Purple goes to Prague
Paegas Arena, Prague - Tuesday Oct 10
A large ice-hockey arena, floor space about as large as Wembley Arena (if you know it) [And if we don't? ;^) Ed.], but not so much seating round the edges. A sell-out - maybe about 6000?
A large proportion of that number is standing, packed onto the flat floor of the arena. "It'll be tough to stand through the entire Concerto," we said - prophetically, as it turns out.
We found our seats at the side, and they were occupied by two of the biggest and ugliest people we saw in our few days in Prague. Leather, denim, chains, hair, grease - if there was a Prague chapter of Hell's Angels, these guys would be founder members. So I said "Excuse me!" - and they got up and left without a word!
The stage is fairly flat - the orchestra is not as steeply banked as at the RAH. It's time to clean the transparent screens between the band and the orchestra - they're not so transparent any more.
The drinks arrive on stage, then the laundry [The laundry???? Yuck! :-) Ed.], then a big cheer for the orchestra, then we waited....and at 20:25 the lights went down.
1. "Pictured Within" - already whistles and shouts from the audience. Miller Anderson had to say "Shhhh!" during the intro. What a voice he has - I must investigate him more.
2. "Sitting In A Dream." My wife - ever the source of caustic comments - looked at Ronnie James Dio and said "Isn't it time he got some new clothes?" Well, he *has* been wearing velvet tunics for a few years now. :-) "Sitting In A Dream" is fairly mellow, of course, and the crowd is getting restless now.
3. "Love Is All." After the slow start, this completely wins everyone over. Gloriously over the top, it gets everyone involved, singing along, and from now on, the crowd is in the band's hands. I'm sure the middle instrumental section has been rearranged - to get faster and faster - I'll have to check.
4. "Fever Dreams"
5. "Rainbow In The Dark." I saw Dio in Rainbow, but I've never bought any of his own albums. Sure, these songs are fine, but they just don't do anything for me.
6. "Wring That Neck." With the horn section - the Riphorns - taking solos. And some classic organ work from Jon.
7. "Fools." And some fancy footwork from IG as he races across to his music-stand, having clearly realised that he didn't know what the next line was!
8. "When A Blind Man Cries." There are imbeciles in the audience who insist on whistling and jeering whenever the orchestra is playing on its own. I thought Prague would be a place where classical music culture runs so deep that the orchestra would have a fair hearing. I was wrong. Heaven knows what will happen during "The Concerto"....
9. "Ted The Mechanic." Can't remember anything special about this.
But it's all good - the band is in fine form. The amplification on the orchestra isn't up to the tonal quality of that at the RAH, but for some reason I seem to be picking up more about what the orchestra is doing, understanding more of the dynamics as themes are passed around the orchestra and worked on...
10. "Watching The Sky." Introduced by IG as "One we haven't done for a while - especially for you...."
11. "This one has a variable name - tonight it's "The Well-Tempered Guitar"". It's a bit like a practice exercise - but then again, the Well-Tempered Klavier is basically a demo! I'd like to hear it again a few times to appreciate the structure.
12. "Pictures Of Home." Will those cretins please shut up while the orchestra is playing?
13. "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming." Clearly a favourite with the crowd.
14. "The Concerto." IG introduces this, holding up his lyric sheets as he talks. "This is a song written by Jon, in 3 parts..." - he drops a page - "..uhhh, 2 parts. Tonight we give you movements 1 and 3 of "The Concerto for Group and Orchestra!""
So - no second movement. This crowd would have howled it down. I wonder when the decision was made - when they first saw the arena and realised how many would be standing, or during the show when they heard all the howling?
No matter, though it explains why "Watching The Sky" was dropped into the set earlier "especially for you".
"The Concerto" goes pretty well. As I said, I'm hearing more and more of what the orchestra is doing, and I'm beginning to understand better what's happening, and what the music is all about. The percussionists in the orchestra are clearly a bunch of good-time lads, and are worth watching - but they are also pretty good in the section after the drum solo in the third movement.
15. "Perfect Strangers." Another great favourite with the crowd.
IG introduces everyone. The backing singers are introduced as The Garlic Girls. When RJD comes back on, the band starts playing "Iron Man", and we actually get about a verse of that from RJD.
16. And then, after a few minutes of Steve (and the backing singers) playing around with "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Stairway To Heaven", we get, of course, "Smoke On The Water".
Everyone says goodbye, the band goes off, the orchestra goes off (which takes a few minutes), but no one in the crowd moves an inch, or stops cheering or clapping. So after the stage has emptied completely, DP come back on and give us....
18. "Highway Star."
And at 22:50, it's all over.
The band were in fine form tonight, playing well, and clearly having a lot of fun. I'm not a judge of orchestras, so I can't say how good they were. Sometimes it sounded to me as though their timing wasn't quite together, but they certainly provided a lot of power and passion. The sound balance between group and orchestra wasn't quite right - I felt that the orchestra could have been relatively louder, compared to the group.
As Stathis says in the tour-book, it will be interesting to see what happens to "The Concerto" by the end of the month. This was, I think, about the 7th date of the European tour, so the orchestra already has more experience of the work than any other orchestra. By the end of the month, they'll either hate it, or they'll have it down to perfection.
I know I haven't gone overboard with praise, but what could I say that hasn't been said so many times already? Great band, great show, so much fun, who would have thought......? You know all that already.
In summary, it *was* a great show, spoilt only a little by the idiots who wanted to hear themselves in a big arena. The logistics of taking about 100 people - and their equipment - round Europe must be frightening. So many, many thanks to DP for undertaking this, and many more thanks for making it such fun.