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


OK, first things first. This was the second time Deep Purple were playing in India, the last time being six years ago almost to the day. I must compliment the band's management and the event manager for choosing their city well: Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city with extremely pleasant weather even at this time of the year; more importantly it is one of India's best markets for rock.

The event received generous advertising support from the main sponsor (the same company that had sponsored them in 1995); a popular newspaper was one of the smaller sponsors, so that helped whip up the frenzy.

Next up, my personal experience and observations. I managed to attach myself to a press photographer friend of mine and gained access to the press conference. A predictable affair, with predictable questions and fairly routine answers; Lord waxed philosophical and said something to the effect, "Don't chase fame, concentrate on being good instead." When one of the ladies asked Gillan if he'd kissed and made up with the The Man In Black, he politely - pointedly, perhaps - said that he never had anything against Ritchie Blackmore, and wished he was happy wherever he was, doing whatever he might be doing. I was carrying mounted pictures of Lord, Paice, Gillan and Glover (very old ones, I must say, dating back to Gillan & Glover's Episode Six days) and a contemporary picture of Morse. As soon as the last inane question had been asked and despatched with professional finesse, I lunged towards the head table and distributed my autograph material. Gillan, recognising himself from 1968, actually lifted his head to see which freak had thrust this picture under his nose - and, catching my frantic eye, muttered something that sounded like "Oh my God!"

Revelations of the day: Gillan's new hair style and dye (very appropriate & smart), his fitter look, and Lord's wit (barring that philosophical aberration).

Surprise of the day: A little earlier in the afternoon I called up a friend who works for the sponsoring company, and he confirmed that as of 3pm - five hours before the concert - almost all 25,000 tickets had been sold out. Which was amazing.

Shock of the day: I received this at the venue, when I noticed that over 75-80% of the crowd pouring in was under 22 or 23 years of age. My daughter, who was with me, is just shy of 16. She was finally convinced, after weeks of asking me if she'd enjoy the concert, that she would indeed have a ball. The opening act - as all opening acts will be, I suppose - were like lambs to the slaughter. Booed at the end of each song and urged to pack up for the night, they stuck around long enough to play a half dozen songs that sounded like Pearl Jam. And then, at 8.20, Deep Purple came on to the loudest reception I have ever heard for any performer, anywhere in India. There must have been 30,000 people there, including those who might have received complimentary passes.

I am not giving the set list here; it was consistent with what they've been performing for the past few weeks, and it was a set list from heaven. Highlights for me included "Fools", "No One Came", "Lazy" and "Hush". There was a spirited - if somewhat shorter than 100% satisfying - version of "Speed King", a tight and explosive "Black Night", a grand and majestic "Perfect Strangers", a languidly powerful "Lazy" and so on. The show lasted exactly two hours (as if on cue)... the crowd was intensely supportive, seemed to know every single song (except "Hey Cisco", during which a restless silence and inactivity descended on the audience), extremely vocal and overall quite well-behaved.

If I had to rate this concert - compare it with the one in Bombay six years ago - I'd say this: 5 out of 5 for atmosphere, 4 out of 5 for performance (they did not play "Fireball", much to my disappointment).

All in all, an unforgettable experience. And yes, my 16 year-old daughter loved every minute of it. I was stunned to see her cast away all her inhibitions and sing along with "Smoke On The Water", "Perfect Strangers" and "Highway Star".

Wherever you might be, if DP's going to perform in your region, I'd advise you to drop everything else. Marriage and job included.


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