First night in Tokyo
Deep Purple are back to Japan exactly after a year (though, well, to be very precise, the last date on their last Japanese tour was in April 2000). A concerto tour with an orchestra this time, following their South American and European dates - and probably the last ones altogether. Who would have expected that we'd get to see it in Japan!?
Of course the orchestra (as well as the horn section and the female backing singers) are recruited locally, so of the people who took part of the original RAH shows, only the conductor, Paul Mann, and Ronnie James Dio were here this time. It was quite obvious that the conductor had to be here for the concerts, but it was a very special surprise for us fans that Ronnie has flown in especially for the shows, just to sing a few of his songs. I am certain there were quite a few people in the audience who were there to see Ronnie. I don't know how the shows in South America and Europe had been structured, but tonight, there was an in-house announcement before the show began, to say that the evening would be in two parts, with an intermission in the middle. As I hadn't paid much attention to the announcement, I was totally puzzled at the end of the Part One!
The evening began shortly after 7pm. Soon after members of the orchestra appear to tune up their instruments, the house lights went down and Jon Lord came onstage. Following his brief introduction, the concert began - as with the RAH and other dates - with "Pictured Within". Except that it's Ian Gillan who is singing this time. (He was dressed in a long, pure robe, reaching almost down to his ankles - did he want to give a Biblical look, I wonder??) Well, I suppose it would have been impractical to fly Miller Anderson over just for this one song...
When the first number is over, Ronnie walks onto the stage, and the entire hall is immediately filled with loud cheers and applause - to prove, once again, how popular and loved he is. After two pieces from "The Butterfly Ball", they go on to play a song by DIO! This catches me in a total surprise, as I had not read the reviews from last year's tour, and had not expected to hear DIO numbers tonight. And another song follows, again a Dio number, "Rainbow In The Dark." Having heard those two numbers live, I have come to realise that the line-up of the musicians playing them makes a huge difference to the impact of the songs. The versions tonight, backed by the powerful rhythm secion from Purple (ie. Pacey & Roger), were far more impressive than the original DIO versions!
Apropos Ronnie: as he came onstage and went past the mic stand which Ian Gillan had been using, and showed an expression of mock horror - well, the mic was set a lot, lot higher than his eye level! Later (either at the beginning of "Love Is All" or that of "Fever Dreams"), he lowered that mic stand down as far as it went :-)
That's the end of a secion with Ronnie, and he swaps his place with Ian Gillan. "Watching The Sky" and "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" are performed, in more or less the same arrangement as at the RAH. I find the arrangements so beautiful, taking full advantage of the orchestra and the horn section, but unfortunately, sitting so near the front on Roger's side, I could not always hear the orchestra whenever the band came on in full volume. The orchestra on their own, fine (I could hear them very well directly from the stage, without the PA), but as soon as the bass or the drums went up, even the amplified orchestra parts were hard to discern. Neither could I hear much of Steve's guitar, as he was on the other side of the stage...
And now Steve's Concerto(?!) with the orchestra, "Well-Dressed Guitar". I have learnt that this piece was also played on last year's tour, and I suppose it's a special piece for any orchestra date. Anyway, it's a great number, I think he should try this out as his solo piece at non-orchestra shows as well. Then Jon introduces the big band arrangement of "Wring That Neck", featuring Paicey. I had a feeling that, as Paicey's drums are often in this kind of swingy mood whenever he plays in shuffle rhythm, this arrangement came across very naturally to the audience. The only marked difference between this one and the original, I suppose, were the fact that the horn section played a big part of it all and that it had a different ending.
Part one of the evening was concluded with "Fools", a piece they've introduced back into their setlist during last year's tour. The orchestra gets to play bits of the solo parts in the middle, otherwise they remain in the background. Some of the parts that Ritchie had originally played and Jon played on last tour were here performed by the orchestra.
A 15-minute intermission is announced, although in reality it's more like 20 minutes. And finally the main part of the evening, the "Concerto", begins. And it was superb - New Japan Philharmonic Select Orchestra's performance compared favourably to that of the London Symphony Orchestra. Several people stood up to cheer at the end of the whole piece, though majority of the audience clapped from their seat. Well, standing up when most people around you are sitting down requires courage and good timing, which I suppose is the reason most people remained sitting down... [NB: I think I must have been among the first people to stand up, as soon as the piece was over... ;-) (Akiko)]
Having seen the "Concerto" being performed live, I now understood why the drum kit was placed slightly diagonally on the stage: Paicey being the "concert master" on the band's side, he cues the whole group during the "Concerto", but of course he himself needs cues from the conductor, Paul Mann - otherwise the band and the orchestra wouldn't be in sync! It seems that the drum kit was not directly facing the front but placed a little askew, so that Paicey could see the conductor. Whenever the parts approached where the band came in, Paicey kept his eyes on Paul, who stood diagonally behind him.
Ian Gillan, who had worn white trousers, a Hawaiian shirt and no shoes during the first part of the show, had a suit and a pair of shoes on during "Concerto". After this part, he took both the suit and the shoes off, so I suppose it was a conscious gesture to look respectable for this piece.
From here one, a whole succession of Deep Purple classics follow, with the orchestra and the horn section joining in, backing the band's performance and playing special intro parts. The arrangements, I found, were very effective: They kept the feeling of the original pieces and yet added extra richness to the overall sound.
After the last number, "Pictures Of Home", both the band and the orchestra leave the stage, and they return shortly after, amidst all the clapping and cheers. The number they play for the encore - preceeded by a short parade of musical quotes by Steve - is, of course, "Smoke On The Water". The entire audience stands up here - well, this one always gets them off their feet, I guess! Ronnie joins in in the second verse, and the whole place falls into a total fever.
Unlike in South America or in Europe, neither "Highway Star" nor "Black Night" was played tonight. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the evening was great, and we all got to witness such a fabulous show. And it was a long concert, too: it was 9:45pm when the second part of the evening ended, almost 10pm when the whole thing was finished. 9000 yen for a ticket was money very well spent, considering they played for over two and a half hours (excluding the intermission.)
BTW, Paicey threw his drumsticks into the audience at the end of each section of the evening. One of my friends waved at him with "please throw one at me!!!" written all over his face, and Paicey throw one in our direction. It hit my friend's hand, bounced and ended up in my hands!! Paicey must have seen this happen, for he throw another one at friend - and it ended up in the hands of another friend of mine!! I've always, always wanted Paicey's drumstick, so this is going to be my treasure for the rest of my life.
On returning to their hotel and quickly going up to their rooms, the band members came soon downstairs again and went into the bar, where they remained, with the crew, until the early hours. The official closing hour of the bar was 1am, but some of them (some people named Jon and Ronnie) were there until 1:40... ;-) And a person named Roger, who had disappeared "briefly", a glass in his hand, did not come back down for a long time. He finally reappeared at 1:40, with the said glass still in his hand, wondering what he should do with it now :-) Steve, by the way, didn't go to the bar at all and, instead, got some stuff from the local convenience store and went straight back to his room. Was he tired, I wonder? (Is Steve a convenience store freak? He was spotted in one on last year's tour as well...) And so the story continues the next day...
- part 1 -
- part 2 -
- encore -