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

Oz reviews 1 - Sydney + tribute gig

About 4 songs into the set my brother leaned across and said to me "Is it just me or is Ian Gillan's voice stronger than in '99?"

It wasn't just him! Ian's voice was long, strong and proud. I haven't heard him sing this well since his heydays. And besides that the standard he set for the rest of the band was so high they needed a stepladder to reach it. He was simply on another planet - the voice, the interpretation of the lyrics, the asides and talking to the crowd - it was probably the finest exhibition of singing and leadership I have seen. He is truly the Voice Of Rock. Selina's 1999 still rates for me as the best concert I have ever seen because of the overall excellence but this one slips into second place, and that is ALL bands not just THE band.

Set list (from memory and not necessarily in order, so sorry if not 100%)

"Woman From Tokyo"
"Black Night"
"Perfect Strangers"
"No One Came"
"Mary Long"
"Perfect Strangers"
"Smoke On The Water"
"Hey Cisco"
"When A Blind Man Cries"
"Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming"
"Ted The Mechanic"

"Highway Star"

Steve's intro to "Smoke On The Water" included some classics and when he kept going with "Stairway To Heaven" it was very well done (simple as it is, like "Smoke...").

His solo was great as usual. You can just close your eyes and lose yourself in the magic but then you don't have the pleasure of seeing him. I'm sure he has seven fingers and three hands.

All the songs were at least excellent but for me the standouts:

"When A Blind Man Cries" - this had a real bluesy touch about it (and I'm a nut for the blues). You could have sworn Gillan was a black man here. The emotion in the words almost made you cry yourself. The only slight criticism I have is that (for me anyway) I would have stripped Steve's intro a little more. It is a very basic song and I think that is how it should stay. The audience reaction told the story.

"Hey Cisco" - _|_ is my favourite album, probably because of the diversity of music and this song was so different to the others (and first time actually live for me) that it was brilliantly special. Morse was almost wearing a sombrero and Ian Gillan had spurs on (with bare feet yet). You could hear the horses galloping across the desert. Very evocative.

"Hush" - Joe South would have been proud. Jon Lord was great and the band was rocking. Fresh and vital.

"No One Came" - this is one of those songs that shows how diverse Deep Purple are. How do you categorise it? Lord & Morse combined to lift the roof.

"Mary Long" - loved Ian's intro to the audience with this. "Who Do We Think We Are" is a great album and this track is one of the better. Live the band gave it everything, really enjoying themselves.

"Fools" - BLOODY BRILLIANT. What else can you say. And Steve Morse outdoes Ritchie Blackmore in my opinion here.

As for the rest - uniformly great, not a dud and the standard so high that I almost wish the support band was one of today's 'stars' so they could have been blown apart by the true masters. There must be telepathy between Jon and Steve. It certainly does not suffer in comparison to The Man In Black.

Apart from Gillan, it was hard to separate the rest of the band. Lord, Morse, Glover & Paice were all so bloody good as usual. Paicey's run with one hand in the air was incredible. If you weren't looking you wouldn't have known. And combine that with the most powerful and tight drumming you could ask for and you know he is a master. Lord played like the Maestro he is, with deep feeling. Glover rock solid and also getting the chance for a nice extended solo that was top class. Without his and Paicey's rhythm section the band wouldn't be the same. Morse - what do you say. As the axeman the spotlight is always on him but I think he reflected a bit of light himself - a shining star.

The only way I could separate Ian Gillan from the rest was because he was so obviously brilliant on the night. His show, no question.

THE THREE WISE MONKEYS (a Sydney pub, after the Meet & Greet at Utopia Records), Sunday afternoon - Burning Stormbringers (aka Mandrake).

Wasn't sure what to expect, especially when it turned out to be a three-piece. But they were damn good. They knew their limitations and didn't try to go note for note (although there were a few places where it was close) but just played to show their respect for the band. One thing I have to say - the drummer's solo in "The Mule" was just about note perfect. He had a stripped down drum kit for the small stage but Paicey would have given him a big thumbs up. They played "Burn", "Stormbringer", "Lady Double Dealer", "Wild Dogs" (Tommy Bolin), "The Mule", "Anyone's Daughter", "Sail Away", "You Fool No One" and a couple of others that you would never hear live otherwise. An excellent show and nice guys as well. Buy their "Mandrake" CD's on the strength of that show.

All in all a damn fine weekend. There must have been more than 6.400 bums on seats - only the top dozen rows weren't occupied that I could see.

A quick note: If "Mary Long", "Fools" and "No One Came" are any indication of what the band can do for the 'lesser played songs' then roll out some more.

Colin Hadden

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