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

On the drums, Elton John

Friday night was one of those unforgettable nights of rock and roll in Dallas, TX. For me personally, it ranks right up there with Robert Plant's first solo tour (with Phil Collins), Dylan and Petty on tour together, Clapton-Page-Beck jamming together during British Invasion Tour, and Skynyrd's Reunion Tour... one for the ages. I hope it will not be another 16 years before I get to see Purple again (caught both Dallas dates on "Perfect Strangers" tour - Reunion Arena and Cotton Bowl). I think my wife (who going in only knew "SOTW" and "WFT" by Purple) summed up the night by saying that "you know how much I love Skynyrd, but Deep Purple was the best band tonight - and all the bands were great!" I even have her committed to catching DP when they come back next year to headline a tour (PLEASE! PLEASE! Utilizing the power of positive thinking here...) of the US with a definite stop in Dallas to play our new arena, but I digress...

Cheap Trick jumped on board for the last leg of this tour and opened the show promptly at 6:15pm. Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander and company were in their true high energy form. Sound was so-so, but that's usually to be expected during the opening act. They blazed through about 40 minutes of hits, ditching famous ballads for more rocking numbers.

Next up was Ted Nugent. With Ted, what you see is what you get and he served up another 40 or so minutes of straight ahead rock and roll. Sounded great - high energy - really got the partisan Skynyrd crowd going with the Rebel Flag shirt and the provocative bantering between songs.

Next came entree number one as Deep Purple hit the stage. Almost without warning, catching a lot of us off guard, Paicey and Morse snuck on stage and they were off into "Woman From Tokyo". Their song set stayed fairly true to what they have been playing throughout the tour, although they did change it up a little by adding "When A Blind Man Cries" into the set. That was a wonderful addition. As most have commented, their set was too short which left little room for Gillan to play storyteller or the other band members to improvise. Plus, there were so many tunes that had to get passed over ("Child In Time", "Strange Kind Of Woman", "Mitzi Dupree", new material...), but hey, if they had played three hours, I still would have said, "if they had just played..."

Overall, they sounded great and seemed genuinely happy to be playing together and for the crowd. Without a doubt, Steve Morse was the best guitarist in the house that night (and there were some pretty good ones - Neilsen, Ted, Skynyrd trio). I knew he was good based on his previous work, but it seems this Purple gig has really become a perfect fit. I wanted to give Steve kudos for something I witnessed at the show. Our seats were on the fifth row, just stage left of center. Once each band got started, security began waving people to the front of the stage. During both Purple and Skynyrd, the wife and I made our way to the railing at the front of the stage. During Purple, we were looking up at Steve just about the entire concert. A mother and her three kids (my guess would be ages 13, 10, 7) were beside us up front. Halfway through the set, Steve motioned for security and they gave the family backstage passes!!! I thought that was so cool... granted I wish we had been able to get backstage, but to do this for these kids rather than the skimpy shirted-implant laden hard body standing on the other side of us (remember her Steve - I bet you do!!!) says a lot about him. I hope they had a great time.

What can I say about Jon Lord - there is no better keyboardist in any music genre - period. I told my friends that I would be perfectly happy if I could just watch Jon play - and I had a hard time not doing that since he was set up on our side of the stage. I realize that the years age any great singer's voice and Ian has had to fight the demons of time, but I really thought he sounded as good as he did 16 years ago and better than he did on the "Total Abandon" DVD. The highs aren't as high and the sustains not as long, but he can still shriek with the best of them. And he always has a good story and a good word for the crowd. Glover and Paice sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but both are at the top of their trade - Paicey was flawless (looking a little Elton Johnish sitting back there at his kit) and Roger looks like he has hardly aged - still moving with gusto, never missing a note, and always smiling.

Unlike the previous reviews, I cannot tell you to make sure you make the US date nearest you, as this American leg ended Sunday in Houston, but if you are in Europe or going to Europe next month, plan it around the several dates they are playing throughout August and early September. There, it appears, you will get the added bonus of seeing a headliners set. Great show guys!!!!

Finally, if the night was not already worth the 60 bucks, I got to see my favorite band of all time, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I will not go too deep into their show, except to say that if you came only to see Purple and did not hang for Skynyrd, you really missed something. They were tight (always are), fun-loving (seems Ricky Medlocke jumpstarted the band when he came on board a few years back), and their songs always relate to real life and real people. I have to say that I am amazed when I read that someone came only to see Purple and stayed for no one else. Disappointing to say the least!!! Purple was awesome, but their were four awesome acts that night!

Quickly, a little two-bit analysis:

Best Guitarists in the House:
1) Steve Morse
2a) Rick Neilsen
2b) Ricky Medlocke

Best Showmanship:
1) Ted Nugent
2) Rick Neilsen
3) Johnny Van Zant

Best Voice:
1) Robin Zander - HE can still hit all the high notes
2a) Johnny Van Zant
2b) Ian Gillan

Best Keyboardist:
1) Jon Lord 2) Billy Powell - Billy is one of the greatest but Jon is a Lord - pun intended!

Lastly, thanks to this site for giving us fans a place to gather, share, and be informed!!!

Paul Kaun

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