[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Don makes me happy

Deep Purple had a lot of explaining to do tonight. This was my first show of the tour, my first time seeing them without Lord, and I had a lot of questions that I hoped to answer. Would there be signs of hope for the future? Is Don Airey the man for the job? How would Purple fare playing after Dio and the Scorpions? Was this tour a mistake?

I was familiar with Don Airey's work before the show tonight, and admit I wasn't convinced they picked the right guy. Nine years ago when Ritchie left the band, Purple didn't replace him with Gary Moore, Bernie Torme or Bernie Marsden. They looked outside the family and brought in Joe Satriani, one of the most respected guitar players in the biz. And when Satch left, they brought in Steve Morse. Again, from outside the family, and a man whose playing speaks for itself.

So when I heard Don Airey was the new keysman, I couldn't help but think that Purple had grown lazy in the past nine years. Maybe he was the right man for the job. Or maybe they were playing it safe. My bet was on the latter. But nonetheless, I bought tickets for three shows this year, and hoped for the best.

Dio kicked the show off with an excellent one-hour set. The covered songs from the new album, Killing The Dragon, solo material, as well as Sabbath and Rainbow. The set was very well received, especially considering the early hour.

The Scorpions were up next tonight, but thanks to my friend Jim, we had passes for the Dio meet and greet, so we made our way to the backstage area. Dio's new guitarist Doug Aldrich was the first to arrive, followed by the rest of the band. The area we were in was in between where the busses pull up and the band's dressing rooms, so as we were in this general area, we saw Ian Gillan and Steve Morse arrive together. Ian immediately went inside, but Morse stopped for autographs, and chatted with Doug Aldrich for a while, making possible plans for their day off the next day. Steve offered to take him flying!

Roger Glover also appeared with his wife, and we chatted with him about the tour. He seemed pleased with how things were going, but said their one regret is not having more time on stage. He said also said his solo album would be out no earlier than September.

I also spoke with Dio's drummer, Simon Wright, and asked him what he thought of Ian Paice. He raved about Ian's solo and his one-handed drum roll. Simon said he asked Ian how to do it and Simon tried to explain it to me, but wasn't doing a very good job. Needless to say Simon was impressed.

We made our way back to see the last two songs of the Scorpions. The sounded good and the crowd had grown even larger since Dio's set.

Deep Purple was up next and opened with Fireball. Surprisingly, I thought the song lacked the punch it normally has. If not musically, at least in terms of presentation. Instead of taking command of the stage, Gillan wandered to Morse's side and interacted with him, singing the first couple of verses next to Steve who was also playing back to Gillan. Now, I love Purple's jams and their interaction, but during the first minutes of the concert, I think crowd recognition was more in order.

Don also failed to connect with me right away, but I think it was more me getting used to his sound and playing the song differently than Jon than anything he was doing wrong. Woman From Tokyo was up next, and any worries or complaints I had were gone from here on! Don's embellishments of Lord's parts were great, and the band started to click and get in their groove. There was no going back from here.

Ted The Mechanic and Lazy both rocked and Don added some touches of his own in addition to some of Lord's album work that had been replaced by live improvisation. Perhaps my only complaint was something that Steve Morse himself said on his website. I missed Jon's ability to turn an improvisational line into a masterpiece. Some of Don's noodling sounded a little repetitive, and not necessarily unique to any given song. But, I thought his playing was excellent, as was his solo spot.

There were numerous highlights. Perfect Strangers was amazing. The ending especially seemed even more dynamic than usual. Same for Knocking At Your Back Door. Black Night was another highlight, better than most previous versions I've heard.

Smoke On The Water, Hush and Highway Star were very well received, obviously. They seemed to add some extra dynamics during the keyboard solo in Hush as well. The band got quiet and Don played away quietly, before kicking in in a big way. Very impressive! Don also did a good job with Jon's Highway Star solo.

So overall I thought Purple came and delivered, and I'm sure they will get even better from here. I didn't see the Scorpions' set, so I can't compare the two, but Purple did very well tonight. I didn't notice the droves of people leaving as reported at other shows. Some people did leave before the encore, but that happens at any show. Don did a good job, and after seeing him tonight, I do think he is the right man for the job.

The other feeling I had leaving the concert was that even though it was a 'greatest hits' set, it didn't leave me with the rushed feeling that the tour last year had. Even though inbetween song chat was kept to a minimum, and obviously they would have liked to have played more songs, there was more breathing room in the songs that they played than I remember last year. For instance, Black Night started off with a little jam, Speed King had some fooling around in it, etc. After seeing them a couple times last year, I didn't really have the urge to see more shows, where as this year I do.

Now, off to New Hampshire!

Brendan Johnston

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