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

Deep Purple in Concerto - Antwerp, 30 September 2000

Hi Purple people!

Yesterday night, I was driving from Brussels to Antwerp to see Deep Purple in concert for the 7th time. A special gig though: Deep Purple's "Concerto for Group and Orchestra", born again from its ashes.

The place was the Sport Paleis of Antwerp. Huge venue indeed... Everybody had a seat, just like at the opera (don't try to swap it, they're watching you!)... Average age of the audience: about 45-50 (they were kids in 70's). Average age of the musicians: hardly more (they were kids in the 60's).

So here I am sitting (in a dream...) with a promising programme booklet in my hand. Just before me, a whole family is sitting (the father looks 50, bank employee, driving a van. He has come directly from his job, I guess, because he wears his suit, and even a tie). They buy an ice-cream (just like at the movies!), waiting for the show to start. I'm curious to see them when they realise they are not attending the Spanish Horseriding School Show which is programmed a few weeks later...

OK, 8.30 pm sharp: lights go off and Jon Lord appears alone introducing the Romanian Philarmonic Orchestra and Paul Mann (the Conductor), as well as Miller Anderson who will offer his warm voice on "Pictured Within" and the backing vocals. "Pictured Within" is a charming moment. The acoustic is quite OK except a little too weak to cover screams or even chat noises from some stupids (without any flare guns, fortunately...).

Then comes Ronnie James Dio in a stretch black outfit, perfectly fitting. This little guy looks so big as soon as his wonderful voice reveals what's inside of him! He's accompanied by the rest of the band except Ian Gillan.

Ronnie moves forward into "Sitting In A Dream". Beautiful song. Then, introduced as a number that you made a hit "even in Belgium" (!), "Love Is All" warms up the whole audience. Comments in the crowd: "I didn't know this was from them!", "Is it not a jingle for a TV ad?", "Ooh, that's good! I thought Deep Purple was a heavy metal band..."

Before leaving, some promo of "Magica", the new Dio album, was required. "Fever Dreams" was brilliantly performed by the band. Steve Morse seems to be really enjoying himself with this heavy riff that he could have composed... To my big surprise, as I was watching at this very moment, I saw the man with his family sitting in the row in front of mine and saw him waving his head like a true metal fan. But the most amazing thing was that his wife and two daughters were doing the same...! I swear: That's what I saw!

Following this, we got a (little dashed) version of "Rainbow In The Dark". Nothing matches the 1986 live version of Dio's band, although it was interesting to see Jon Lord performing the keyboard line...

Bye bye from Ronnie for now. He leaves the place to an instrumental Deep Purple, performing a very jazzy "Wring That Neck". This gives you a clue of the incredibly wide range of music types that Deep Purple can cover.

Ian Gillan finally appears. He seems a little puzzled by the total absence of reaction of the public. A technician coming on the stage would have received more applause. I guess the changes of music styles, as well as people appearing on stage during the first 30 minutes, can explain that the public's emotion is not able to follow the rhythm. Ian looks at the crowd ("look at you!"), the crowd looks at Ian. They both seem to say "nice to meet you". Fortunately, Ian will soon realise how strongly the Belgian public loves him...

Traditional opening of the Deep Purple gig, "Ted The Mechanic". As good as usual. Then follows the orchestral version of "Pictures Of Home". The new orchestral intro sounds a little bit too artificial though... The Orchestra's drummer seems to be enjoying the song as he almost starts jerking... At that time, I remember how delicious it was to see on the 1969 video the mocking or disgusted faces of the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra musicians when the band was doing their thing...

Nice to hear "Fools" played live for the first time! Just one little remark: the intro vocals are too loud and Steve's solo shouldn't be added to the 'classical' one. I must admit that I have always thought that this song needs to be played in a dirty dusty basement, in front of a few people smoking herb (don't try this at home).

After that, Steve Morse throws himself into an epic guitar solo called "Guitar Scream", a kind of heavy speed symphony... Nice one!

"When A Blind Man Cries", then "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" preceed the main part: "The Concerto". Ian introduces it as "a long song of 40 minutes (45 minutes actually) divided in three parts: the first one is the battle (between band and orchestra), then comes the time they try to get along and to understand each other, and the third part describes the final harmony between them." Thanks Ian for this beautiful metaphor...!

The funny thing to watch is Steve and Roger sitting on their chairs, crossing their legs, drinking their beer from time to time, and looking at the Orchestra, like usual spectators (they could even watch a soccer game!)... I guess this tour will not be the most exhausting for the five...! Let's call it 'the sitting tour'!

Suddenly Ian Paice looks very excited. He's making big waves to his technician. The man is coming. Looks like Ian has problems with one of his big drums. Fortunately, this is now the part of the Orchestra and nobody is focusing on him. He disappears with the technician under his drum kit. Finally he's back... as well as the technician! Ian, what were you doing under these drums, hmm?

Each of the movements is closed by an explosion of applause. People rise up and the crowd is truly amazed by this old forgotten masterpiece. It took 30 years for "The Concerto" to be recognised as such...

After 45 minutes, "The Concerto" ends in general excitement! Time to continue with "Perfect Strangers" (orchestral version) which receives a very warm welcome from the audience.

As encores, the intro's of (notably) "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Whole Lotta Love" announce to the connoisseurs that the time has come to burn down the house. Ronnie James Dio, Miller Anderson and the whole team join the band for "Smoke On The Water". After 2 hours and 30 minutes, Belgium is offering an endless standing ovation to the greatest rock band ever. It was 'splendid'. Leaving Antwerp, you could hear many car radios playing "Machine Head" or "Who Do We Think We Are". One little regret: though it was announced in the programme booklet, we didn't get to hear any new stuff. Maybe Hamburg and the next venues will be luckier.

Anyway, thanks 'DP'. Belgium loves you!!!!!!!!!!

Jean-François Mayence

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