[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]
It was almost a Return To Knebworth Fayre at Verizon's Sandstone Amphitheatre as 100-degree heat suddenly dropped 30 degrees and the skies filled with dark, rolling clouds. A stiff breeze blew across the venue from the northwest. This is Kansas, where storms blow houses over rainbows into Oz. A thunderstorm looked imminent, but the weather held.
The seats were only half-filled when Dio took the stage, right on schedule, an occurence that is common on this tour. Get there early! You don't want to miss Dio. This is no warm-up band. RJD is in fantastic form, doing all the hand gestures and antics and Look outs! for which he is famous. There are strong ties between Dio and Deep Purple, and the inclusion of this band on this tour is a much better match than the one last year.
Despite a lukewarm crowd, Ronnie never blinked, charging right into the set. Not being a solo Dio fan, most of the numbers were unfamiliar; however, they were jamming to Children Of The Sea early in the set. Heaven And Hell is one of the greatest albums of all time - and hearing tracks from it was a treat. Heaven And Hell got another big response from the crowd.
About halfway through the performance, Ronnie mentioned going way, way back - you knew what was coming. The band belted out Man On The Silver Mountain and Long Live Rock'n'Roll. Despite the tongue-in-cheek you remember who the guitarist was back then comment (and something inaudible said by Jimmy Bain to Ronnie that didn't sound complimentary regarding Ritchie), it was the Rainbow numbers that got the people on their feet, and including more Rainbow numbers is about the only criticism I would make. My wife Christi, dressed in her Glenn Hughes Burning Japan t-shirt and nearly completely unfamiliar with Ronnie, was very enthusiastic about the quality of Dio's voice. He was quite good. Excellent, in fact. Her review? The guitar player is cute.
Deep Purple expoded onto the stage with Fireball. As noted in earlier reviews, Don's Hammond is almost completely inaudible during this song, even though a keyboard tech fiddled with it during the performance. Looking like a middle-aged Captain Kirk, it was phasers on 'stun' as Ian Gillan belted out the opener, complete with his all-white outfit and bare feet. He does look a little like William Shatner of late! Scotty was shoveling the coals into the amps this night.
Woman From Tokyo was next. The riff was thick and powerful, getting an enthusiastic response from the crowd. It is clear that Purple stuck to a greatest hits philosophy for their abbreviated performance, a wise compromise as many in the crowd had Scorpions t-shirts on and many had come to see Dio. These familiar tunes gave casual fans a much easier time than the more cerebral numbers.
The Purps did play Ted The Mechanic that day, a song that I understand had been dropped from time to time due to time constraints, but it was here today, with everyone in fine form. The audience loved the opening riff and bass barrage, but some were a little confused with the rappy-style vocals - something one might not be used to if you're returning to Purple after a long absence - but they were won over with Steve and Don's solos, with both getting noticeable applause during the song itself.
Don still appears a little uncomfortable with himself, something my wife also noted to me later. This is understandable given the shoes to fill, but Steve has come into his own following Ritchie, so maybe he just needs more time. Although his playing was spectacular, he does seem to feel like a guest in someone else's house rather than a part of the family. I predict that will change once he plays on the next album. We're looking forward to having him in DP for years to come. He did a great job.
Don's solo was in the Jon Lord vein of a little classical fading to a rock 'n' roll electric piano solo. There was Bach's toccata and fugue in D-minor, followed by I think Chopin. He was all over the place. A fine performance.
Space Truckin' was a nice surprise. I understand it had been deleted from a lot of shows, but they played it here. The one thing that kept coming into my mind is the power of this band, the really heavy riffing that pounds the audience. There's nothing tinny-sounding here. The crowd loved it. It was a small crowd, but most had their fists in the air singing, Come on! Come on! Let's go space truckin'...!
They have a drummer as well. He sits in the back and his name is Ian Paice. And although there had been some criticisms of late, something about skipping some triplet fills or something, none of that was apparent here. He was all over the place and the solo was noticeably powerful and c-l-e-a-n, including the one-handed drum roll. Dang, that guy is good. Few drummers have a noticeable personality in their playing. Ian is one of them. Sticks of thunder.
Speed King was amazing. Traded solos...Buddy Holly built in...Gillan screaming...enough said.
Knocking At Your Back Door was a surprise. I understand Jon never really liked doing that live. Don didn't seem to mind and the crowed loved it. I was surprised at how many people sang along with it. There were definitely a large number of Purplites in the audience as I wouldn't think a casual fan would be that familiar with it. I was wrong. A song that I never really thought translated well live, it went down fantastic here.
I have never really liked the new version on Smoke On The Water, which in live recordings since the reunion has sounded a bit cabaret-ish. If this performance is any indication, maybe it just doesn't translate well onto a recording because this was the strongest live version of Smoke I've heard since Made in Japan. This did not seem like a band that has played this song for 30 years. No one looked bored. They brought the crowed to their feet at the first riff and kept them there. A great performance.
Encores included the finest live version of Hush I've ever heard, which earned more applause than Smoke! Just about everyone around us sang along. It had to be the crowd favourite and the highlight of the evening.
They closed with Highway Star following the old addage, Leave 'em wanting more.
Gillan was awsome. Reports of voice problems found no creedence here. He's never sounded better. The quality of vocals was excellent, and there were all the usual Yeeeeowww's and assorted silver-throating screamings we've come to know and love, along with all the charisma and fun we expect.
Roger was also in particularly fine form. He smiled through the whole show. This is a guy that loves what he does and does it well. The sound system tended to distort under the strain of his bass...I guess it can't be contained. At one point during a bass solo, there was a tremendous loud slap as he kicked up the gain and just shook the place. It was cool! So much enthusiasm, he has.
Steve was just amazing. There's little that can be added to that. A true professional. The country/pentatonic-sounding solo during the bridge of Woman from Tokyo was a big hit with this Midwestern redneck crowd. I am a huge Ritchie Blackmore fan...the hugest...but there's no denying that Steve has become as integral a part of this band as anyone. He brings a different dimension to DP...just another shade of purple. An awsome talent and a lucky find for the Purps...unquestionably one of the greatest rock guitarists in the world.
I've seen a DVD recording of Seventh Heaven. This crowed liked the heavy riffing...that song would have been at home here, but with the short set, they can't play everything.
Sandstone is a small venue and I was worried that Purple wouldn't put their all into it. This is just a whistle-stop on this tour...not exactly Wembley Stadium...but they played like it was Osaka '72. I can't thank them enough for putting so much energy into such a small show.
Please come back...in support of a new album!
One comment needs to be made of the sociological makeup of this crowed. We had eight-year-olds with their thirtysomething dads along with fans in their 40's, 50's, even 60's. To be able to bridge that gap is incredible. This music is timeless.
When I saw the band entering the backstage area, I saw a guy with kind of curly hair dressed in black with a moustache - Don Airey, at least from a distance, looks a heckuva lot like a guitarist we know and love...
Troy D. Wickman
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