[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Stupendous treat

Reached the venue 25 minutes ahead of time, which gave me time to get a couple of Anchor Steam beers in me sitting in my van, with the Total Abandon CD getting me in just the right frame of mind for the show.

With five minutes to go, I jogged to the venue, and at 6:00pm sharp, heard Dio start the proceedings with a song unfamiliar to me. Got to my seat, right at the center, but about 15 rows back. Dio (the band) and Ronnie were rocking the house, with a sound that was dark and powerful. Like one of the other reviewers mentioned for an earlier show, Ronnie looks like he is having the time of his life, with a huge smile on his face the whole time.

This is my first time seeing Ronnie live, and the impression you get of him immediately is that he is an outstanding frontman, and an absolutely brilliant singer. Of the older songs, the band played great versions of Children Of The Sea and Heaven And Hell. The guitar player was really good (Doug Aldrich), but I missed Iommi's touch on these two songs during the lead breaks. At one point, Ronnie said that they were now going to do a tune from a band that he and Jimmy Bain were in a long time ago, but said that he couldn't remember the name. He walked over to Jimmy Bain, who said "Rainbow!" An abbreviated, but good version of Man On The Silver Mountain followed (played at the same pace as Rainbow played it live). As far as I remember, the song blended into Long Live Rock'n'Roll, which lead into a solo by Doug Aldrich. The solo didn't do so much for me - it seemed more flash and bombast, giving us only a tiny glimpse of the guitar player hidden inside Aldrich, but the crowd seemed quite into it. The solo morphed back into Man On The Silver Mountain.

Tremendous versions of Holy Diver and Rainbow In The Dark were also played, along with some newer material that I didn't recognize, but which sounded really strong. Somewhere in the set a drum solo was tucked in, that was quite nice, but as some other reviewers have pointed out, avoidable considering the brevity of the set. Personally I would have loved to see a scorcher like Die Young (in my opinion, Ronnie's best song) in its place. The set lasted exactly an hour, and really got everybody in the mood for the evening.

At this point, I decided to answer the call of the wild, and got to observe the composition of the crowd. Lots of Dio, Black Sabbath and Ozzy t-shirts, so obviously a strong following for Dio. Hordes of Scorpions t-shirts - so many - that it was obvious that most of the people were here for the Scorps rather than for DP. A few DP t-shirts, but I was the only one with 'The Highway Star' t-shirt. [That's a boy. The cheque's in the mail. :-) Rasmus]

By the time I was back in my seat, Deep Purple's equipment was already on stage, and ready to roll (the roadies on this tour certainly don't sound like they sleep on the job). At 7:20pm, the members of DP walk onto the stage. IG tests his congas and suddenly the machinegun beat signals the start of Fireball. The sound is loud, and Paicey's drum sound is distinctive. He has the smallest kit of the three drummers, but his sound was absolutely enormous. A nice solo by Don Airey, but his Hammond seemed low in the mix. An absolutely vital component of the sound that defines Deep Purple is the Hammond organ (and, to be honest Jon Lord behind the Hammond), so when it is low, it takes away from sound of the band. The song outros into the riff from Into The Fire.A good part of the crowd was still away at this point, probably not anticipating such a short break between bands, so the response is not great, but I was standing and screaming my self hoarse, the only guy in my vicinity who seemed to be a DP fan(atic).

Next on was Woman From Tokyo, with great vocals, and a nice solo again from Don Airey. It was at this point, that I got the impression that the band were trying to spotlight Don. And Don is as good as they get, except for one complaint - he seldom looks up at the audience, and seems to be looking down at this keys the whole time. At the end of the song, Big Ian mentioned that the song wasn't about a woman, nor was she from Tokyo. He then went on to say that the next song wasn't about a guy called Ted, nor was he a mechanic. A superb version of Ted The Mechanic followed, with a terrific solo by Steve Morse.

Steve is now the fulcrum on which DP sits. And the man seems to enjoy every minute of the performance, with a permanent grin on his face. His interactions with all members of the band are a joy to watch, but in particular, he and Big Ian seem to have a special bond for each other on stage. Next up is a short organ solo by Don, and Paicey starts a familiar beat so we know Lazy is next. Great solos by Steve Morse, Don Airey, and nice harmonica work by Big Ian. Paicey's playing has a lighter touch on this song. Paicey's playing has such intelligence and sheer style! He is not out to pound the hell out of the skins no matter what, but rather to play according to the needs of the song (the Scorpions drummer, James Kottak, could take a leaf or two from Paicey's book in this respect).

Big Ian introduces the next song as written by Steve, and from the album they plan to record in the winter. The Well Dressed Guitar has to be one of the most pleasing instrumentals I have heard. While it showcases Steve, the other members also contribute to the song, with Don playing on his synth the whole song. My only complaint is that the song is too short (my guess would be a little over three minutes). I can't wait to hear this song recorded.

Big Ian introduced the next song as dealing with something not considered polite in some societies, and downright illegal in others, and a familiar synth intro followed. It was Knocking At Your Back Door - my first time hearing this song live. What a bloody rocker this song is - absolutely stupendous. A great solo by Steve (different from the original solo), and the song outros into "I don't want to taste your poison." Terrific version of a killer song. At this point, the band gets started on an instrumental intro which rocks, but I have no idea what song they have up their sleeve, until Paicey grabs a cymbal with one hand and pounds out the familar beat of Space Truckin'. Again, this is my first time hearing this song live, and although the song is brief (probably just over four minutes, in contrast to the 20+ minute version off Made In Japan and DP In Concert), it is a good rouser. Great drumming by Paicey. Together with Rog, he has a rhythm section from hell going. A keyboard solo follows, with Don playing primarly on the synth, with snatches that the crowd recognizes (not having seen Star Wars, I am not sure if the theme from that movie figured in his solo). He then turns his attention to the Hammond, and the chords of Perfect Strangers loom. The rest of the band joins him and they tear through a terrific version of the song. Again, Paicey shines.

Next up is Speed King, and Steve climbs up next to Don during their interplay. Nice exchange follows, but I got the feeling that there was much more dynamism in the exchange between Steve and Lordy. That said, it is obvious that Steve is trying really hard to find a similar musical equation with Don. Again, Don, while responding well to Steve's calls, is looking down, not making eye contact, and seemingly a secondary participant in the process. It was during this song that I missed Lordy the most. Steve and Big Ian's interaction is brief, and includes a rock'n'roll song that I didn't recognize (it wasn't Not Fade Away or High School Hop). A nice, short and tasteful drum solo by Paicey was included in the song, along with his one-handed roll.

Next Steve starts off a solo which includes Zep's Whole Lotta Love, with Paicey and the rest of the band joining in, before Steve shoo's them off, and starts off the Smoke On The Water riff. As usual, the venue comes alive, with everyone on their feet and singing. A competent version, but then I don't particularly care for this song anymore, so I was probably the most neutral of the crowd at this point. The band say their thank yous after the song ends, but we're having none of it, and in a minute they're back.

Don's Hammond chugs the chords of Hush, and a really nice solo by him follows. The crowd is singing along, and Paicey and Rog have got their monster rhythm going in full flow. After Hush, Paicey starts the beat on his snare, and his bass drum comes alive, with Steve and Big Ian making sounds of an engine revving, and Highway Star bursts out in full flow. Big Ian is in great voice (as he has been all evening), and Steve's solo is excellent. Don's solo was a little weak, I thought, but overall the song really rocks. And we come to the end of another stupendous show by the band. Big Ian, Rog and Steve stay on stage for quite a while, shaking hands, throwing picks, and thanking their fans. They appeared to be really sincere in their thanks for the support, and it was good to see the crowd responding to them.

The setlist:
Woman From Tokyo
Ted The Mechanic
Well Dressed Guitar
Knocking At Your Back Door
Space Truckin'
Don Airey solo
Perfect Strangers
Speed King, with Paicey's solo
Smoke On The Water

Highway Star

The roadies roll away the DP gear, and the folks around me, probably seeing my headbanging for the DP set reassure me that "the best is yet to come", and that Scorpions will make mince meat of what has been before. I am just too happy to quarrell, and tell them that having seen Dio and Deep Purple, I have got more than my money's worth, so if Scorps wants to kick ass, who am I to complain. I am familar with a few older Scorps albums, so I stay on in anticipation.

About 40 minutes after the closing of the DP set, the lights dim, and smoke fills the stage, and the Scorpions infest the stage. They were loud and proud. Rudy and Klaus have killer stage presence, and so does drummer James Kottak. They ripped through the classics like Winds Of Change, Coming Home, Bad Boys Running Wild, 'Tease Me, Please Me, Dynamite and Blackout among others, and the crowd is totally into the music - much, much more so than for DP. My impression is that they were really professional and competent musicians, but their set started to sound formulaic soon - it was as if it was all 'riff, verse, chorus, riff, short solo break, chorus, riff, end.'

I also didn't like James Kottak as a drummer. His drumming was always loud, with no dynamism or sensitivity for a song, and his squirting water routine looked quite childish from the start. His solo was quite boring, and his attempt to get the crowd screaming in synchrony with his drumming was quite tiresome. There is more to drumming than getting more beats per minute than anybody else, and James Kottak didn't give me the impression that he believed in that. I left one song after the encore, as Klaus was screaming that they were going to "rock California like a hurricane." A good thing too, as I could get out of the parking lot early, before it got to be a nightmare.

In all, a fantastic evening. Having seen DP last on the Abandon tour in 1998, it was nice to see them again after four years. They hadn't lost any of their magic, and they are a treat to see live.

Mahesh Srinivas

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