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

Deep Purple in Katowice

Seems like the enthusiasm of Polish audience once more squeezed an absolutely masterful concert out of the band. I feel that it's been one of best performances of Mark VII, and we're quite sure it was the best Polish DP gig ever (though there's been Mark II once in late '93).

Jon Lord was always a kind of guru for us, so we got crazy, as he took the stage and welcomed us. "Pictured Within" was a beautiful piece, and even if some cretins found Anderson missing his place, we bashed them down and awarded Miller with some forceful applause.

Total craziness was yet to come, as Dio's set was his first date in our country ever. He's been a ruler here, from the very first lines of "Sitting In A Dream" an 8.000+ crowd sung the songs, going wild under the power of this voice. Usual scansion of his name took place after every song, just to show him how happy we were that at last he was with us. Before "Rainbow In The Dark" Ronnie was gifted with a 10m2 white and red Polish flag with the text "Welcome To Poland". It was beautiful to see him smiling like he'd seen a thousand rainbows on it. He took the present, put it around the neck and wore it like a fancy scarf. It was an unforgettable view and I hope that for Dio this will be an unforgettable night.

Even if "Wring That Neck" was as jazzy as usual it wasn't an obstacle for the crowd to jump and have fun, especially as Paicey seemed to wake up from a long dream and played like no one else can. Volcanic drumming which was greeted with an volcanic applause.

However this was only a warm up for a real highlight of the evening. Two years ago "Fools" was number 10 been on a specially organised Deep Purple chart on Polish Radio III. So now you can imagine the crowd's reaction for Big Ian's announcement of this masterpiece. The roof went up and the band got almost blown off the stage. They counter-attacked with a powerful 12-minute long version. Ian's vocal was again extremely passionate, but the real star here was Steve. It was like a dream to see him in action - no words to describe it. Full compliments could be repeated for him every next song this evening...

"When A Blind Man Cries" received a status of an anthem comparable to "Child In Time" in our country, so it was welcomed with hysterical cheer and again was sung by the entire hall. Along with orchestra's sound it carried amazing climate and was (again!) just beautiful. "Ted The Mechanic" was a kind of a 'commercial break' to get us ready for next portion of miracles later on. The quiet middle was a brilliant moment for thousands of hands to take over the rhythm and carry it along with ticking drum of Small Ian.

What a version of "Pictures Of Home" came next. The middle part began with a dialog of organ and guitar - classical, full of finesse and delicacy. As Jon let Steve go, he brought things to an end raging through a solo of unseen power. It was clear to me here: This is one of the best nights of Morse in Deep Purple, and surely the best one in Poland. He decided to surf on our enthusiasm, just let himself go - it was absolutely superb. He was the master in "Well Dressed Guitar" - the orchestra (unfortunately) lost the battle here. Ian was probably stunned seeing people go dizzy during "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" (seems to me like it's the greatest Mk VII hit favourite of my nation), so he placed a round of powerful screams right before the end. Superb!

"Concerto For Group And Orchestra" ("Movements" 1 and 3) brought bits of confusion into the audience, so there were shameful moments (uncertain screaming in some places) and glory moments (esp. clapping hands during highland motive in the "First Movement" and along with the cow bell after drum solo in the "Third Movement"). The soloists were playing like in a dream. I was watching Morse from a one meter distance and I can't imagine some well-known ex-guitarist in this place anymore. The two solos he gave were just tremendous. Ian Paice thundered through for a good seven minutes, without even a second of break. Every time I get back to his solos from 1996 I find them a pile of rubbish, really. As time goes on, he seems to get back more and more to his best drumming remembered from 1972 or 1993 tour. Indeed best rock drum on the planet now.

When the band is totally turned up and people are just eager to listen to their favourite band after two years of waiting, you could imagine the atmosphere for "Perfect Strangers" and "Smoke On The Water". From the former I remember Ian Gillan dancing across the stage in a flamenco step during Lord's solo. I don't have to add that the sound of this anthem was a monster. We were almost dying being squeezed into the fences by the thousands of bodies pushing and flying around.

The fistful of riffs Steve threw before "Smoke On The Water" was almost uncountable. "Whole Lotta Love", "Stairway To Heaven", "You Really Got Me", "Day Tripper", "House Of The Rising Sun" and a bravely sung "Sweet Home Alabama" made the pot melt. During the story of the Casino Paul Mann wore black glasses and a hat looking like a mate from "Blues Brothers". During the chorus he threw the hands in the air forcing the orchestra to sing the famous title. It got Gillan into tears - I saw his eyes and you won't fool me. The question is if it was us who caused them, or rather the farewell with orchestra.

As this was the final goodbye The Philharmonics remained in their seats to enjoy the last encore, extended especially for us. Paicey ran to his drum kit and after the first bang of the stick every throat sang "Black Night". Fan(t)a(s)tic solos by Steve and Jon, Gillan conducting the exchange of riffs between us and Steve from the conductor stand. Sometimes I feel like flying, and this was that unique sort of moment.

Le grande finale - a free ride down "Highway Star" was again a perfect, superb piece of music. Chilled with Gillan's full moon smile, and Morse's and Glover's headbanging just made everyone in the hall go crazy. We hoped for the third encore, but it seemed like it was enough (Is it ever enough? Don't think so...). We were so bloody damn happy to see the greatest band on the planet finish such a great tour in a absolutely finest style. Felt pity that you couldn't been here. It could be the gig of lifetime for you. Well it surely was for me!!

Martin Karski

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