[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Purple raised the bar

There was quite a crowd at the Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee, WI. The weather was beautiful, parking was easy. The only annoyance was the slight increase in security. Everywhere you went someone wanted to look at your ticket. No big deal. Beer was $5.00 a bottle; you'd think it would be cheaper in Miller Brewing's home town.

The show started promptly at 6:30 with Dio. This was the first time I had seen them play. Ronnie himself is a very charismatic guy, obviously enjoying his time on stage and enjoying playing for his fans. I knew he was, shall we see, petite, but his size belies the amount of sound he can produce, and the amount of energy he can put forth. His band was good, though I didn't recognize many of the songs. Man on the Silver Moutain was a bit too fast, but they did insert another Rainbow gem, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, into the middle of the song. I don't believe they deviated much from the set list they've been playing. It was a great way to open the show, though, and they set a high standard for the rest of the night.

The Scorpions were up next, which meant (Yes!) Deep Purple was the closer. Another diminuitive singer who for some reason reminded me of a small German version of Bono. [Maybe because Klaus Meine is German...? Rasmus] The band was in fine form, outdoing Dio in my opinion. The drummer (James Kuttek) put forth an excellent solo, but managed to actually look tired at times; it could have been an act though. No deviations in the set list. My fiancee enjoyed their show tremendously, recognizing more songs than she thought she would. Even my best friend and his wife enjoyed the set. Deep Purple would have a lot to live up to....

Another intermission while the stage crew changed things around. The tension builds as they wheel the silver sparkle Pearl set onto stage. Then the keyboards, followed by the infamous black congas. The lights go down and you hear the sound of a jet airliner, film footage of a runway and an airplane coming in for a landing. Then the familiar machine gun attack of drums and the Fireball erupts.

The band is tight, Ian's voice clear, and they're smiling, every last one of them, even as they finish the song with the riff from Into the Fire. Very little banter between songs. After Woman from Tokyo Ian says it wasn't a song about a woman nor about Tokyo before he introduces Ted the Mechanic, about a man whose name wasn't Ted and wasn't a mechanic. Lazy followed, impressing my fiancee with its bit from Carmina Burana, and then the concert gem Well-Dressed Guitar. It's been too long since we've heard such an epic Purple instrumental.

Ian would like to introduce the next song, but in some places it's considered rude or immoral, and other places it's downright illegal: it's Knocking At Your Back Door. Brilliant performances, with a change in the set list: they've substituted Space Truckin' for Black Night; no matter, the audience is loving it anyway, jumping and singing along with Ian as he sings come on!

Then comes the test: the keyboard solo. Don had some big shoes to fill, but he managed to impress, working not only the theme to Star Wars into his solo, but the classic school fight song On Wisconsin! The audience loves it. Then it's on to Perfect Strangers. The introduction of a song from In Rock from 1969 and Speed King follows, which includes solos from Steve (superb), Roger (impressive and awesome) and Little Ian (spellbinding - the one-handed roll never ceases to amaze). The band manages to work in High School Hop before finishing out the song.

The band closes with a much more recent song, the song everyone is waiting for, Smoke on the Water. It is a blistering rendition; the days of Made in Japan may be gone, but this version evokes the heavy, dark, and bleak mood it is supposed to, never becoming a parody or mockery of what the song is about. A brilliant finish. The band exits. We know there is more to come.

The band returns to the stage and they start into the keyboard-driven chug of Hush. The night is capped off superbly with Highway Star. Steve's solo blazes with the intensity of the album original, making me think Ritchie who? The band is smiling and truly grateful to the audience. Little Ian throws drum sticks, Roger and Steve throw picks, and they're all congenial enough to sign autographs, including Roger signing what appeared to be the sleeve for the vinyl of Shades Of Deep Purple. I thought to myself that these guys are truly touring because they are enjoying it, and Milwaukee enjoyed it as well. Excellent shows from Dio and the Scorpions set a high standard; Deep Purple raised the bar.

Terry Anschutz II

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