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

Zurich Hallenstadion Show October 18th, 2000

What a show! Even now, 10 hours after they finished playing and the lights went up, my heart throbs, my hands hurt, my throat is sore. Anyone who missed this show (there can't be that many, I'd bet the show was sold out, at least this is how it felt) anyone who missed it, guys, I'm sorry for you. If I could go back to one more show this year, this definitely would be the one - despite Yes, which says something about me.

My watch said one minute past eight (though it might be a wee bit ahead, this being Switzerland and all....) when the lights went out and Jon Lord came on stage. The orchestra had already ambled onto the stage a bit earlier, leaving quite a few people in the audience baffled. They obviously had not realised what they were going to attend tonight.

A few words of greetings - Jon all in white, hair, jacket, pants. He introduced Miller Anderson for "Pictured Within". Very nice, dreamy, strong piano runs, steady voice, as good as the CD. And you know what? The audience was listening. Everyone was kind of settling in for a nice and cozy evening with friends, only the smouldering log in the fireplace was missing.... Little did we know, then.

Next came the introduction of Ronnie James Dio who came onstage - together with the other Purple's (Steve Morris? I don't think so, but our seats were pretty far back). [It's Morse, not Morris! Even Ian gets it wrong! :-) Ed.] He did "Sitting In A Dream" and, how nice, "Love Is All". "Sitting In A Dream" was again real cool, but somehow the audience didn't quite warm up to it. The hard'n'heavies among us wanted more thrust, the older ones were still kinda getting into the show. Me, I liked every single second, minute, hour!! of the show. When Purple are doing the one piece on stage I'd heard for the first time when I was 10 and my sister brought the fresh vinyl copy of the "Concerto" home, I was hooked, but I never would have dreamt to ever see this being performed live. It happend and I didn't go to heaven yet; There's life before death, after all. Anyway, back to the show.

Next came "Fever Dreams" with Ronnie in full swing (the heavies got their bit now) along with "Rainbow In The Dark". There wasn't much of the orchestra, not that it needed it. Deep Purple were handling Ronnie's songs in style, cool interplays between the band and Ronnie, also amongst them. Very smooth, very suave, actually the band looked like the felt fully comfortable on stage, happy, solid as a rock.

On to "Wring That Neck", one of my favourites, whether the new arrangement or the old. I have a copy of the 36-minute version from the seventies which I treasure for rare occasions, but maybe in a later life, I'll start getting into jazz; Seriously, Paicey might make me do that. He was the engine behind this piece, Jon doing the Hammond bit, the Kick Horns kicking butt, but you guys who go the next shows, pay attention to Roger Glover: Throughout the show, he and Paice lay the groundwork for the voice/organ/guitar , but on "Wring That Neck", Roger is absolutely smashing. Not to say he's a lesser man on the other pieces, but on "Wring That Neck" he was outstanding, for me. The piece drives, but it's the bass that's sustaining it.

"Fools" - well what a NICE surprise. I had read some earlier reviews, but I didn't dare hope. "Rocks and stones can't bruise my soul but tears will leave a stain" - my, did they ever! Did I say anything about Ian 'the voice' Gillan? Noooo, nothing can be added. Simply better than on the CD, strong, powerful, steady, roaring, nothing left to be desired. He must feel better than a year ago, because he clearly outdid some of the RAH singing.

"Fools",well some might have liked to see Steve Morse do the volume bit on the guitar, but more on Steve later. Jon's Hammond did real nice, with excellent lights and great timing. Again, the audience was quiet where we should be, and loud were we could be.

After that, "When A Blind Man Cries", and funny, here Steve did the volume fade-in. I guess just to show... Now, Steve. Well, I'm a bit of a guitar player myself (one bit, one might add, despite 25 years of practice), Steve was my hero yesterday. A friend of mine who came along plays keyboard, so he focused more on Jon, but I followed Steve's every note. They do say that Steve's technique allows you to hear every single note he plays. He does not do the sweeps like Yngwie, he doesn't attack like Ritchie, actually his playing style is close to some of McLaughlin's or Steve Howe's. There might have been a note here or there I missed, but Steve's one breathtaking heck of a guitar player. Is he the best? I don't know. He's the best I've seen in quite a while. His lines never stop, they go on and on. How does he do that? If you get a chance to see the video of RAH, the guitar players among you will notice that he makes use of all five fingers of the left hand; Some players only use index, middle, ring. This gives him more sustenance. But his secret lies in the right hand, the picking. Look at him, e.g. on the "Concerto", esp. the "Third Movement." Steve stand bent as always over his guitar. He looks down on it as a heart surgeon would when he performs a transplant. His hands move lightning fast - where does he get the inspiration? Over the fretboard, his concentration only surpassed by his joy of making the audience (and possibly himself) happy. Then he looks up and smiles... Gotta love this guy. By the way, great, great singing by Ian and Jon's first roaring Hammond.

"Ted (or rather Steve) The Mechanic": Just as Ted does his mechanic, Steve is again all over this song. Throbbing, sawing, thrusting. I think the melodic abilities of DP are somewhat underused in this song, but it's a great showpiece live.

Steve then does his "Guitar Strings" with the orchestra, and once more, I forget to breathe. Thank God the piece is short otherwise I'd faint. But on the other hand, it looks as if Steve could go on for hours, and the orchestra with him.

"Pictures Of Home", just as great as on the CD, marvellous piece of music. Paice hammering away on my eardrums as the group comes in after the intro. Another wouldn't-have-missed-it-for-the-world.

"Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" has captured my heart lately, I am a late bloomer in this respect. But the singing again is great, the group and orchestra are firm and undisputed masters of the hall and evening. I started to think there might be no pause in the show.

Throughout the show, note how the group (or the two MC's of the band, Jon and Ian) work the audience. Starting real slow with "Pictured Within", working the crowd into a frenzy with Ronnie James Dio, taking them back down with "Wring That Neck" and "Fools", bring them up again with "When A Blind Man Cries" and "Ted The Mechanic", slow down with the intro of "Pictures Of Home", they are rocking and cradling us, at different times. I figure this is due to the "Concerto", which comes next.

In an ideal world, everyone would sit attentively and concentrated through the piece and shatter the earth with applause in between and after it. Ian talks to the crowd in front of the stage, explains how complex and difficult the "Concerto" is. He tells the people to sit down. He sits down onstage himself, and cools the place just right for the orchestra. There will be a few "*%-heads screaming, cat-calling and whistling through the "Concerto", but I can fade them out.

The "Concerto" begins and it's everything I hoped it would be. About three minutes into the "First Movement", the light cannon behind me blows up with a huge bang, but it's not too disconcerting (this will sound cool on any bootleg!). I'll have to say that I thought the guitar solos on the RAH CD were more focussed than live, but Steve still blew me away. And why should the solo sound the same. A lot has already been said about the "Concerto", I'll keep this short. This is my personal recollection, it's something I've lived with for for 30 years. I personally like the "Second Movement" the best and thanks to all of the audience for not destroying my bubble of wonder by being loud. The drum solo in the middle of the "Third Movement", with lights, was maximum pleasure, though I generally hate drum solos.

The piece leaves me exhausted, satiated and happy. Want to go home? NOOOOO! They come back with Jon pushing the organ to its limits on "Perfect Strangers", followed by "Smoke On The Water". Since we are in Switzerland, everybody knows at least the verse about the fire and the chorus. Not one quiet person in the hall. The people on the floor is standing - have been standing for a long time. The flanks are stomping their feet. The place is a mess, alight, overjoyed, sold-out to Deep Purple. The group is pleased, you can tell. I thought I heard Ian sing one line from "Jesus Christ Superstar", somewhere in there, from Gethsemane's. I may be wrong.

This is it. They DO come back for encores. First, and the crowd leads them into it: "Black Night"!!! I didn't read about this in other reviews, this must have been a special evening. Steve is teasing the crowd at first with some notes from Zep's "Heartbreaker" and Beatles "Drive My Car", then off we go. Outstanding, unsurpassed, exhillarating. I can't go on. They do a second encore. Steve's torturing/revving his guitar. Can it be, is it possible, may we hope???? "NOBODY'S GONNA TAKE CAR, I'M GONNA RACE HER TO THE GROUND!!!!" "Highway Star". I will sell my soul to Deep Purple on behalf of Steve Morse. He plays the solo the Ritchie style, just to please us old farts who've known this piece for longer than we care to admit.

This is it, it's over, the light goes up. This was a long review, I know. It's just that thinking back to last night, I don't want to give the feeling of bliss away, I want to hold on to it for just a little while longer. I could go on, probably the full two and three quarters of an hour the show lasted. Talk about getting something for your money. Then again, I would have paid almost anything, in hindsight.

Go there, it's worth it. You may never get another chance to see this, feel this, thrill this. And if you can, get a copy of the show. Somebody must have taped it. Maybe there's even a soundboard tape. If you know someone, or if someone knows someone who has a copy, would you be sooo kind to let me know? I have all the official versions, but a copy of last night's show, with "Black Night" and "Highway Star" would put me in a position to say I lead a happy life and did get it all.

Martin Buehler


[ reviews | the highway star ]