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

Jon Lord's solos haven't sounded better in years

"Woman From Tokyo"
"Ted The Mechanic"
"Knocking At Your Back Door" (!)
"Pictures Of Home"
"Perfect Strangers"
"When A Blind Man Cries"
"Smoke on the Water"

Encores: "Hush"
"Highway Star"

I must admit, I had some reservations about Purple's ability to win over the crowd, stuck in the middle of this TN/LS "White Trash Sandwich" lineup. Indeed, pulling up in the parking lot, I was immediately surrounded with dozens of car stereo's blasting "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Freebird", and I searched in vain for anybody besides myself wearing a DP tour shirt. Finally, I came across a group whose stereo was proudly battling back with "Perfect Strangers", and our eyes met with the smile and nod of conspiratorial outlaws, acknowledging our shared allegiance.

Inside, TN was just midway through his set; even outside the seating area, I could tell it was deafening. I'd grown up in the Midwest in the 70s, where (as even now, apparently) Ted was considered a god. Sure, his "Tooth Fang & Claw", "Ted Nugent" and "Free For All" albums had served as part of my own teenage soundtrack, and I could hear he was drawing on those early albums for his current set. But his profanity-drenched in-between-song banter, while mildly amusing, served nothing except to make me realize that I had no desire to pound enough $5.00 Budweisers to make me feel 17 years old again. Nevertheless, this opinion was clearly not held by many in the already-rocking crowd.

So I passed the time by checking out the merchandise booth. All the Australia99 CD/VHS/DVDs are there, as well as the first bootleg box. The shirts (a black, or a purple tie-dye) have the "Stormbringer"-era DP logo superimposed over a circular design (may either be ripples spreading out from a rock dropped in water, a wildly vibrating speaker cone, or shockwaves from a massive detonation - you decide). One of these black tees has the US tour dates on back; the other adds a Jaguar XKE charging out of the circular pattern on front, with the legend "Ooh, she's a killing machine, She's got everything" written in script on the back. [Maybe they came cheap? Rasmus]

Ted finally finished his set and I wandered to my seat, wondering how our classy British gents would fare with this overwhelmingly-Rebel-flagged crowd. After a quick 20-minute set change, our guys came out, thumped into "Woman From Tokyo"... and quickly laid ALL my worries to rest!

This abbreviated 'greatest hits' setlist may be a minor letdown for the DP faithful, but this crowd went nuts for just about everything the band banged out. Major crowd pops for "Lazy", "Perfect Strangers", "Smoke On The Water" (of course), and the surprise addition of "Knocking At Your Back Door"(the first performance of this since SM joined - no?). [It was in the 1995 shows that were scattered across the globe, but has been absent ever since. Rasmus :-)]

IG was in great voice, looking fit and handsome with his real-guy haircut. JL's solos haven't sounded better in years - lots of the rolling lightning-fast runs (while backing off the Leslie, so his riffs sailed above the hot June evening with exciting clarity). SM, although as usual a bit up in the mix, has seemed to have settled his playing down a bit, losing a lot of the flashy guitar-shop arpeggios and playing with more economy, space and feel in his spots; it's still Steve and everything he's good at, but now truer to the band's rootsy down-deep groove. Overall, I was glad to see the band was plainly having fun on stage, kicking around a beach ball that had landed on stage, and even stately JL was occasional making comical faces from behind his center-stage bank of keyboards.

The "Smoke On The Water" teasers: The whole band kicked in behind F.Mac "Oh Well", Cream "Sunshine Of My Love", ZZTop "LaGrange", and the solo to "Stairway To Heaven"; then SM-only snippets of Kinks "You Really Got Me" (IG only managed to get out the first "Girl"), Beatles "Daytripper", and Chuck Berry "Johnny B Good". Then after bending a long ending F note towards the first G, I laughed when I heard Steve miss the first chord strike with a subtle "clunk". He recovered immediately and launched right into the immortal riff - the crowd exploded, and all was right in this world - but I couldn't help but think of RB's fluff on "Live In Japan". This was nowhere near as apparent as that - I was probably the only person in the place who noticed Steve's little 'oops' - but it's good to know that that simplistic dinosaur riff can still be trickily decieving!

The whole crowd was on their feet solidly demanding the band's return, which was rewarded with the encores of "Hush" (during which IG brought up a little girl from the front row, to share a verse), and then the massive singalong "Highway Star". Then, "We love you - good night, thank you..." and that was that. The Tweeter Center was on its collective feet in that hot steaming June evening, giving its appreciative roar of approval to a band that had delivered a solid set of crowd-pleasing classics, with a few obscurities thrown in there, all given with the uncompromising musicianship of veteran players at the top of their game. Afterwards I heard quite a few people - even some LS t-shirt wearers - remarking that the set had been too damn short! Here's hoping that the rumors of a full-scale headlining US tour next year come to realization... Putting DP back at the top of the bill where they belong! A great night.

Mark Jagger

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