Scandinavium, Gothenburg, 6th October, 2000
It's always a dilemma when going to Purple concerts whether to listen to the most recent live recording just prior to the concert or not. The recording being 'perfect', whereas a live gig gives room to all sorts of noise. It was an obvious mistake to listen to the RAH album prior to the Gothenburg concert. Having attended the historic event in London one year prior it should have been no surprise to me that the Scandinavium (which turned out to be an ice-hockey stadium) could not match the acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall. Unfortunately the technicians set the volume too high early in the concert and this led to a distorted sound that we hear all too often at live concerts.
Having read my introduction you might think I'm not a fan - absolutely not true. I have loved Deep Purple since 1973 (first album being "Made In Japan") and not a day goes by without listening to one or more of their genius albums (for example the original "Concerto" from '69). I guess I've got used to perfection and that's hard to change. And having started this review off a little pessimistic, I must also state that the performance at Scandinavium was NO LESSER than that of the Royal Albert Hall in '99.
Having met most of the band and obtained their autographs back at the hotel just prior to the concert I knew from Roger that the gig would be similar, but not the same, as the one in London. "You have to see it yourself" were his final words before he left for the Chrysler Voyager(?) awaiting to take the band to the stadium - whatever happened to the stretch limos and private jets?
With that comment in mind we headed down to the gig (walking - no limo for us either). Finding our seats was no problem and an ice-hockey rink it was - I've never had popcorn at a Purple gig before! Also I could see that there was quite a distance between the band and the audience - good for security, but not for atmosphere.
The concert started off with Jon's "Sunrise" / "Pictured Within" featuring Miller Anderson. A slow start as Jon described it - the pace was going to be faster. Then followed a series of songs with Ronnie James Dio: "Sitting In A Dream", "Love Is All", "Fever Dreams" and "Rainbow In The Dark" before the Deep Purple section started. We first had the instrumental "Wring That Neck" (Jon introducing it with, "Back in the late sixties, early seventies we wrote long instrumentals. We could do that back then - nobody seemed to care in those days."), "Fools", and a very fine version of "When A Blind Man Cries" kicked off by the Romanian Symphony Orchestra. Then it was time for Steve Morse to unfold in "Ted The Mechanic" and a new piece he'd written for his guitar (I didn't catch its name, but IG said it would have a new name every evening so...), this was a great change in the program - something for those of us who DO like the instrumentals from the early 70's!.
The orchestra again kicked off. This time with "Pictures Of Home" and finally in this section, "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming". Both gigantic pieces where Steve's guitar comes into its own - the way he plays really suits these type of songs.
By now it was time for the highlight of the evening (at least for some); "The Concerto for Group and Orchestra". There had been a slight problem with people making noise at the beginning of the "Second Movement" at the Royal Albert Hall concert and I thought for a moment then that Jon was going to walk out in despair. Unfortunately this problem was more apparent at the ice rink. Especially towards the back of the hall there were quite a few 'airheads' that didn't have the decency to be quiet during this magnificent piece of harmony between classic and rock music. My anger with this became so great that I decided to move to a different part of the stadium to avoid as much of this as possible and luckily I found plenty of seats just beside the stage. From this position we had a much closer view of what was going on up at the stage. From here the airheads' shouting didn't seem to disturb much. I could see from Jon, Ian P and Roger's faces though that they were not happy, but they must have anticipated that disturbance would occur with a crowd this big and carried on playing for those of us who appreciate the music.
The Romanian orchestra had better terms now and performed very well. For most of the other part of the gig their volume level was far too low, totally being overshadowed by the group - what's the point of having 50-60 people playing if you're not going to hear their instruments? The flute solo towards the end of the "First Movement" luckily had found its original form again (unlike RAH), but what happened to the cymbals?
It's during "The Concerto" I think that the limitations of Steve's guitar playing shows - sometimes fitting in with this new 'jazzy' version of "The Concerto" but all too often bringing it to a halt, falling out of its natural rhythm. Having listened to the original from '69 and having seen the video over and over again it's easy to be critical. The look on Ritchie's face shows that he restrains himself immensely during some of the guitar solos and though it's debatable whether the "First Movement" solos are great (I never 'understood' them the first 10 times I played the LP) the greatness of his "Third Movement" solos are evident.
Jon's organ solos again are great although he might have wanted to run his fingers more 'wildly' up and down the keyboard like he did 30 years ago.
After "The Concerto" it was time to wrap it up with two heavy Purple songs. First up was "Perfect Strangers". It was as heavy as ever and my friend, who'd never been to a Purple concert before, was impressed with Ian's drum solos and thought it was a bold move to retain such an 'old-fashioned' feature in this day and age.
Inevitably it was time to finish the 2 1/2 hour long concert with "Smoke On The Water". Steve teased the audience with some familiar non-Purple riffs, eventually crashing into the 12 tones that are known to most of the world.
To summarise I must say it was a good performance having in mind the massive task to tour with such a differentiated musical picture - I'm not convinced that the same people that dig "Smoke On The Water" will enjoy "The Concerto". Dividing the two might lead to smaller audiences, but maybe give grounds for better concert halls suited for the more classical stuff.
If I was to state my wishes for improvements it would be: less volume, more orchestra and fun/improvisations (use your fabulous skills), less guitar - I want to see and hear Deep Purple, not Steve Morse Band.
You might think I'm criticising a lot but I strongly believe we are not doing Deep Purple a favour by solely boasting about them.
I hope to be part of a possible 30th anniversary in Osaka in August 2002 and even a gigantic gig down the Ontario speedway in April 2004!