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

Final Japanese show

The second Deep Purple concert ever in Sapporo took place at the same venue as the last time, Hokkaido Kosei Nenkin Kaikan Hall, on the 29th of March - a very cold day, we saw some snow in the morning, and the temperature, except for in the afternoon, stayed below freezing. While waiting for the doors to open, I had a look around to see what kind of people were there for the show. I noticed two people - Russians? - looking at the poster next to the box office and talking to each other. They then went ahead and bought themselves tickets. Yes, there were quite a few non-Japanese people around, as well as younger fans.

Once inside, I checked the merchandise stand, but they only had the same items I'd already seen in Tokyo (where I saw the two concerts with the orchestra) on offer. Well, no, the 12-CD bootleg sets had been sold for 15,000 yen in Tokyo, but here they were going for 12,000 yen. Perhaps they'd lowered the price to boost the sales?

Many of the seats upstairs were unoccupied, but I think it wasn't too bad for a tour without a new album and hence without much publicity. I was told they had been advertising the show on TV, but I myself never got to see the commecial. (The capacity of the venue, by the way, is about 2,300.)

The group came onstage about 10 minutes past the planned start time of 7pm, to the cheers from the audience. The crowd is excited tonight, for not many bands come all the way to play in Sapporo. The cheering gets gradually louder as the drum beats start, and it turns into a huge acclamation when the guitar comes in. Yes, the opening number, as expected, was "Woman From Tokyo", everyone's favourite and a great warming-up song. Gillan screams at the end - he has a sleeveless black top and no shoes on :-) [Still? This must be the Barefooted Singer Tour then! ;^) Ed.]

The second number is "Ted The Mechanic". Obviously another popular one, it gets a huge applause. Steve Morse is amazing!

In contrast, there is very little reaction from the audience when the third piece, "Mary Long", is announced. The band's performance of this one is really tight and great, though.

Next Jon Lord plays a short solo, and as he goes into the intro of "Lazy", more cheering from the audience who've recognised it. In between the verses, one guitar and one keyboard solo. Steve's solo is superb, not to mention Jon's. More applause as Gillan plays his mouth harp.

Then "No One Came". It got slightly more reaction than "Mary Long." It's a great live number, and the strobe lights were effective as well.

The next one starts quietly with the drums beating time in triplets, and as the bass comes in, people begin to recognise the piece, cheer again and start singing along to the riff: "Black Night". Includes a long-ish guitar solo. I'd love to hear this one played in the earlier, frenzied style rather than the relaxed manner they've been doing it in since DP re-formed.

Next, "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming." What a beautiful song...

"Fools" follows. As the title is announced and the band start to play it, there is hardly any reaction from the crowd. I suppose many here don't know this piece... Gillan's singing, with echo on it, was impressive.

A keyboard solo before going into the next piece - "Für Elise" brings out a big applause from the audience. Jon's organ performance is so charged, it's fantastic. He then launches into "Perfect Strangers", stirring the crowd once again.

Next comes "Hey Cisco" - it's another great live number and includes thrilling solo parts by Jon and Steve, but I got the impression that not everyone in the audience knew this one.

Perhaps to calm the crowd down for a bit, "When A Blind Man Cries" comes next. After this, Gillan improvises a melody and sings "I'd like to thank you" (that's what it sounded like to me), and a few people in the audience laugh. Steve joins in, playing the same melody on his guitar for a little, then launches into the riff from Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", followed by Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" - drums and bass join in. Next he plays AC/DC's "Back In Black", again with drums and bass joining in. And then comes the world-famous riff: "Smoke On The Water". The crowd is now really heated.

The next one, apparently, is "very, very fast." It must be "Speed King". Everyone goes wild, as if they've been waiting all the time for this one. Gillan's singing is powerful, even though he seems to be straining his voice a little when singing the high notes. Throughout the "dialogue" between Jon and Steve (including a phrase from "Jesus Christ Superstar"), Gillan was walking across the back of the stage, from left to right to left to right. Is it his way of keeping fit?? Bass and drum solos follow, some rock'n'roll number is quoted (sorry, I didn't recognise it, but it sounded like something from the '50's), and then the ending. The crowd is frenetic now. This is the end of Part One. (Paice's drum solo was really powerful, too!)

The band come back for encore, which starts with Jon's keyboards charging the crowd up again. The first number is "Hush". I didn't know how great a live number this one was! Gillan seems to be losing his voice and can't shout very well.

As soon as the drums start beating the time for the second number, an incredible amount of shouts and cheers break out from the audience. It's "Highway Star". Gillan shouts with all his might. The entire audience sings along from the beginning. The bit before the really fast guitar solo section was a dialogue between Steve and Gillan (the latter using his mouth...) And another great applause during the fast guitar bit.

I've really had a fantastic evening. Well, you couldn't possiblly not have had a great time hearing the true Deep Purple playing such wonderful renditions of all those classic numbers! At the last Purple gig in Sapporo, which was soon after Ritchie had left the group, part of me felt "I wish Ritchie was here with them..." This time, such thoughts did not cross my mind at all.

Thank you for coming to Sapporo, and thank you so much for the wonderful show. We, your fans in Sapporo and in Hokkaido in general, are sincerely looking forward to having you back very soon!

The set list:
1. "Woman From Tokyo"
2. "Ted The Mechanic"
3. "Mary Long"
4. "Lazy"
5. "No One Came"
6. "Black Night"
7. "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming"
8. "Fools"
9. "Perfect Strangers" (including keyboard solo)
10. "Hey Cisco"
11. "When A Blind Man Cries"
12. "Smoke On The Water"
13. "Speed King" (including bass and drum solo)

14. "Hush"
15. "Highway Star"

Hiroki Matsuzaki

Thanks to Akiko Hada for great translation work.

[ reviews | the highway star ]