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

DEEP PURPLE and Black Steel

From "X-press", Perth, Australia.

It seems 2001 is the year of the rock beasts, rock's true legends making their ways to Australia to prove that they still have what they did in the '70s - talent. First AC/DC, and soon Kiss and Alice Cooper, but tonight it was those pure monsters of rock, Deep Purple.

With an audience that reached nowhere near the audience size of AC/DC (perhaps signifying the appeal of the band today) it was a night for the fans and for those who came to see a piece of history, and a machine that is still well oiled and finely tuned.

After a symphonic intro that was fit for a gladiator entry, Black Steel, the support act, launched into "The Power", a battlefield anthem that gets the adrenaline pumping. Taken from the band's debut EP "Battle Call", "The Power" combined rapid riffing with manic drumming, with simply stunning lead breaks. "Rise Up" continued the rock tradition, taking off on an epic journey with thunderous drumming and manic vocals that rated truly old school. Destructor almost tore the roof off with crazed instrumentals and thumping bass solo, but the mystic ballad "Vengeance Of The Damned" offered a soft landing pad for the on stage frenzy.

After an interlude of Led Zeppelin over the speakers, keyboardist Jon Lord, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, guitarist Steve Morse and vocalist Ian Gillan strolled onto the stage. Within seconds the intoxicating riff of "Woman From Tokyo" was thrust our way with true style. The song seemed the perfect up-beat intro to how the band looked and probably felt - glad to still be playing the songs that helped change the path of modern music.

Barefoot and relaxed, Gillan launched into "Ted The Mechanic", a more recent track that enticed the use of a brass section and three female backup singers. Perhaps a cheesy reminder of '80s metal that Purple were a crossover part of, it reduced the rock credibility, but stole none of the enthusiasm these big kids possessed.

"Pictures Of Home" returned to tradition, loosing the brass and scantly clad girls for the track from 1971's "Machine Head" album. Gillan introduced each song with its history, meaning or some other rambling - proving booze didn't dent his memory. The bass licks from Glover were precise and awesome throughout "Pictures Of Home", with Gillan taking to the bongo drums for added nostalgia and summing the song as "something we were feeling at the time" - who wants to take a guess what that was?

The cobwebs were dusted off the song "No One Came", from the awesome "Fireball" album, welcoming back the horn section, with Gillan proclaiming "it's been a while". With extended musical interludes and manic instrumentalisation, Gillan danced around in his awkward kind of way, a bit like a gorilla doing the jungle dance, to the strobe light show.

"Black Night" proved a crowd favourite with Gillan joking "Roger and I can't work out what it means but we like it".

The best thing about the shows was the reality. The players looked their age, Gillan spoke of the band's career and they were simply being themselves - no bullshit or polished style.

After cranking through hooks like "Lazy" it came time for the one track that has plagued the band for decades - yep, you got it. But the band teased the intro of "Smoke On The Water" with licks from other famous tracks from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, proving that they weren't the only ones stained with a monster riff that seems as natural as breathing to most.

Deep Purple preserved the loudest and most infamous tracks for last - savouring the energy after a massive two hour set. "Speed King", then "Hush" and "Highway Star" proved the poison that cemented the smiles in the audience, knowing that they heard Gillan hit most of those high notes with fury, and witnessed the rest of the band at a time when tight was an understatement. Age has maintained the talent, but just made these blokes smile more - without the substances.

- Julian Tompkin, X-press.

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