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Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Sacramento, CA, USA
Sep 6, 2004

I had the privilege of seeing three Deep Purple shows this year (two of them, this month, were back-to-back). The following highlights the show in Sacramento on Monday night, and also mentions the very unusual situation that occurred the previous night at the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord. It's not only a performance review, it's also the telling of a true California Rock experience! I wrote this the day after the show. I hope you enjoy the review nearly as much as I enjoyed the show.
I'm sure glad I decided long ago to see both Northern California shows (Concord and Sacramento - back to back). I must say that, once the mike problems at the Concord show were fixed, it was a great set, but the really bad initial vibe from a largely full-house was a detriment to the feeling of the evening.
As for Sacramento...
It was a downright hot California afternoon (nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit). One of my best friends went to see the show with me. We started out the best way you can on a nearly three-hour drive, in his 2002 Corvette convertible, blasting Deep Purple all the way there! Well, it was a beautiful, warm evening when we arrived and there was a great, relaxed, friendly atmosphere. This mood was set for an extremely enjoyable show. As with the Concord show the night before, I didn't rush to see Thin Lizzy (poor guys, from what I hear, that seems to happen to them a lot!). We arrived in time to stock up on beer and "Catch Satch".
While I was disappointed for the business-side of the equation (only about a 33% capacity crowd) it did make it very easy to move about, check the show out from all angles, walk right up front and tell the guys that "they're number one" - and dash off for a quick refill on the beer - and be back in less than two minutes!
As for Joe Satriani, while it was a GREAT SET, and awesome to again see two of the world's greatest guitarist together, I don't think it was quite as magical as the Concord show. Joe seems - like most performers - to feed on the audience and there wasn't even close to as many people at the Sleep Train show, so there was no way to generate the incredible enthusiasm from the crowd that Joe enjoyed (and so well used to his - and our - advantage) on Sunday night. Great set anyway, what a truly amazing guitar "hero"!
As I mentioned, the mood here was great (the staff was friendly, the people were friendly) and I think even Deep Purple felt better too (in spite of the much smaller crowd). I share the observations I've heard from others that Steve's solo at Concord was good, but not his usual "magical" performance (I think Deep Purple were also impacted by the "mood" that resulted from opening with two songs that had no vocals - and perhaps the resulting booing). But at last night's show, Steve was smiling and "playing to the crowd" with his usual level of virtuosity (and fun).
As soon as they opened, I grabbed a beer and just had to head forward to see the guys up-close ...for as long as I could -- before being asked to retake my seat. Well, I know their material (and their live shows) by heart -- and can even play many of their songs on guitar and keyboards -- so I'm always either playing along at home on my Strat or D-50, or "air guitaring" or "air-keyboarding" to their stuff. Last night, I wasn't trying to show off, I was just being me. But I guess it paid-off! I do know every break and every punctuation in every one of their songs (including the current live sets) and Steve noticed me right away -- we were able to exchange several glances and a "thumbs-up"! :-)
Well, when my beer ran low during MWFT, I headed back to get a refill (gotta have your priorities, don't cha know?) and I was shocked with what happened. MANY strangers were patting me on the back, giving me high-fives and saying "Wow, you sure know their stuff"! "Are you friends with the band?", "Are you their back-up guitarist?" -- and to each question, I replied ..."I Wish!". So, when I had a fresh beer, I not only felt comfortable returning to the front, but I actually felt supported by the crowd (remember that "empathy" thing I talked about?) :-) Most bands love to hear the crowd shout the name of one of their songs, then be able to turn right around and play it. I was in a great mood -- and feeling no pain -- so thought I'd "help out". After a fantastic rendition of MYFT -- and a fine response from the crowd, I happily shouted "I've Got Your Number", and they went into it! After a fantastic version of IGYN (by the way, with great work from Steve and Don -- and Ian sounding awesome) I then enthusiastically shouted "Strange Kind of Woman". Ian made brief eye contact with me (I was the only one standing -- and at center stage -- right in front of the guard rail). Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I got the impression he was thinking "Could this drunken fan please allow me to introduce our songs myself?". Since I absolutely think the world of Ian Gillan -- and was only trying to help raise the spirits of the evening -- I said to myself "guess I'm not helping Ian much"! Feeling a little embarrassed, I decided to refocus my attention on continuing my "support" for Steve.
After getting to see a great performance by my favorite band - from closer than I've ever seen them before (five feet from the stage) ...about half-way through their set, my former bassist and I decided to "cruise the venue". I was interested more in seeing and hearing the band from every perspective in the house, My friend was more interested in the aforementioned "sites". :-) After seeing the guys from all angles (by the way, the sound IS definitely better further back) I decided to watch from immediate stage left (right in front of Steve!). He seemed to recognize me again and, when they went into Smoke, I held up my newly refreshed beer in one hand and my copy of the brand new book "Smoke on the Water - The Deep Purple Story" in the other. Steve came right over, shaded his eyes for a second to see what I was holding, then gave me a great big smile and another thumbs-up (resulting in more pats-on-the-backs from audience members).
I decided to stay right there for the rest of the show. When the encore was completed (great rendition of Hush) Steve was throwing picks. One never came my way, so, as Steve was about to leave the stage ...I excitedly said "Steve, STEVE, where's my pick?" .He smiled right at me, reached in his pocket, pulled out one last pick ...and tossed it my way. It landed about two seats away. As five people started charging for it, I said, "Guys, I think that one's mine" and to me delight, the person closest to it, grabbed it and said "I know, man, here ya go"! Can you imagine that happening at a sporting event ("here ya go, this Barry Bond 700th home run ball was meant for you")??? ...Man, what a GREAT VIBE!
Now, I truly did want to meet the boys (and get a CD of original material to my favorite producer of all time - Roger Glover)...
While every good band tries to make everyone in the audience feel a personal connection, in this case, I was sure they'd recognize me if I got back-stage tonight! I bought a collection of my prized Purple rarities to both shows -- along with my favorite Stratocaster locked in the trunk, right outside in the VIP parking area. Alas, no joy at either show.
I had even written detailed e-mails to both Ian and Steve in advance (admittedly, I sent these e-mails through their fan sites, so they probably never saw them). I enjoy Ian's writings so much -- and I enjoy writing myself (can you tell???) -- so I tried to make the e-mails enjoyable and entertaining. I told them how very much they mean to me (my first "fan letters" ever) and I implied I would surely like to meet them someday. I never really expected to hear back from them anyway, so I tried several "approaches" to meet them at the Concord show. it was a fairly large group that had VIP passes and I was with a friend that had never been to a rock concert before (just got him into rock, through, you guessed it, Deep Purple). We went to the backstage access area and I simply said "follow me". I walked in like I owned the place, Security even smiled and said "have a good time tonight". But once inside, I looked back, and there was my friend, still standing there -- looking forlorn -- on the other side of the doors.
I said, "Oh well, I'm not gonna leave my friend out there by himself" (and they'll probably be making him leave soon). I also figured the boys were probably not in the greatest of moods anyway (if I were them, I'd want to get the meet
and-greets done ASAP ...so I could have some "choice words" with the sound crew). But, still wanting to meet the band, I left the backstage area, rejoined my friend and tried to get an official "invite"...
I asked if it would be at all possible to meet my favorite band this evening. "Do you have a gold VIP badge?" was the reply. I said "No, but Ian Gillan said that you don't need to pay $400 to meet the band, all you need to do is ask nicely, and I am asking very nicely". The reply was "Well I'm not Ian whoever ...and you guys need to move along".
But last night was such a smaller group and I knew the guys would recognize me, so we tried the "nice" approach again. These folks were much cooler. They agreed we had asked "very nicely" and they said they'd "see what they could do" Two staff members even stayed with us as everyone in the venue left, so we wouldn't get kicked-out. After 10 minutes, Mike says, "we got a three hour drive ahead of us, let's spilt". I'm like "NO WAY". After about 30 minutes, the doors opened and a big guy with a headset/mike said "you guys are in, here's your passes, enjoy". Wow, here we go!
We were told we'd be in the second group and were treated to ice-cream, snacks, coffee, and assorted non-alcoholic drinks while we waited. After waiting another hour, my friend said "let's go, I'm tired". Of course I said "we're back-stage, no way I'm leaving now!". Another half-hour went by and we were finally told "the band is tired, sorry, no second group tonight, better luck next time". (I have since re-read exactly what Ian said ...and he said all you need to do is ask nicely, to at least end up on the short list. Well, we had made the short list -- and I was very pleased to see that Ian was true to his word.)
Nearly three hours after the show's end, we began the three hour trek home, empty handed (well, not quite, Steve's pick - tossed directly to me - and the 2004 Bananas Tour back-stage pass definitely made for nice souvenirs)!. Was my friend a bit unhappy? Yes (even more unhappy with the speeding ticket on the drive home)! Was I unhappy? No. They don't owe anyone an autograph or even a few minutes of their time. I got to see a great show, saw the guys from as close as my TV is to me now and just had a great time, ...so why be disappointed???
In fact, I'm glad I gave it a shot - if you don't try something, it surely won't happen! I am still hoping to receive a reply to my friendly e-mails at some point (but -- as a Deep Purple tune itself advises -- "Don't Hold Your Breath"). ;-) All in all, great to see the guys again, really excited about the possibility of a new album in much less time than usual ...and I can't wait to see 'em again! By the way, to complete this true Rock-n-Roll story: I got a brief e-mail this week from a United Kingdom address (two weeks after the show). Since I don't know anyone in England, I really wondered who it was from. It was very brief and simply read... Hello Chuck,
Thanks for that, it is much appreciated. I've read your stuff - excellent. Cheers, ig Wow!!! Thanks Ian, that meant a lot to me -- and really put a great punctuation mark on a tremendously enjoyable event (that I will remember for all my years).
Robert Marble


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