[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Solos that matter

After 27 years of attending concerts I finally get to NJ's old Garden State Arts Centre. I'm not a fan of outdoor shows due to dodgy sound, but this place is a gem - the FOH mixers did a fantastic job for all three bands.

I was here for the Purps, but I figured it'd be cool to see/hear both Dio and The Scorpions since it had been eons. I cooled to both bands around 1984 and haven't paid much attention since. Dio was up first, starting at 6:30pm on the nose. Let it be said here that Ronnie and company's new tunes are OK, but I had the disadvantage of not having heard his new album (and I won't be rushing out to get it). My major gripes with their set were the insistence with making everything into a medley, and the useless guitar and drum solos. On the former, here's a case in point: 2nd tune in is Egypt (The Chains Are On), and midway through they switch over to Children Of The Sea. Then it's back to Egypt for the last verse and then finish up again with COTS. Later he does the same with tunes from Ronnie's Rainbow catalogue, and they close with a shortened version of Heaven And Hell. As for the latter complaint, granted, drummer Simon Wright and new guitarist Doug Aldrich are fine players, but I crave more songs. Plus, with only a 55-minute set, wouldn't they want to cram in as much material in as possible?

After a long set change The Scorpions blasted away. I was shocked that I had forgotten how much I dug this band from 1979 to 1982, and how they absolutely torched Rainbow at Madison Square Garden in 1982. It was as if the following 20 years hadn't occured cause they smoked and surprised. I never thought I'd hear Uli Roth-era classics We Burn The Sky and In Trance in person. Aside from the late 80s fluff of Tease Me, Please Me and - again - needless drum and guitar solos, The Scorpions raised the ante for the headliners.

The set change this time was brief, with DP opening with a rousing Fireball. The set seemed to stay static over the last two weeks or so (judging by earlier fan reviews), but they had to contour things to follow The Scorpions, fer sure. As much as I'd have loved to hear No One Came, Fools or Mary Long, the band had to stick with the greatest hits set. I really can't blame them, I'll just have to wait for the next true headlining tour. We did get The Well-Dressed Guitar, which I had yet to hear. It was very cool, and the crowd response was decidedly positive. Knocking At Your Back Door was a nice surprise (still played down a whole step as on the Nobody's Perfect album).

Now, having read my comments on drum and guitar solos earlier, you might figure I'd rip DP at this point. Well, no way - they integrate the solo spots into the context of a song. Plus, we've all grown up with the band's little personally highlighted areas. With Dio and The Scorpions, the songs are what we know them for. Of course, we love Deep Purple's songs (or we wouldn't be there, right?), but the musicianship is nearly as important. Plus, the band members know not to overstay their welcome. Funnily enough, Steve Morse didn't have his own solo section, but he has plenty of room to shine throughout the set. Don Airey was concise, leading nicely into Perfect Strangers, while both Roger Glover and Ian Paice had their highlights in Speed King .

As for the stage presentation, not much was needed. Just a few strategic lighting effects here and lots of smiles from the players. Enjoyment is certainly a high priority these days. Hell, do you think that Ian Gillan would've been able to wear that all-white outfit with the old banjo player around? I think not.

After 32 years as a fan - yes, I was corrupted at seven years old with In Rock - I can honestly say they're as good as ever. Don Airey slots in real well, although it'll take some time for things to become telepathic between he and his new bandmates. I certainly look forward to the new studio album (I hope Jon Lord can make a contribution) and the next proper headlining tour.

One last thing. The tidbits of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again and I Can't Explain before Smoke were a fitting touch.

Set list:
Woman From Tokyo
Ted The Mechanic
The Well-Dressed Guitar
Knocking At Your Back Door
Black Night
Perfect Strangers
Speed King
Smoke On The Water

Highway Star

CJ Sciøscia

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