[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Smiles galore

For the first time since the Mark 3 line-up played here in 1974, Deep Purple returned to Charlotte, North Carolina - and I for one thoroughly enjoyed the show, my first Deep Purple concert.

First up was Dio. This was the first time I'd seen him live since 1998, and, given that his band was the third on the bill here, he played a setlist which was far too short. Still, he possesses one of the most powerful voices and stage presences in rock history. I loved the Killing The Dragon backdrop, and it was great to see Jimmy Bain back in the band, but where was Rainbow In The Dark? I think he should have dropped the plodding Egypt in exchange for what is arguably his greatest hit.

Next up were the Scorpions, and while I've never been a Scorps fan, I have to admit that they are quite the party band, with nonstop antics from vocalist Klaus Meine and the silver-haired guitarist. But what was the point of that lengthy instrumental (with Klaus on rhythm guitar)? It seemed to go nowhere.

Finally, my favorite band, Deep Purple, hit the stage after a short wait, opening with the fast and powerful Fireball, as if to defy disbelievers basing their opinions on the band's average age of approximately 52. They didn't play to the biggest crowd in the world, and most of the people there were quite sloshed and not well-versed in DP lore, but that didn't stop the band from giving their all.

Woman From Tokyo
Ted The Mechanic
Well Dressed Guitar
Knocking At Your Back Door
Black Night
Don Airey solo, followed by Perfect Strangers
Speed King (including It's Now Or Never and High School Hop)
Smoke On The Water (no Morse riff medley!)

Highway Star

As far as individual performances:

Ian Gillan - resplendent in white shirt, white rolled-up trousers, and barefeet, he hit most of the high notes. Yes, he stuck to his patented stage-raps ("Superb," "You're sending down good vibes," etc.), but he was obviously having fun. Nearly every song found him pounding the infamous black congas at some point.

Steve Morse - by far the best guitar player of the evening, Morse never fails to impress me. My wife and I were just discussing how much differently he plays and acts onstage in Purple as opposed to when he's touring with his solo trio; with DP he seems wilder and looser - yet fully part of the band. The Well-Dressed Guitar featured impressive soloing from Smiley Steve, almost like a cross between Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Johnson. If other new songs continue in this vein, the next studio album could mark a return of sorts to their classical roots, quite ironic given the fact that the two biggest classical guys, Blackmore and Lord, are no longer in the band.

Roger Glover - Roger got not one but two bass solos, and both were quite melodic. At one point he even quoted Rat Bat Blue. For the most part he stuck to his red bass, and at show's end he tossed what seemed like hundreds of picks to the audience.

Ian Paice - My favorite drummer showed the big boys how it's done. He plowed ahead like a furious 20-year-old. Unfortunately, he did not seem to be in the best of moods this evening; he was one of the first (if not the first) person to leave the stage after the encores. His solo was great, but I can't remember if it came in the middle of Lazy, Black Night or Speed King.

Don Airey - In anticipation of this show I was of course disappointed that I would possibly never get to see Mr. Jon Lord with DP, but Airey is a great keyboardist and deserves everyone's respect and encouragement. He seemed quite happy tonight, rivalling Morse in the smile quota department. However, I do think that he and Morse still have a ways to go towards developing the telepathic call-and-response soloing in Speed King which became such a Lord/Morse trademark. These things come with time.

Song-wise, the highlight for me would have been Smoke On The Water, because by that point my wife and I had moved up to the sixth row (in front of a woman who sported a t-shirt with a photo of her meeting Ian Gillan!). It was loud, powerful, melodic, and fun - the way any good Deep Purple song should be.

In closing, a great show. Hope they don't wait another 28 years to come back.

Chris Clark

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