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

Vienna Stadthalle 27/10/2000

This has been a good year Purple-wise for me. I got to see my favourite band twice in six months on two very different occasions. The first was on April 12 in Thessaloniki, Greece and the second in Vienna, Austria a few days ago on October 27. Although both concerts were great in their own way there is no doubt in my mind that the one in Vienna wins hands down and not only because the band performed with the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concert started with Jon Lord greeting the crowd and saying that this is going to be a very different evening and that in fact 81(!) things are going to be different about it (referring to the number of musicians backing them I suppose!). After the small introduction Miller Anderson came on stage to sing "Pictured Within". Although many would question the choice of this as the opening song of the concert it still went down very well with the crowd. Miller Anderson's voice was amazing and he was backed by three female singers throughout the song (they also did backing vocals on some of the Purple songs).

Next was Ronnie James Dio. I was really looking forward to seeing him live for the first time and I have to say that I was not disappointed one little bit. He sang all four songs with great heart ("Sitting In A Dream", "Love Is All", "Fever Dreams" and "Rainbow In The Dark") and of course with a great voice. "Sitting In A Dream" was slighlty different from the RAH live version as Miller Anderson played a very tasty blues guitar solo in the middle. "Love Is All" was also great with Steve Morse doing his interpretation of Graham Preskett's violin solo on a guitar. "Fever Dreams" and "Rainbow In The Dark" were both played very heavy and you could tell how impressed Dio was with Steve Morse's abilities. The man was belting out some really heavy riffs and solos during those two songs which is just another testament to how versatile he is as a guitar player; He can easily go from playing jazz to classic heavy metal in the blink of an eye. "Fever Dreams" from "Magica" must have been be the heaviest song performed that night. As Dio was bringing "Rainbow In The Dark" to an end (complete with Jon Lord performing that classic keyboard line) I couldn't help but think that his match with Purple was truly a match made in heaven; Never before did he have better players performing his songs.

The order of the songs following after this point is now a little hazy for me but I believe that it was "Wring That Neck" that came next. Jon Lord introduced Ian Paice as one of the finest drummers in rock and also said that this song was written when God was still a boy ('68). Another good solid version of this one with quality drumming as usual. The horn arrangement was different from the one heard on the RAH live album which made the song even more interesting.

Gillan came on stage next (by the way on a musical note Ian is growing his hair long again, it was probably the same length as on the Perfect Strangers tour) [A musical note indeed?!?! :-) Ed.] and after a short greeting the band launched into a stunning rendition of "Fools". I saw them play it in April in Greece but now the song somehow sounded much more together and much much heavier. There was an eerie echo effect used in Gillan's voice in the beginning of each verse and for me it worked out great. The solo was arranged in the same way it was on the last tour; Jon doing Ritchie's solo on the organ and then letting Steve wail. Although I am (and probably will always be) a huge Blackmore fan I have to admit that Steve Morse is now the guitar player for Purple; He blends in with the rest of them in such a unique and special way unlike Ritchie who only seemed interested in his own playing, especially in the latter days.

"When A Blindman Cries" was for me one of the highlights of the concert. The orchestra was heavily used in this one opening the song playing Barber's "Adagio For Strings" (as on the "Live At The Olympia '96" album) and then backing Steve while he played a quiet volume swell solo. I was almost moved to tears. An excellent rendition of an excellent song. Jon did the middle solo on the organ and then it was Morse's turn again for the final solo when the band really cranked the volume up with the orchestra following. Stunning stuff.

"Pictures Of Home" was also great, with the orchestra featured here heavily, noticeably more than on the RAH live album, something that added momentum and drama to an already very dramatic and intense song. Being away from my home for the past three years now in different countries, even hearing that scorching drum intro gets me excited. It ended with a "Speed King" style guitar/organ duel which was well executed but at a more relaxed pace.

Although I admit that "Ted The Mechanic" is not exactly my favourite Purple song, this even sounded fresh and exciting this evening. I loved the middle bit were Gillan signalled the band to go quiet and all one could hear was the clapping of the crowd. Morse's solo was once again in a league of its own. The backing vocalists were heavily featured on this one.

"Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" was also another highlight. Very emotional even when it is performed without an orchestra, so it was just something special tonight. Very close to the RAH live album version but it is a different - and much better - experience to be there yourself rather than just listening to the song at home.

Next was an instrumental piece composed by Steve Morse especially for the occasion. It had the rest of the band featured in places but it was very much a thing for him and the strings of the orchestra. Almost baroque sounding (with some folk melodies thrown in for a good measure) and definitely very enjoyable. However, it did sound like it was thrown together in a few minutes. Still, it got a great applause from the audience. Ian Gillan gave it a name while introducing it but I sadly missed it.

After this the time had arrived for the "Concerto". In my humble opinion, the band did themselves a huge favour playing a few classics before tackling the "Concerto" because by that time the audience was behind them 100%. I for once did not hear a single shout from any retards throughout the "Concerto" and that seemed to please the band and take a lot of weight of their shoulders. Ian did a small introduction to the "Concerto" saying how it starts with the band and the orchestra as enemies ("First Movement") with them exploring the possibilites of working together ("Second Movement") and the triumphant finale ("Third Movement").

The "First Movement" was executed to a fault and you could tell that both the band and the orchestra gained valuable experience from playing the song night after night. Morse's solo was the highlight. The "Second Movement" was also excellent and it was very moving, especially that build-up to the point where Gillan starts singing. I did notice however that the quiet orchestra part in the end with the strings was cut short and replaced by Jon trashing the keys of the organ for a couple of minutes. I could be wrong but I can understand why a change like that was necessary. They didn't need it this night though. Finally the "Third Movement" which is my favourite one (for me it can easily stand comparison to any of the timeless classical pieces) was another highlight especially the first six to seven minutes and then Paicey's powerhouse drum solo which almost brought the venue down (and got a huge cheer from everyone).

The crowd gave the band and the orchestra a standing ovation at the end of the "Concerto" and you could tell that they were all very pleased. Gillan introduced Jon Lord, the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra and Paul Mann, the conductor (he introduced the latter as Paul Young(!) and then said: "Well, you're getting younger every day!").

It was "Perfect Strangers" next; If I had to pick just one highlight from this amazing evening then it would have to be it. I always wondered how that song (one of my favourite songs of all times) would sound with an orchestra and tonight My wish was granted. That timeless hammond intro then the band kicking in with the orchestra behind... The song sounded huge and it got the rather tame yet very civilised Austrian crowd completely crazy. The whammy bar effects Morse did added another dimension to the song and the orchestra excelled on this one with some spare but powerful backing (they even did that short oriental riff Blackmore used to do at the end of each verse!).

The last song was very predictably "Smoke On The Water" with all the musicians on stage and with Dio sharing the vocals with Gillan. Before that Steve did the traditional 'riff-parade' with stuff like "You Really Got Me", "Iron Man", "Whole Lotta Love" and "Greensleves" and "Catch The Rainbow" (not too sure about the last one but he did do "Greensleeves" and then pointed at Dio!).

Encore time. No orchestra or backing vocalists or horns this time, just the band playing "Black Night" and "Highway Star" as brilliant as only they can. A funny bit during "Black Night"; Gillan who had been in a great mood all night climbed on to the conductor's stand and conducted the audience during the guitar/sing-along bit! "Highway Star" closed the concert in the usual frantic Deep Purple style and the band retired to the dressing rooms leaving the audience completely satisfied.

A truly memorable night for me was over. The concert was EXCELLENT in all aspects and in fact I believe they should be releasing stuff like this and not the RAH live album for the second time with a single extra song! [Hear, hear!!! Ed.]

This band has proved time and again their proficiency and inventiveness and none better than on this tour. I know perfectly well this was a large review by all standards but then again the night in Stadthalle, Vienna on October 27 deserves nothing less. [Don't mind a long review when it's as detailed as this one, Christos. Ed.]

Christos Gatzidis

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