[ d e e p P u r . p l e ) The Highway Star

Tour Review: Deep Purple World Tour 2000 in Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, April 15th, 2000

Wow! What a weekend.

I was sat by my computer on Friday night contemplating what a boring weekend lay ahead here in the UK, when I saw that Purple were playing a gig in Switzerland the following day. I frantically began to search the web to see if there was anyway I could get there without breaking the bank. I put a message out on the newsgroup to see what time the band were due on stage and to my dismay I discovered they were due on at 2.30 pm (1.30 UK time) (Many thanks to Jack Rolfo for getting back to me so quickly).

After searching the web sites of various airlines and the swiss railway site, I found I could get to Kleine Scheidegg by around 2.00 pm, all going well, so I thought "What the hell" and went for it. This was at 11.00 pm on Friday night.

I left home at 3.00 am and got to the airport for the 6.00 am flight to Zurich only to find the whole baggage system at the airport had broken down and all flights were being delayed by at least an hour. We finally left at 7.15 am and halfway through the flight the pilot announced that at least 40 bags had been left in London. Panic set in as I hadn't booked any accomodation so didn't have anywhere for my bag to be sent on to, and I thought I was going to spend the weekend in Zurich airport. Fortunately, after a mad dash through immigration, I found I was one of the lucky ones who actually got their bag (some seriously pissed off people were around). I ran through customs and through the airport to the railway station like a man possessed, got my ticket and made the Interlaken express with 30 seconds to spare although at this stage an hour behind schedule.

Got to Interlaken with five minutes to spare until the next train, dumped my bag in a left luggage locker and just made it onto the Grindelwald train where I then jumped onto the Kleine Schiedegg train, again with minutes to spare. All the time the songs "Trying to get to you" ("Travelling over mountains, even through the valleys too, travelling night & day" etc.) and "Smoke" ("Swiss time was definitely running out!") were going through my head.

I eventually arrived at Kleine Scheidegg at 2.50 pm in a snow storm, to be greeted by the muffled sound of the beginning of Steve's long intro to "Smoke" somewhere in the snowy distance. So I knew I hadn't missed too much. I ran to the entrance, bought a ticket and went through the gates. The sight that greeted me was surreal. The stage was at the bottom of a small valley and the crowd were in the natural ampitheatre the valley provided. Unfortunately, there weren't any steps or guide ropes and I had to gingerly make my way down the icy slope. I got a bit carried away in my rush to get near to the stage, and fell on my backside and took out about five innocent bystanders on the way down.

>From the top of the valley I couldn't see a thing, the snow was so heavy and it wasn't until I got to within about 30 yards of the stage that I could actually see the band. Incredible! Below freezing in a snow storm and Ian Gillan was in the middle of the stage wearing a Hawiian style short sleeved shirt - the man's mad! Fortunately there was no wind so the snow was coming straight down and the stage wasn't affected. The best way to describe the scene is to imagine one of these glass balls your grandma has, which you shake to get the snowfall effect. Imagine a little black stage with all the coloured lights and Purple belting out at their best with a demented crowd of people dressed for the North Pole bouncing up and down in unison.

So to the gig itself. It wasn't one for the purists technically speaking, but I have never seen the band or a crowd enjoy themselves so much and I've seen many, many concerts. It was an absolute joy. In saying that it wasn't one for the purists, the quality was still superb and the sound guys have to be congratulated for producing one of the best balanced gigs I've heard.

It really wasn't a day to worry about set lists and the like, but it appeared to follow the same pattern as those listed for previous gigs - but obviously I don't know what came before "Smoke." "Fools" was simply awesome with Steve in absolutely cracking form - he has undoubtedly added a whole new dimension to the band with the quality of his play and his demeanor which lightens everything up (I know some of you people miss old misery guts but personally I don't. I'm just glad that I am still able to see the band I love play after all these years and so obviously enjoying themselves).

The one song I was afraid that Steve might spoil was "When A Blind Man Cries" which, to me, demands to be played simply without any over elaborate guitar work. But to my pleasant surprise he played it absolutely straight and it was incredibly moving.

The whole gig had an "end of term" party feel to it and there was plenty of improvisations or "marmalade sessions" as Big Ian put it.

Ian was on top form singing at his finest with plenty of good natured banter. We were treated to some Hounslow yodelling amongst other things. He spent a lot of the time with his camcorder recording events like all the solos and the crowd going mental - I'd love to see a copy of his tape someday.

Roger played incredibly well given the conditions and his solo during "Speed King" was simply the best I've ever heard from him.

Steve and Jon had a lot of interplay, but they seemed to suffer most as the gig wore on and the cold set in. The way these guys play you could hardly expect anything else in sub zero temperatures, but they still had a great time and were bashing away right to the end.

Paicey was brilliant and his one handed play with his left hand whilst nonchalantly slumped over the kit has to be seen to be believed.

The final song was "Highway Star" and the longest intro I have ever heard. This was due to Ian coming on stage with a fleece jacket on but then deciding he was too hot and went backstage to change into a t-shirt!

The gig ended with Ian jumping off the stage to shake hands with everyone at the front and the band stayed on to accept the applause much longer than normal. Eventually with the crowd baying for more the band were whisked off into a large glass sided snow mobile and were driven up the hill to their dressing room waving to and applauding the crowd who were still going mental.

As if by order of the man upstairs, as soon as the band disappeared the snow stopped, the clouds cleared, the sun came out and the temperature rose by what felt like about 20 degrees. We were left in the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen, 7000 ft up the side of the Eiger with the Alps surrounding us. It was a truly magical and totally unforgettable afternoon.

I met some great people from all over the world during my trip and I know, I know it's one I'll never forget (sorry getting a bit carried away there).

I eventually got back home at 2.00 am this morning and started work at 8.00 am. I am now totally knackered and going to bed, but it's going to be a long time until I stop smiling.

Robert Parker

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