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

Best concert by both Purple and Skynyrd

Deep Purple has performed another memorable concert with a scintillating set at Pine Knob, now called the DTE Energy Theater, on June 28th in Clarkston, Michigan. About 20,000 fans were treated to outstanding performances from warm-up band Five Horse Johnson, and headliners Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This was the setting where Purple singer Ian Gillan hit an overzealous bouncer on the head with his microphone in August 1998 during the Emerson, Lake and Palmer/Deep Purple concert. Nobody got out of hand this time. The venue is about 30 miles north of Detroit and 20 south of Flint, with a large section of seats under an amphitheater roof, but most of the crowd looking down at the stage from a huge, sloping hill.

The crowd really loved singer Ian Gillan's sense of humor and stage presence. His voice seemed in finer form that I had heard in about ten years. Jon Lord was astonishing on the keyboards. Steve Morse was entertaining on guitar, but not quite as electrifying with the guitar leads as Ritchie Blackmore used to be. I really missed the laser-light show Purple displayed in years past, but their set was played in the early evening, so it was daylight, anyway. I particularly enjoyed Gillan's vocals on "Blind Man". Morse displayed his creativity with a medley of riffs on one of the solos, priming the Lynyrd Skynyrd fans with the intro to "That Smell".

What was different about this show than previous Purple concerts I've attended is that the hardest-rocking tunes were at the end of the show, which put the crowd into a frenzy. "Smoke On The Water" was performed better than the '98 show, with Morse and Lord really kicking out. The crowd went berserk on "Speed King". I saw a lot of the younger people in the crowd head-banging as Gillan really let it loose. "Highway Star" was the final encore tune and it was incredible. Much better to put the song there than at the beginning of the set, as in years past. I think the band performs it better once they're warmed up. The crowd was whooping it up as Purple left the stage. I jotted down the set-list below.

I did want to say that Skynyrd also put on a fabulous show, with brilliant piano-playing, Rickey Medlock (Blackfoot) leads and a thunderous finish on "Free Bird". I've seen both bands many times. By far, this was the best concert I've seen by both bands.

1. "Woman From Tokyo"
2. "Ted The Mechanic"
3. "Lazy"
4. "No One Came"
5. "Fools"
6. "Pictures Of Home"
7. "Perfect Strangers"
8. "When A Blind Man Cries"
9. Steve Morse medley (brief riffs from each of the following tunes): -"Tush" (ZZ Top) -"Baba O'Riley?" (Who) -"Brown Sugar" (Stones) -"That Smell" (Skynyrd) -"Stairway To Heaven" (Zeppelin)
10. "Smoke On The Water"
11. "Speed King" (included drum solo, bass solo)
12. (Encore) "Highway Star"

James Gemmell

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