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

Pity the singer who has to go on after Ian Gillan!

The strange triple bill of Nugent/Purple/Skynyrd hit Toronto last night and what a show it was! We arrived late in the "Nuge's" set, just in time for his shoot the guitar with a crossbow schtick - it was absolutely hilarious and the crowd ate it up. Though I'm not a fan of Ted Nugent, I have to say he put on a pretty wicked show and certainly made the most of his (limited) time.

After a twenty minute break, the members of Purple came on stage to the last of the sun's rays. Ian Gillan sported an arrow through his head, (the kind of fun-house gag that Steve Martin used to do all those years ago) while Steve, Roger and Jon passed around the opening bits of "Woman From Tokyo." When they launched into the opening riff it was simply magic! I'd been waiting since 1973 to see this band and they exceeded all expectations. Ian Gillan was a truly gifted frontman - charismatic, looking fit, sounding pitch perfect. Steve won over the crowd again and again throughout the night. Jon blasted out some of the nastiest Hammond sounds imaginable as well as snippets of beautiful symphonic stuff and Roger and Ian have got to be the most overlooked rhythm section in rock.

Other highlights of the night would have to be "Fools" which absolutely floored the crowd. It was such a heavy song (in every respect!) and so overwhelmingly dramatic that they could've blown away Townshend and company. Steve's guitar-quote medley revved everybody up and when they launched into "Smoke On The Water" there wasn't anybody sitting anymore. For the encore "Hush" - the band locked into a murderous groove, (much of the night was very funky come to think of it) and there were very big smiles on all the band member's faces. They worked their asses off and deserved the ecstatic reception for the encores. "Highway Star" was just the icing on the cake. They were playing to win - they weren't going to let up at all. They exited with to a very loud standing ovation. Roger made a particularly point of acknowledging his gratefulness to the fans. But they all seemed very pleased with the reception.

And although Skynyrd had many fans waiting to deliver something brilliant, they couldn't top Purple. They were sorely lacking in the showmanship department. Ronnie Van Zandt's brother harassed the crowd into noise/worship rather than working for it, (pity the singer who has to go on after Ian Gillan!) but the band pulled off some great guitar stuff here and there, it just seemed lacking in comparison.

Matt Sullivan

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