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

Deep Purple in Brizzy - A personal odyssey

Being from Sydney, we got hopelessly lost trying to find the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. This wasn’t helped by the fact that every person we stopped to ask for directions was involved in an eeevil conspiracy to prevent us getting to the concert by giving us false directions.

By the time we finally found the place I was getting a tad stressed: we’d missed both the support band AND the fan club drinking/bonding session. This was disappointing as I was really looking forward to meeting my fellow Purpleites. But all was not lost, as we shall see...

Just had time for a quick drink or two and some subtle herbal enhancement before the bells started a-ringin’ and the lights started a dimmin’! The anticipation grew as I started running for the door, dragging my mate along who insisted on just one more beer! (The womenfolk were already ensconced inside, having already imbibed some of mama’s wholesome magical cookies en route.)

I managed to resist the temptation to kill my friend, and made it in the door about a minute into "Woman From Tokyo". Finding our prime seating position helped me get over being pissed off at missing the start, so I let go of Dave (the friend)’s neck and got into the music.

We were five or six rows from the front and just slightly to the right - right in front of Steve. Probably the best seats in the house! (This was a welcome change to the seats I had in Sydney in ’99, which were about half way back.) Plus we had a nice aisle for dancing and general reckless abandon right in front of us. It was a really intimate atmosphere, like being at the world’s best pub gig!

I won’t repeat the setlist here as that can be found elsewhere I’m sure. Suffice to say the band was in blistering form for this, the last of their Australian shows. A lot of the same elements as the ’99 concerts were still there, but the new material made this a whole new experience.

"Fools" - one of my all-time favourites - absolutely rocked. It was nice to hear a song that was so much a part of my youth done in such a fresh and exciting way. While remaining true to the original, this new version took it into a whole new dimension. Steve’s playing was soooo raunchy during the verses and choruses and Ian sang it with all the power that was evident in ’71. Yet the change of pace during the extended solo took the song into a totally new place, which gave Steve the chance to weave some absolute magic into a solo which built from a whisper to a passionate crescendo.

"No One Came" was another highlight. Again one of my faves from the "Fireball" era. Ian’s intro was very apt: he told a little story about the song and the fact that it’s about all the bullshit that goes with the music business, and the fact that for the band it’s still just about the music now as it was then. This got a big round of applause from the audience. It was kind of an affirmation about why we were all there. Again, this one rocked, with Steve’s guitarin’ getting a seductive raunchiness I haven’t heard from him before.

"When A Blind Man Cries" was brilliant. My wife Tracey, and a lot of others who have commented since, hadn’t heard this one before, and it blew us all away. Again, Steve was the star, playing with great beauty and intensity.

Steve deserves all the praise he gets - he is just such a brilliant and passionate player, and the thing that makes it all the more enjoyable is how much he obviously enjoys playing! He just has such a good time, and he gives 100 percent to every performance. He won a lot of new fans on this tour, including Tracey who last saw the band in ’85, having been a fan in the 70s. (We saw them in Sydney with Ritchie, but that show just didn’t have the magic of this one.)

But the rest of the band was also firing on all cylinders! The whole band was just goin’ off! The chemistry/synchronicity between them all is just amazing. It’s a reminder of how a handful of bands are at the very peak of musical genius, and Purple is still at the top of that pyramid!

The way Jon and Steve feed off one another, the spontaneity and improvisation, Roger’s constant smile and blistering solo (much more a feature than in ’99), Paicey’s one-handed solo, power and technical skill, and Ian’s vocal depth, connection with the audience and ability to ‘go with the flow’ and fit-in with the band’s moods all have to be seen to be believed.

Steve’s intro to "Smoke On The Water" - the journey thru history with all the riffs - was great as usual. A nice touch of humour was his impression of a novice guitarist (presumably himself at about 14!) doing a really bad version of "House Of The Rising Sun". Very funny.

The Zorba the Greek intro to "Speed King" was nice too!

Now for a few nitpicks:
The sound this time around was not as good as ’99. The mix was somewhat muddy, and - at least from where we sat, the brass section and ‘backing chicks’ could barely be heard most of the time, making their presence seem somewhat superfluous.
Lots of soloing from Steve but not a lone extended solo as in ’99. I missed that.
I know this is sacrilege, but in my humble opinion they should give "Smoke On The Water" a rest. It’s been done to death now, and is so predictable that it could well give way to a fresh track that hasn’t had a run for a while, if ever. Something like "Seventh Heaven", "Demon’s Eye" or "No No No". (One thing I appreciated about seeing Plant/Page a few years back with the orchestra was that they didn’t do "Stairway To Heaven"!)[Hear hear!! Ed.]

Other than that, a stand-out concert from a stand-out bunch of musos.

We had the privilege of meeting Ian, Roger and Steve backstage later. They were very friendly and gracious despite the large number of fans there, but at least we got to have a quick chat with each of them.

Oh yeah, and we finally caught up with Sue, Tony and a few other DPDU fan club diehards, albeit briefly.

We didn’t have to ask directions home.

Paul Hogan

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