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

Deep Purple downunder: Melbourne concert 09/03/2001

There are moments and events which have an impact on your life and you may not know it immediately but in time you do. Deep Purple are that such occurrence. It was announced November last year that the band would be back Down Under and after their highly successful tour in 1999, that produced an absolute video, cd and dvd, I knew that there was only one thing to do, buy tickets early and get to relive that 2 hours of hard rockin' magic and fun.

Reputations and images are formed of people over time and I had heard that the band was down to earth and very pleasant when they met their fans. With this in mind my friend Tony and I decided to chance our luck and meet the band at the airport. Along with about six other fans we waited for the moment. The moment was unique, first came Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Ian Gillan then Steve Morse. We all calmly and politely asked each member for an autograph and photograph. I was fortunate enough to have a photo with Ian Paice and Ian Gillan, Tony got a photo with Ian Gillan and Jon Lord. Ian Paice then signed our front row tickets. They were the nicest and most cooperative 'superstars' that anyone could meet. There was no fanfare, no pomp and ceremony, just five blokes who had come to town to rock and blow Melbourne apart again.

It was with this we made our way to the venue, where prior to the concert we met fellow members of the legion of fans who came from far and wide just to spend two hours with people that love what they do - and the fans in turn give back that energy to the guys whilst on stage.

The concerts two years ago left me feeling good about things, as it was a tough time in my life. They played their hearts out then and I knew that it would be the same. Tony and I took our front row seats and waited for the lights to dime. 9.00 pm came, lights dimmed and out each member came and acknowledge the crowd. We knew it was time.

The song setlist was pretty much the same as already posted except "Pictures Of Home" was left out and "Black Night" was moved up the list.

The crowd was fairly unresponsive for the first few songs and then when "Black Night" started Tony and I decided it was time to get the place jumping, so we got up and went for a closer look at the barriers. Ian then seemed to feed off the crowd and became more relaxed and happy and started to rock. From that moment on I will never forget the intensity, the electricity, the passion, the humour, the fun, and the sheer pleasure of watching these five guys performing the hearts out. Each song was made to feel fresh and watching up close the interaction between each member was unforgettable.

The favourites got the crowd going, but it was great to hear the song list vary this time around. The inclusions of "Mary Long", "'69", "Fools", "Hey Cisco" and "No One Came" was brilliant, but to include and hear live "When A Blind Man Cries" left me singing louder and just staring in amazement at the band.

The night was finished off with "Speed King". The power and chemistry that was evident in this was pure in its purest form. The duel between Steve Morse's guitar and Jon Lord's keyboard was a treat. Then Roger Glover gave a brilliant display of bass guitar solo. Then Ian Paice put on amethodical, calculated and effortless drum solo that lasted the better part of five minutes. He was so laid back that at one stage he motioned that he was asleep, yet the driving rhythm and beat he generated was still getting the crowd to go crazy. Then Ian and Steve had some fun together and if it was improvisation then the two just worked off each others personality and made the place laugh and be transfixed with the brilliance of their bond. What a version of "Speed King"! I hope for prosperity there is a recording of this version out there - or if the rendition at the other shows is just as good, that they have been captured. It is a must-see.

The encore was powerful and brilliant, but more importantly and this highlights the character of the band, it was moving and awe inspiring. It proved to me that these people love their work, love their audiences, love and respect each other, but more importantly showed how humble and non egotistical they are.

"Hush" was superb, they powered through it, the crowd sang their lungs out and it was amazing. It was after this that the above came to light. Ian talked about the bloke who tragically lost his life at the Grand Prix last Sunday and that he wanted a moment to remember him and he dedicated "Highway Star" in his memory. Words fail you because you know that this comes from the soul of the band. There are no trimmings, no flair, just rock and soul (roll).

With that Steve Morse ripped into the opening, his hands didn't move, but the guitar sang, it screamed, it scorched. The crowd was lapping up the energy that the guys were putting into the last song. With the last note it was over. The band thanked the crowd and made mention of the DVD sales. They enjoyed the applause and Tony and I got a thumbs up from Ian.

A quick summary of the guys;
Roger Glover: The ultimate professional. Plays the bass smooth, provides the backbone of the tempo and loves his stuff.
Jon Lord: The 'godfather' of rock. He stands behind his keyboards and just goes off. He is smoother than ice.
Ian Paice: The man is motionless, he doesn't sweat. What a drummer, no effort required, the man is a pure pleasure to watch.
Steve Morse: What an axeman, the guitar sings, bleeds, smokes and sizzles. He works the guitar like no one else. He has added to Purple's new edge of brilliance.
Ian Gillan: The mans voice is as strong as ever. His voice is better and sounding crisp and fresh. He has a stage presence like no other.
Deep Purple: Take the above five and the mix you get is beyond words anymore. The only thing that needs to be said is 'Deep Purple'. That is the ultimate in statements.

The lights came up, it was time to leave, but with memories imprinted into your life forever. They came, they played and they still rock. They have stood the test of time and will not fade as they are the pioneers of rock.

It doesn't get any better than last night. Let's hope we get to see the magic again soon. Thanks for the many years of music, thanks for being Deep Purple.

Michael Harris

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