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Purple rock South Africa 2010

This is a combined review of 3 concerts.

It’s my 40th Anniversary … of following Deep Purple’s music. This came to mind during the 3 concerts I attended recently – 28th May at The Dome, Johannesburg; 30th May at the ICC Arena, Durban; & 1st June at the Grand West Arena, Cape Town. Bernie Shaw, the lead vocalist of Uriah Heep, mentioned at each of the concerts that it’s their 40th Anniversary, triggering my realisation.

It was late 1970, the last term of Standard 4 at Bulawayo’s Hillside Junior School (then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe – 2nd generation Anglo-African, descended from 1820 Settlers stock), when a change of class led to making a new best friend. He & his younger brother, plus their folks, were artistic, musical types – I was like a country cousin, having grown up in a ranching community in southern Zambia.

They quickly & simultaneously introduced me to The Goon Shows, Monty Python, The Beatles, & Deep Purple (the rest we discovered together). The first album I owned was “A Hard Day’s Night”; The second was Deep Purple’s “In Rock”. Suffice it to say that my life was irreversibly changed! Of course, we also formed the obligatory 70s garage band (I played drums – very badly at first, until taking tuition & gaining experience in different genres).

It took 25 YEARS before experiencing a live, in-the-flesh, Deep Purple show (one of Steve Morse’s earliest) – their last 2 concerts during their first ever visit to South Africa (Johannesburg, 1st & 2nd April 1995, having performed a show each in Pretoria & Durban, plus several in Cape Town in March). This makes the dvd of “Bombay Calling” very special to me, as it was their very next concert – 6 days after the final Joburg show.

My youngest daughter attended that concert still in her mother’s womb (3 months before her birth) – she’s still a fan! Both of my teen daughters (17 & 14) were with me at the recent Joburg show. They’re still talking about it – I think they found it almost a life-changing experience, & have been gloating ever since to their school friends who couldn’t get tickets.

Late last December, as I clicked onto the website of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society (www.deep-purple.net), I was thinking about the 2010 Soccer World Cup & fantasising about how amazing it would be if Deep Purple returned to South Africa after a 15-year break. Can you imagine my surprise & delight to read the Masters of Rock SA announcement?! That’s when I knew 2010 was going to be a memorable year.

At each venue I sat in much the same area – stage left in the lower part of the grandstand with an unrestricted view, except for a speaker column at the Joburg show blocking out Paicey … this gave a disconnected feeling, as did looking at the 2 huge video screens on either side of the stage; it felt like watching a dvd, which is not what you’d paid for (SABC 3, one of the main sponsors, filmed the Joburg & Cape Town concerts).

The Durban venue was the most intimate experience of the 3 – a narrower configuration with the seating closer to the stage, & no giant video screens.
In my opinion, the best concert overall – sound, mix, balance, performances, and crowd response – was in Cape Town. Coming into the venue from the outside parking, the Grand Hotel was prominent (I wondered whether any of the Deep Purple entourage noticed, given the lyric in “Smoke on the Water”).

The crowds were fantastic at each venue, it’s just that the Cape Town bunch topped the lot – my gauge was looking over the golden circle standing areas below my vantage point & checking the level of applause, whistling, cheering, singing, clapping to the rhythm of some of the riffs. 19’000 fans filled The Dome (verified by a contact within the venue management), with an estimated 6 – 7’000 each at the other two venues.

Two things commented on by both Bernie Shaw & Mick Box of Uriah Heep at each show: their surprise at how many young people were there, & the amazing audience response (this seemed genuinely sincere on their part). At the first show, Mick even said during their performance, “We want to come back already!” He added that they would love to return to do a full two-hour concert.

In Durban he said that he was “gobsmacked” at the response level. It may have a lot to do with South Africa’s starved live rock scene – unlike so many of the overseas fans, we don’t get the opportunity to see DP on our home ground every year (twice in 42 years … that’s all, folks!).

Wishbone Ash arguably gained the most mileage from this memorable short tour – I heard so many favourable comments from audience members after each of their performances ( Most punters were not familiar with their catalogue – kudos to Chris Venter of Universal Music South Africa for compiling “Best Of” 3 cd sets for both WA & UH).

Not having keyboards as part of their sound, & faced with the typical lower volume of an opening act, they played their hearts out, delivering competent, solid, entertaining performances. Of the 3 acts, they experienced the least sound problems (I guess that multiple keyboards add extra complexity to the mix).

Uriah Heep’s performances were also very consistent, with the Durban show probably their best (Although Joburg was a close second, & Cape Town still good). Each concert took a leap up when UH hit the stage – volume, tempo, energy, lighting … the sound seemed to expand in every direction to engulf you. Where WA’s sound was in front of you, UH surrounded you (something sustained & enhanced by DP). Both WA & UH had great vocal harmonies in many of their songs.

Each band came across as really enjoying themselves on stage – DP’s front three move around a lot on stage … coming together, changing sides, roaming around the full width available, & trying to connect with each part of the audience ( Roger & Steve display the most consistent upbeat, involved energies, & remain on stage the longest after the encores, interacting with the fans).

It was Deep Purple who improved noticeably over the tour’s duration – not surprising, given the massive long haul travel they’d endured to get from Malaysia to Russia & then from Armenia to Johannesburg, South Africa … by Cape Town they had lifted the bar considerably, & Ian Gillan in particular was really on top of his game (from the first screams of “Highway Star” to a short refrain of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” at the end of the encores).

Just as an aside, at the end of the Joburg encores, IG’s parting comment was, “Enjoy your summer …” After an audible gasp from the audience , he hastily corrected, “I mean winter”.

It was an unexpected pleasure after my arrival at Cape Town Int’l Airport, on my way to the exit area, to bump into the DP entourage. In fact, it felt so surreal & dream-like. However, I managed to overcome any hesitation & introduced myself to Roger & Paicey, who were standing chatting together next to their luggage.

They were very pleasant & friendly – Roger has an easy, quick wit. After congratulating them on the Durban performance the night before, I said how much better the sound was than in Joburg. Paicey immediately agreed, noting that although The Dome is a great sized arena, it was like playing in a big barn (adding that some things as a performer you don’t have control over).

All the guys looked very relaxed & content – much had been made by IG during the Durban concert of spending time on the beach before the show (Steve was introduced for his solo spot as something like, “And now fresh from the beach … the well manicured Steve Morse”. And Don’s intro was “the man who spent the day on the beach”). Bernie Shaw of UH also referenced time spent with surfers during their day off.

IG was most chipper & chirpy during the Cape Town show (in Joburg he & Paicey seemed to be suffering from jetlag. Paicey’s snare drum sound was not right until Cape Town – it sounded choked or flat & too thin at the first 2 shows).

The Deep Purple setlists (the first 3 numbers were played without intro or any chat in between – each segued into the next, led by Paicey thrashing the intro beats on his hi-hats or crash cymbal):-

1. Pre-recorded Prokofiev into Highway Star (according to Brian Currin on his Masters of Rock SA blog, it is from “Romeo & Juliet”, which ELP recorded on their “Black Moon” album) ;
2. Things I Never Said;
3. Strange Kind of Woman (duelling between IG & SM);
4. Maybe I’m a Leo (IG puts on Ray Charles like shades during the solo whilst handling tambourine);
5. Rapture of the Deep (introduced by IG as being off “our new record … or our most recent lp”. In Cape Town, he made a quick comment about probably recording a new album soon);
6. Fireball, incl. The lnto The Fire outro (IG turns to Roger, asking “shall we play a slow, quiet one, Rog?” before Paicey unleashes the familiar drum riff);
7. Steve Morse – Contact Lost/Solo (morphing into);
8. Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming (& straight into);
9. Well Dressed Guitar;
10. Mary Long (IG returns after a shirt change – gives a brief history of the song afterwards);
11. Lazy (this was prefaced by a brief Don solo & a tease from the opening riff of “Perfect Strangers”);
12. No One Came;
13. Don Airey Solo – dramatic classical into boogie woogie, some referencing of Afrikaner Boere Musiek, & a few bars from the first section of the South African National Anthem. In between all of that was an amazing demonstration of the varied & different sounds & styles he can get out of his set-up. He really looked in control & as though he was thoroughly enjoying the gigs;
14. Perfect Strangers (no teasing this time);
15. Space Truckin’;
16. Smoke on the Water (in Joburg & Durban, SM referenced several well-known rock riffs before the immortal one … in Cape Town he only played “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, joined by Roger & Paicey. It seemed as though he intended to play more, but changed his mind at the last second, as the SOTW intro was slightly fluffed);
1. Going Down* (just the first instrumental section before Paicey cymbal thrashes into);
2. Hush (with the briefest drum solo at the end … perhaps 30 seconds or so);
3. Roger’s Solo Spot, after which Paicey thrashes into;
4. Black Night.
*In Durban, Booker T & the MGs, “Time is Tight” was used instead of “Going Down”.

Each concert started around 7 pm, finishing around mid-night. WA & UH each performed for 50 minutes to an hour, with DP doing 1 hour 45.

The Meet & Greet/VIP Package offerings were sadly lacking, which was really disappointing – something the promoters, the band & their management could have done better, given the lack of frequency of touring Africa as a whole, as well as the incredible audience support & response.

In Joburg, through a contact of a contact, I thought I had arranged for my daughters & I to meet them – at the last minute, we were advised that they would not be meeting anyone, not even the venue management or the promoter’s people.

In Cape Town, however, I discovered after the show that there was in fact a backstage meet & greet. Despite my valiant efforts & waiting for an hour, I couldn’t gain admittance (this makes my casual encounter at the airport the afternoon before all the more cherished).

As South African fans, we can only hope that the promoters & sponsors will be encouraged enough by the results of this tour to make it happen again in the near future – bliss would be an annual Masters of Rock SA Tour ( a.k.a. Deep Purple & Friends). . . how is it that our SANZAR rivals Down Under get it right?! If the interval of 15 years is used as a benchmark, then I have serious concerns about any future visits to South Africa in this lifetime.

See great photos from the Cape Town concert taken by Brian Currin’s son, Michael. And for some stunning photos from the Joburg show of each of the bands, go to Shayne Robinson’s blog, (Some of his shots were published in the CitiVibe supplement of The Citizen newspaper on Saturday 5th June, 2010).

“Fungus Gil” has been chosen as my nom-de-plume as a tribute to my best mate ever, who was responsible in 1970 for changing my worldview permanently. This was his high school nickname, largely prompted by teenage facial hair & skin condition. Our junior school trio, known as “The Rock ‘n Roll Conspiracy”, at high school evolved into “The Fungus Gil Fiver” when his brother & cousin, plus another mutual friend joined the band (& one of the original guys left).

3 Comments to “Purple rock South Africa 2010”:

  1. 1
    Andre Sihotang says:

    Thanks Fungus, great documentary..
    really enjoying read it
    You had a wonderful experience following them

  2. 2
    purplepriest1965 says:

    I d love every woman after waiting that long like this DP fan probably did for a DP gig.

  3. 3
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Even worse….

    I have to admit something again.

    I started in 1977 as a DP and family follower.

    Around 1984 it felt like I had waited all my life for the reunion.
    ALL MY LIFE!!!!

    Must have been that age and all.
    7 years!!!!That isnt much.
    Time seems to fly away getting older.

    Anyway, I went to gig in Belgium.

    Ofcourse the band wasnt at all sounding like what I had absorbed and hoped for all that time.
    But still I was exited and enthusiastic.

    I still recall things.
    A fresh sound, standing in front of Lordy banging and singing away on A Gypsies Kiss, shooting the great pic of Roger saluting when Under The Gun was announced.

    Although the sound seemed fresh, I could not hear much of Ritchie. Was he really there at all?

    Paicey thundering and bashing away but far from that very versatile sexy drumsound he had in the 70 s.
    I always thought that being in Whitesnake and Gary Moore rubbed off wrong.
    Around 1990, like Ritchie, he got back to his old former self.

    Gillan had trouble, always.
    The way he looked was dubious.
    Not the rockgod I always admired, but sloppy shortened hair, obesive.

    I still took some great pics that night.
    Unfortunately including that terrible security man that deliberately took stand in front of my camera so that I had to work hard keeping him out of the camera view!!!

    In general it wasnt really much the level I hoped for.
    I could have known better but when you love something you are prepared, appearantly, to be mild.

    In 1993 we finally got a taste How things should have been in 1984 but it ended before we knew it.

    After that…..

    Well, a matter of taste…..

    Things were never the same again for me.

    Although I had my moments it never exited me the way when the real DP was together.

    Something always was missing.

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