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The Highway Star

Deep Purple - Glen's High River review
[ d e e p P u r . p l e ) The Highway Star

Headliners/Closed out Alberta Classic Rock Weekend
High River, Alberta, CANADA
Sunday, Aug. 3
Attendance when DP played: 20,000 (a sellout)

   Carl Kottmeier and I could tell early on that there was something of concern around Jonís keyboards before ELO came on. There were several mini-conferences going on between manager Bruce Payne, stage manager Charlie Lewis and even Steve made an early appearance to check out the equipment setup. To make a long story short, a surge of electricity somehow blew the circuitry on Jonís Hammond organ and that was that. Like they could have turned around and said to the crowd: ďExcuse us folks, but do any of you happen to have an extra Hammond B3 lying around?Ē So the scramble was on to find it and somehow they found another one. So DPís scheduled 9:30 p.m. appearance went off course via 1) things running late and 2) Jonís organ problem :-) as IG made reference to in typical Gillan humor.
  So finally, when the boys got their cue, it was 11:13 p.m. But it took a few minutes to get everything in proper running order: (read: getting the volume up on the organ to full power and then, getting Rogerís bass amps back to the ďonĒ side of full sound. I have to admit as all this was going on, I was thinking to myself: ĎDonít tell me the band is just going to have to scrape by and hope for the best with faulty equipment all night.
   But then the tide turned.
  Hush finally kicked in with a longer than usual tuneup preamble ó and from then on ó it was just absolutely unbelievable. We decided we would sit back a bit to get the full scope of the sound with the 18 speaker banks hanging high from each side and the various speakers and such lined up across the stage. As you all know, when youíre too close with such a wide setup, you donít get the proper effect. Hell, we could have sat right up front if we had wanted to.
   Simply put, I didnít think they could top the three gigs in Toronto and New York back in Nov/96. But they did! You just canít touch this band. They all nailed their required starring parts as the band was in full flight throughout in front of 20,000 ó announced earlier as a sellout. A perfect night with nary a cloud in the sky and the stars in full view.
   Iíve got to tell you ó of all the outdoor shows Iíve been to (in the high double figures), that sound matched the best ones Iíve heard. Like I said before, we wanted to sit back a bit and be dead centre. Kudos to Charlie Lewis and his crew for pulling it off. Roger told me later the mixing engineerís name, and in my hazy fog, I have forgotten (sorry) his name. But it was first-rate output for such heavy rock.
   Carl and I knew we were in for something special when after Fireball, we heard the opening rumble to Into The Fire ó the full version, followed a few songs later with Bloodsucker. Just stunning work.
   I must say Iím a huge Gillan fan and have seen the legend perform several times live throughout the years ó and I can honestly tell you he has never sung better. He was in pitch perfect scream mode ó wailing away in full-throated fashion. Yeah, there were some quieter moments, too. :-) A bang-on performance Iíll never forget.
   One of my favorite parts on the _I_ tour was listening to Steveís solo on Cascades. Itís never the same and is always an engaging few minutes to watch as he meddles with the volume and tone controls and performs that patented mastery along the fretboard. A-1 as usual.
   I wasnít sure they were going to use the strobe light on No One Came, but it was dark enough and when the light kicked in, the crowd just ate it up.
   Again, Carl and I were remarking to each other ó what an amazing sound ó and the fact that they are the best band on the planet!
   Of course, it was a full army of arms in the air when Smoke chimed in after Steveís interlude. I looked behind me to see the masses getting off on it from every corner. People did come from miles around ó especially Carl and Sherri, who drove 10 hours or so from Vancouver.
   A soulful When A Blind Man Cries was perfect for the mood under this sky of stars and when Speed King gets going full bore and Gillanís screams are piercing though the air, well . . . you know, you just canít touch this band!!!
   After a brief exit, DP were back out for the encore of Perfect Strangers which went over very well and then onto the finale of Highway Star. Steve even reached deeper on the intro ó I swear an even more frantic, string-bending rev-up than on the _I_ tour. Of course, Iím going nuts now because Highway Star is the epitome of simple, but dramatic song structure and when I hear it live in person, well, Iím rather manic. Blistering throughout, with Paice killing it on the skins and Lord, Iím out of breath, not to mention out of voice by the end of it all.
   The concert clocked in at one hour, 32 minutes. I knew we wouldnít get the full set beforehand because itís a festival, so I was trying to figure out what would be dropped. Depending on what tour itinerary you reference, the songs dropped were: Maybe Iím A Leo, Pictures Of Home, Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming (my personal loss), Rosaís Cantina and Hey Cisco.
   But to gain Into The Fire and Bloodsucker was magnificent.

The setlist

  • Hush
  • Fireball
  • Into The Fire
  • Ted The Mechanic
  • Black Night
  • Bloodsucker
  • Cascades: Iím Not Your Lover
  • Woman From Tokyo
  • No One Came
  • Smoke on the Water
  • When a Blind Man Cries
  • Speed King
  • Perfect Strangers
  • Highway Star

   So off we went, hoping for a rendez-vous with the band back at the hotel at some point. Now, I have to tell you, in earlier conversations with Bruce, I had offered my place (a Deep Purple museum) as a meeting place afterwards if something couldnít be worked out back at the hotel because being a Sunday, the bar was closed. To make a long story short, we eventually met Bruce, Steve and Roger back at the hotel. They all had early morning flights, so it was understandable that some sleep was in order for them. We got in a quick hello to Jon and Ian Paice who zoomed up to their rooms.
   Then, Ian Gillan greeted us and after telling him that his vocals hit the heights, he said the magic words that started what was to become my dream come true... ďSo Glen, weíre heading off to your place, right?Ē
   Carl (thanks) pulled up my Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo out front and the journey began to the Miller household just 15 minutes away.


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