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

Review from Katowice, November 3rd, 2000

As the "Concerto" was to be played with the symphony orchestra it was supposed to be Jon Lord's night, but as it proved Steve Morse was the major act. It all happened on November 3rd in Katowice in Poland.

The venue, Spodek, is getting old and badly needs some renovations but still looks impressive enough and above all has incredible acoustics. The concert started at 8.15 pm (just a quarter late) with Jon Lord's "Pictured Within" beautifully sung by Miller Anderson. The orchestra however sounded a bit strange, probably because they tried to get their volume up to match the plugged rock instruments.

Then to the delight of the sell-out crowd Ronnie James Dio stepped in together with the rest of Deep Purple (almost, guess who was still missing). Because of the orchestra needing a lot of room the band was set up a little different than normal with bass and drums to their left side, guitar and organ (and piano) to their right side with vocalists in the middle. They started with "Sitting In A Dream" and "Love Is All" from Roger Glover's "Butterfly Ball". I really love this album and the live versions were really amazing with Steve Morse playing the violin (not really - only the violin solo on his guitar). Then came Dio's own - "Fever Dreams" from his latest album "Magica" and "Rainbow In The Dark". As a reward for an excellent job Ronnie got a Polish flag with his name on it which he hung around his neck while singing the last song.

Jon promised us that Dio would come back later, but it was time for Ian Paice and the Kick Horns with the marvellous performance of "Wring That Neck" without the guitar (Ritchie, what do you think about it?).

And at last we could see Deep Purple in full with Ian Gillan taking the centre stage. And the highlight to start with - "Fools". Looking around at some older people than me I thought they had probably been waiting for 28 years to hear it live. And it was worth it. With a different longer guitar solo and Big Ian crying his heart out. Brilliant!

Then probably in that order (I'm not 100% sure) - "When A Blindman Cries" (one of the real favourites among Polish fans, the first solo was organ not guitar), "Ted The Mechanic", "Pictures Of Home' (marvellous orchestra intro, long solos), "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" (a Morse era classic now, as at the RAH with four singing girls (one of them being in fact Miller Anderson, but the others were really beautiful). [What?! Miller Anderson is a girl? :-) Ed.]

Somewhere in between "Well Dressed Guitar" written by Steve Morse for guitar and orchestra - not very long but very nice. They dropped "Watching The Sky" which didn't make me terribly disappointed. But the best was still to come - "Concerto For Group And Orchestra" by Jon Lord. In fact only the "First Movement" (extended) and "Third Movement", but you can't complain. I was worried about the first seven minutes hoping that the music ignorants wouldn't show their impatience. Unfortunately they did. As far as I know it wasn't as bad as on some of the other shows, but it was still disgusting.

However the musicians made up for this. The orchestra was OK, obviously not as good the LSO but tried their best. The flutes and clarinets were very good (especially the clarinet solo in the "Third Movement"). The French horn was a let down - especially cheating in the "Third Movement" playing not as high as it should be and skipping some notes.

But no problems with the guitar. Steve played a tremendous long solo in the "First Movement" with everybody from the audience as well as the orchestra staring at him with amazement. He even played a bit of Musorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" - just brilliant. The only match for him could be Little Ian with the solo of his own (yes, of course - single-handed as well).

What an incredible piece of music the "Concerto" is, I cannot express it.

But Deep Purple didn't allowed the emotions to calm down. The orchestrated version of "Perfect Strangers" followed. You didn't hear it at the RAH [Because they didn't play it. Ed.] and you missed a lot. And to finish the concert - "Smoke On The Water" but not straight away. Steve introduced it with other famous riffs ("Stairway To Heaven", "All Along The Watchtower" and "Sweet Home Alabama" to name just a few) before he found the right one. Ronnie James Dio did the second verse as usual and Paul Mann (the conductor) had great fun in Blues Brothers-styled hat and dark glasses.

But "Smoke On The Water" isn't the only famous Purple riff. The crowd started to sing the other one and the band had no choice - the first encore was "Black Night". Gillan even stepped on to the conductor's podium to conduct the audience. It all finished as usual with "Highway Star" but it wasn't the usual performance. Big Ian was in great form all night (especially evident on "When A Blind Man Cries" and "Pictures Of Home") and didn't miss a note.

It's not surprising with all these 'brilliants', 'amazings' and 'incredibles' that I rate this concert the best I have ever seen. As simple as that.

Witold Kurek

[ reviews | the highway star ]