[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]

Tipsy Greek dancer..?

Don Airey said it best when he was being interviewed on the radio last night before taking the stage at Verizon Wireless Music Center in Noblesville, IN: He's a keyboard player, not an organist. And therein lies the difference between him and the redoubtable Mr. Lord, Organist Extraordinaire (Ret.). Not to take anything away from the Lord of the Organ (whom I missed hearing his amazing swoops on the C3 and watching him tilt the machine like an intense game of pinball), but Mr. Airey was able to produce sounds not normally heard at a Deep Purple concert, making for a more versatile set than in years past. I thought his Star Wars solo piece was a nice touch, and I think the Mach 8 edition of the band has a great future.

And speaking of versatility, I can't imagine Ritchie Blackmore ever sneaking in a few country licks during the solo for Woman From Tokyo as Steve Morse did last night. Nice touch, Steve. Nor, for that matter, can I imagine Blackmore tossing guitar picks into the audience after the last encore, which Morse certainly did. (BTW, I got to interview Morse himself many years ago when I was a student reporter and he was in Dixie Dregs. He is a genuinely nice guy - or at least he was to me then, as he showed patience w/my halting, fumbling style of questioning.) I really liked Morse's Well-Dressed Guitar showpiece, plus it was gratifying to hear Morse adding his own voice to solos on Highway Star, Smoke on the Water (done straight, thankfully, with no AOR Greatest Hits chaser mentioned in earlier reviews), Black Night and Speed King (nice pastiche of classic '50s rock lyrics).

And then there were the old Purple vets: Paice, Glover and Gillan. Ian Paice has been in the biz since about 1965 and it shows in the way he conducts himself on stage (though certainly he could pass for someone 15 years younger). He never wastes a lick (unlike the cloddish Scorpions drummer who kept thrashing his kit like a five-year-old), and his finesse is remarkable; I don't think he broke a sweat all night (something the Dio drummer, although powerful in his solo, could learn). I don't think there's a more fluid rhythm section in 70s-era rock than Paice and the bandana-wearing Roger Glover, who got in a nice bass solo during the opening number.

The only (minor) sore spot of the evening was Ian Gillan himself, dressed all in white and barefoot. IMHO he is the best singer the band has ever had, and although he was in fine voice last night, he had trouble remembering some of the lyrics (considering he's probably sung them thousands of times over the years; maybe that's the trouble - he's sick of them?). Plus, I could have done without the silly little dance of his during one of the songs (I can't remember which); he looked like someone's tipsy uncle cavorting at a Greek wedding. My 16-year-old son, who accompanied me last night, said Gillan, with his distinguished silver coif, looked like Tony Bennett. He's obviously never seen 70s-era pictures of Gillan with the long, flowing locks!

The set list was pretty much the same as in previous reviews (with the song order just rearranged), although I don't think anyone mentioned them doing Point of No Return, which they did last night. All in all, it was a tight, ass-kicking set, and the boys left the stage with smiles on their faces and the crowd (rather small for this event) raving. Deep Purple was a welcome change from the black-leather aura of the other bands (I remember Gillan commenting once in an interview that he didn't feel comfortable being the vocalist in Black Sabbath during their Born Again tour because he didn't wear black leather). We only saw part of the Dio and Scorpions sets, however. Dio the band was tight, with Dio the vocalist in usual fine form, and although I've never been a Scorpions fan, I was impressed with their lead guitarist: his style of metal guitar is excellent, even though he looked like an Alabama backyard mechanic in his leather vest and goofy grin.

Jack Gramling

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