may be greyer and shorter, with no more Cousin It from the Addams Family when he hits the bongos but the voice hasn't sounded as good for years.

Ted The Mechanic came next and I was by now realising that this gig was going to be special.

By special I mean amazing. As soon as Jon Lord starts up with the familiar Hammond organ at the start of Child In Time I was in seventh or even eighth heaven. Ian's voice hit most of the notes and his screams were complemented by Steve's guitar. Hearing one of the best ever songs played live with such intensity will stay with me for years. The band got a standing ovation which soon petered out into a few diehards still standing up but who were soon disappointedly slinking back into the red cushions. As Ian said the song is so relevant today in the time of world uncertainty. Wow!!

Other highlights were The Aviator which had backing vocals from Roger and Steve. I've never heard the song live before but it fitted in with all the classics. When A Blind Man Cries is blues at its very best. The sound was crystal clear and Gillan's voice was wringing with emotion.

After the solos which were quite short but powerful, especially Paice's one handed drum roll, we were into a montage of some of the best guitar riffs over the last few decades courtesy of Steve Morse. He was surprised when the band joined in with You Really Got Me and it was, if you closed your eyes, like having Van Halen onstage before they changed singers every week. Hendrix, The Who, they were all there. Terrific stuff. I am a die hard Man In Black fan but I have been converted, there is someone else who can play those guitar licks just as well.

With the crowd on their feet the gig changed again. Speed King, Hush and Highway Star went by too quickly and it was over. A brilliant start to the year. I hope they do more in the summer, how about getting together with some other best of British bands and blowing away Milton Keynes on a summers day?

So to re-cap. The band were magnificent with no-one putting a foot, in Ian's case a barefoot, wrong. Highlights, Purple. Higherlights, Child In Time - awesome. Low points, seated venues used as such.

Thanks to the whole band, and to the hi-tech fan next to me who was juggling away between taking thousands of digi-pics and tapping out set lists, etc. Hopefully some of his labours will get to this wonderful site. Despite female ushers crouching down trying to catch photographers (true) he got away with it!! Now, that's rock'n'roll.

Come back soon as promised, hopefully when it's warm and Wendy's hair won't resemble the style of "Dragged through the hedge."

Alan and Wendy Savill with brother-in-law John

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