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

Deep Purple rocks Cleveland

I've grown up with Deep Purple for 30 years and fell in love with them the first time I heard "Smoke On The Water" on an old AM transistor radio. As a young adolescent in 1972, the band seemed larger than life with an aura that was mysterious, heavy, and cooler than cool. When MKII reformed in 1984, it was an exciting dream come true, and seeing them live in both '85 and '87 proved the best concert experiences of my life. But when Ian Gillan began having vocal problems, especially noticeable on "Nobody's Perfect", it was an equally painful reminder that even the greatest hard rock band of all time is human.

So last night's concert at Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, Ohio was a reaffirmation of just how great this band was in the past and remains today. I can honestly say that as much as I loved Deep Purple several decades ago, I love them even more today simply for the band they are today. Last night's concert was powerful, musically superior, emotional at times, and always exciting. The band is obviously older, now elder statesmen of rock, but they are so comfortable with themselves and so incredibly polished and professional, that you hope that this is just the beginning.

Ian Gillan, sporting short and greying hair, was fantastic. Relaxed and obviously having fun, it was exciting to hear him treat the vocals with phrasing, color, and expression that are unsurpassed to this day. His rendering of "When A Blind Man Cries" was spellbinding. Jon Lord is such an awesome musician. Just looking at him, totally silver hair pulled back, you almost want to call him Sir Jon Lord. His Hammond gave Purple its signature sound throughout the evening, and I have even more respect for him today knowing this newly-turned 60 year old is still a vital rock musician.

Roger Glover and Ian Paice were timeless in providing the superior rhythm section that keeps Deep Purple rocking. The sound system was outstanding - very loud but crystal clear. With 12th row seats at the right side of the stage, every downbeat seemed to pound straight through both me and my ten year old son, another Purple fan in the making. The recurring pounding provided by the engine of Deep Purple during "Ted The Mechanic" was absolutely classic and made me wish I could take the sound system home and crank it in my living room on a regular basis.

But my reaffirmation was completed by watching and listening to Steve Morse provide a feeling to the band that made you wish this had started many years before. As mentioned in other reviews, Steve was smiling throughout the show, had complete command of the Purple repertoire, and was so obviously comfortable with the band that he looked like he belonged all along. His playing added a bluesy, jazzy feel that never compromised Deep Purple's stature in hard rock but let you know that this may just be the definitive lineup after so many years. That may sound like sacrilege, but Steve Morse is definitely the right man for a band that still has much to offer.

The set list was the same as the last few days:

"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"

"Highway Star"

The set was way too short, but I took every note I could get. I know the grind of the road has to be tough and the word retirement has been in the wind, but I truly hope we will be treated to another studio album and a headlining tour in the near future.

Last night was the best Purple concert I've seen. It was a treat from a band that I hope stays just as it is for a very long time to come.

Proud to be a Deep Purple fanatic.

Geoff Jones

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