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

Sweet Home Antwerp

We (Johan, another friend and I) left Johan's favourite pub in Bruges (after drinking one of the more than 250 different kinds of Belgian beers they have) at 16:00, and started the about one hour drive to Antwerpen. There we met some fellow Belgian fan club members waiting at the closed doors. Because we still had to wait more than two hours till the show would begin, and the seats were numbered, we headed for the pub across the road. We met some military colleagues of mine and got rid of some beers.

At 20:00 we decided it was about time to go in. I must say that the seat indication was very good. I was in zone grey, Johan and his friend in zone orange, and there were other colours too. As I got my ticket earlier than Johan, my seat was much better than his: third row from the front, just in front of Ian's congas. I had seat one. Left of me was a gangway, so I had ample room to stretch my legs. I was getting nervous because I did not know what to expect of this concert: would it be the same show as in London? I hoped not because I did not like the part before "The Concerto" much; it was good, but I would prefer some more Purple stuff instead. After all, the newspaper announced "Best of DP". I must say that the RAH (Royal Albert Hall in London) looks much better than this sport palace! The RAH is cosier and looked more acoustic to me. Lots of people entered the hall. It seemed it could hold 20.000 people.

At 20:20 the members of the orchestra were slowly taking their places, time for a last pee-break. In spite of my great seat, I had difficulty in seeing the orchestra - they were sitting higher than me - but I had a better view of Deep Purple, which was, of course, the main reason of my being here. I did not have my camera and I felt very sorry for it seeing my excellent seat, and the fact that there was no body search. The hall now seemed full, except for the seats behind the stage (kinda logical isn't it?). Afterwards I read in the newspaper that the place was sold out except for a handful of empty seats.

This was a first for me: punctual at 20:30, the lights went down. Jon wished us a "good evening", and welcomed us to "the home of the echo." (Oh no, is it that bad? Hope not). "I'd like to say hello to eighty-one people. Please say hello to the Romanian Orchestra. We start with a simple quiet song, Miller Anderson, one of the most beautiful voices in the world…"

"Pictured Within" - One moron started to shout at the beginning of the song. (Oh no! It is not true! Not the same thing as at the RAH. I hoped that those lobotomised beasts would shut up the rest of the evening.) Some heavy lads who were standing at the barriers were sent back to their seats. The more I hear this song, the more I like it. Miller's outfit seemed not to fit the occasion – as mine didn't. I was wearing my concert-costume: torn jeans and my jeans jacket full of DP and Rainbow patches. He sang it really excellently and received a big applause.

Jon announced, "Here are a few people you might know." Ronny James Dio, Steve Morse, Roger Glover and Ian Paice came – under huge applause – onto the stage. Anderson stayed on and played rhythm guitar. "Sitting In A Dream" - This was the first time I saw Paice drumming with brushes. Roger, at one moment, was playing very emotionally, very theatrically. The press-photographers left of me were now coming closer to the stage to take pictures - because Dio is so small? He was smiling all the time. The song was well done; well how else could it have been done, backed by the worlds best band?

"We would like to do a song from the same album - you made it big here in Belgium, and in Holland." "Love Is All" - Such a small, tiny man, such a big voice! Steve was doing the brilliant waltzing part of the song, in contrast to the RAH performance where the orchestra played that section. I preferred Steve's.

Then something that awakened most people in the hall, especially those in front of me: "Fever Dreams" from "Magica". Quite a difference to the earlier songs. This one was done without Miller on guitar, and without the orchestra, whose members were looking and smiling.

"Thank you, thank you so much. Here is an old one of mine: "Rainbow In The Dark"." Steve was – as usual - smiling all the time. Some Dio fans went crazy. If my memory is correct (I saw Dio doing this one on May 3), with Purple it was furious and more melodic.

"Thank you so much. Thank you! Mr Ronnie James Dio ladies and gentlemen! Next, our musical journey goes back to the 60's with the finest drummer – also my brother-in-law, so I have to be kind to him." "Wring That Neck" - Performed the same way as at the RAH. I still did not like the horns part, too jazzy for me. Even the photographers were calmer. Ian performed a very small, but delicious solo. Nevertheless they can lose this song for me.

Gillan, wearing a white shiny dinner jacket, walked on stage which pleased the audience… "My God, look at you! There is a thing, originally called "Ted The Mechanic", and iet gooze laaike thies." It was performed with the horns, Miller and a three-headed, beautiful, female choir. During Steve's solo Ian took off his white jacket and was now completely dressed in black. He drank – beer I guess – and waved at the audience. This song, rightly, has become a real classic. Did Gillan lose some weight? It also looked like he had some grey hair at his temples.

"Thank you very much. I thaaaaaaaank you." (Ian sounded hoarse during this, but it was only during this part, otherwise he was in fine form all evening.). "We're gonna do a thing from 1971, "Pictures Of Home", with a new introduction." It started with an oboe (I think). This had the same intro as in London, but a bit longer. Those morons started shouting and laughing again. I feel ashamed that we have those guys too, and sitting so close to me, just behind the photographers who were very busy doing their thing. One of the security guys, who could not shut up those shouting bastards, brought in a bigger-built security member which did help. Paice worked his ass off. The chorus was having a good time too, one of them looked like a former Miss Belgium and now TV personality (Rani De Koninck). Steve played a blinder of a solo. "Alright! Thank you! That was recorded on Thursday the 17th, just after tea."

"This is a song from – what is it called Jon? – "Fireball": "Fools"." Handclapping from some part of the audience. Yeah! I had great expectations for this one! And I must say it has been a long time since I have drummed on my leg, but now I did! This was jaw-droppingly good (not my leg-drumming…) Gillan had a heavy echo on his voice and was teasing Roger with the maracas. Jon was doing a fine job imitating Blackmore's part. When Steve took over, it changed completely and became a little too jazzy for me, but that improved. When Gillan was joining Steve he was almost inaudible. I did not like the ending of the song. But this was definitely a first highlight of the evening. I love it when they do new–old songs!

"All right baby! We love you! I'll have a beer with you later! This is one for the first time ever, Steve wrote this just before in the dressing room, and it is called "Guitar String"." Well, what can I say? This was unfuckingreal! Steve doing a long solo, together with the violins and Paice's cymbals. It sounded like something 'known-classical' which went on faster and faster. Superb!! I can tell you other guys (and galls) out there, who didn't or can't make it to this impressive show, you have a reason to be very jealous! J J

"We're gonna do something, kind of a blues: "When A Blind Man Cries"." Yes! Another one I wanted to hear with the orchestra! It started with the violins, then Steve… Real spine-tingling stuff! (See what you all have been missing down there in Brazil and Argentina. I told you you would be jealous!). Pity that the orchestra was quite quiet. But this was another highlight! We were really spoiled that evening!

"That was a real pleasure! You are sending down some real nice feelings! When I had a letter in another language beside my bed I could not understand it, so I went to the bar for a drink." "Sometimes I feel Like Screaming" - He sang the chorus beside the female backing vocalists. Mmmm, I envied him, they were real pieces of eye-candy. At one stage he was pushing Roger (who was singing along loudly without mike) Glover's nose. They were really having a ball on stage, enjoying themselves. I love watching Steve when he is doing his one finger bit.

"You are fantastic! We've reached the moment where the song is 40 minutes long…" He was talking about something like a battle between the band and the orchestra and them not understanding each other in the "First Movement", but then in the "Third Movement" they find each other, and so on. He talked real fast, and a lot, so I could not write it all down. "The Concerto" - This started at 21:46. One thing was missing: they could have inserted a small pause. Now I had to go to the toilet during "The Concerto", and I was not the only one. I did not write down a lot during this part of the show. I must say that the London Symphony Orchestra was a bit better - their notes were the same as in 1969, but played with more enthusiasm. I don't say it was bad now, not at all, but there were some very audible differences. (Isn't that the way we like our Deep Purple concerts?!?) Steve's solo was now completely different to Ritchie's. Jon's solo spot seemed a bit different to me too, he really lived the music, it was joy watching him play. The Lord Of The Hammond! The slow bit during Steve's solo was fabulous! There was more hum of voices than at the RAH. After the "First Movement" there was a standing ovation from only some people, not like the RAH where everybody was standing up, but then it was very special too, exceptional.

During the "Second Movement", we again had much shouting from morons with a bigger shoe size than their IQ. Oops a bum note produced by Roger; that was the first time I've heard that. Gillan came on stage, now wearing a black jacket. Jon winked at him, and Paice, having trouble with his drums, signalled to his roadie that he could not hear them right, or something like that. While his roadie was trying to fix his drum kit, Jon played a long solo and again those stupids were shouting. I am afraid that this will happen at every one of these "Concerto" gigs, although I did not find it as annoying as at the RAH - that was like sacrilege then.

During the "Third Movement" and Ian's vibrant three minute drum solo (after he had been fumbling with his kit too), he was playing with one hand, the other one being used to rest his head on. I had already read about this, but this was the first time seeing it, quite stunning.

"The Concerto" ended at 22:34 with a standing ovation from the audience. Paul Mann thanked the first violin player and Jon Lord. "Thank you very much, this evening was our first performance with the Romanian Orchestra, directed by Paul Mann." I don't remember who said this, Gillan or Lord.

Next song, another classic: "Perfect Strangers" - Another one I wanted to hear with the orchestra. One word: phenomenal(!), although there was one part before Jon's solo spot that sounded quite wrong. Afterwards Johan told me he noticed it too. I think that they will sort this out by the next performances.

22:42, "You have given us a wonderful experience tonight on the first concert of the European tour. We must thank Miller Anderson, the girl singers, the brass section, they sound enormous, and of course my friend Ronnie James Dio."

A small pause and Steve started the riff of "Sweet Home Alabama", followed by something from Thin Lizzy (I think), then "Purple Haze", "Whole Lotta Love" (by now things were really steaming), and then – the crowd-pleaser (but what if they dared not to play it?) "Smoke On The Water". Lots of people were now in front of me, standing at the barriers, dancing, celebrating this song. Dio, again, did the second verse. The crowd went really loopy for it. Then this celebration of music came to an end. Morse throwing plectrums into the raving crowd, one landing just one metre in front of me, but it seemed like nobody found it. Glover even threw his plectrums into the orchestra!

At 22:55 the lights went on, everybody boo-ed. Another great, awesome, amazing, astonishing, beautiful, breathtaking… (need I go on?) concert went by. The more I see them, the better they get. One minor thing though - the very expensive merchandise: t-shirts for 1000 francs (in London they were 800 francs), but of course I bought one. And the ugly tickets! I still have one thing to look forward to: "The Concerto" next month (October 30) in Rotterdam. See you all there! Don't miss it! I wonder if there will be any changes to the set, for me it is great like this one, except for the "Wring That Neck" version, but I don't think they will change that.

Michel De Pourcq

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