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

Two newspaper reviews

Greetings from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada! Even though we're 1,000 miles from Toronto, we get a couple of the Toronto papers here and the others are available on the internet, so I put together the reviews from the Globe & Mail and the Sun for your reading enjoyment. I'm not suggesting you post them as they're not written by fans but you might like to see what the professional reviewers are saying. The Globe's reviewer, Alan Niester, is 'of a certain age' himself and seemed to have more of an appreciation for our favourite band than the guy from the Sun. Oh well. (And being in the newspaper business myself, I'm sure Niester didn't write the headline.)

I've seen DP twice, in Ottawa and Montreal during the same week in '85 but opted to sit this tour out due to lack of money and the extensive travel that would have been involved. I hope they'll be back within a year or two with a headlining set and then I'll try to take in the show. In the meantime, I keep up on things through the web site. So without further ado, here are those newspaper reviews.

Bob Burgess

Dinosaurs roam again

By Alan Niester
Special to The Globe and Mail
Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd At the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, on Tuesday

In his controversial new book Rock Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia, writer John Strausbaugh argues that rock music is still very much a young man's game, and that the endless stream of 50-year-old rockers plodding out on tour every summer offers little but a nostalgic recreation of their glory years.

If Strausbaugh had happened to be in Toronto Tuesday night, and found himself among the 7,500 rapturous fans at the Molson Amphitheatre for the triple bill of Ted Nugent (51), Deep Purple (formed in 1968) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (first album released in 1973), he might well have been forced to change his thinking. Wrinkly and greying they may be, but each of the acts on the bill proved, in its own way, that it was still capable of making vital and exciting music.

Interestingly, the three acts had very little in common, except for the fact that they've all been in the business for more than 30 years. Nugent was a key player in the early-seventies Detroit scene, and is today primarily a riff-rocker, slashing out loud and simple solos over a thudding rhythm section. Deep Purple was an arena rock band of the first rank, but its music often seemed more sophisticated and involved than its run-of-the-mill counterparts, largely due to the influence of classically trained keyboards player Jon Lord. And Lynyrd Skynyrd was the epitome of the southern rock genre that flourished in the mid-seventies.

The Nuge had the honour of opening on this night, starting out while the sun was still high and the temperature still sweltering. But despite the fact that it was just 6:30, it was obvious from the Nugent t-shirts ("Full Bluntal Nugity") that at least a few thousand of the attendees were there predominantly to see this Motor City Maniac. And he didn't disappoint, laying searing guitar riffs overtop the efforts of his rather fundamental backing duo. Numbers like "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Kiss My Ass" were predictable, but the surprise came on "Stranglehold," a furious piece that seemed more comparable to Jeff Beck or the Allman Brothers than his typical solo free-for-all. At one point, Nugent, 52, mentioned that he was planning to "stay on stage all night, just to piss you off," but it seemed that few would really have minded.

Deep Purple came on next (a bit of a surprise) and the lineup was as close to vintage as one could hope to get. Stalwarts Ian Paice (drums), Ian Gillan (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass) joined the regal-looking Lord, who turned 60 this month. But the most important member of the band was the most recent acquisition. Ex-Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, 46, has been drafted to fill the shoes of former guitarists Ritchie Blackmore and Tommy Bolin. He is more than up to the task. Tuesday night, he not only duplicated the searing leads from classics like "Smoke On The Water," "Highway Star" and "Lazy," but he also threw in little bits of vintage Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, just to show he could.

Deep Purple received a thunderous ovation, and was a tough act for closer Lynryd Skynyrd to follow. In a sense, Skynyrd didn't try, choosing instead to simply lead off with an underwhelming, easy groove, then slowly build to a peak with traditional numbers like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird." If this trio of acts had shared the stage in, say, 1975, it might well have been a festival of near-Watkins Glen proportions. Twenty-five years on, it's value-for-dollar nostalgia to be sure. But there was more to it than that. Increasing age may be a problem on the diamond or the gridiron, but on the concert stage at the only Canadian date of a 24-city North American tour, it was a non-issue.

Loaded for bear

Ted Nugent steals the show
By Kieran Grant - Toronto Sun

TORONTO - - Top billing may have gone to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Deep Purple at the Molson Amphitheatre last night, but there was a funny feeling that both bands only got to play because opener Ted Nugent let them. "I could stay up here all night," the Motor City Madman howled half-way through his brief early evening gig. "Just to piss you off!" Hey, who was going to stop him?

As a finale, the guy actually got out his bow and arrow - - a flaming arrow, no less - - and shot a guitar with it. But, Nugent's much-documented passion for bow-hunting and galling right-wing libertarian politics aside, there was more than gimmickry to his performance.

At 53, The Nuge cuts an undeniably ageless figure on stage. The only thing that might date him is his supply of riff-roarin' guitar workouts, which, quite frankly, didn't sound any less vital and cocky than his recordings from 25 years ago.

So it was that this triumvirate of '70s rock relics managed a concert that was largely free of the faded tone that frequently takes over when oldies-circuit bands trot out their past glories. And while it mustn't have been ideal for the more routine, if polished, Deep Purple to follow a live-wire such as The Nuge, the guitarist did set things in high-gear for the 7,500 fans. Lean and mean, Nugent and a razor-sharp rhythm section fired through a half-hour of tunes, which were pretty much summed up in his lyric "the whole world can Kiss My Ass." "Just an idea," he pointed out after the tune. "Nothing personal. But this is personal. This is Wang Dang Sweet Poontang." You get the idea.

After runs through signature hit "Cat Scratch Fever," the jammed out "Stranglehold" and "Great White Buffalo," the bar was definitely raised for Deep Purple, who were of a similarly high-velocity, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who prefer their boogie-rock slower southern-fried.

But while Nugent may be a survivalist, the latter bands are just survivors: Skynyrd because they were nearly wiped out in a plane crash in 1977, only to reform 12 years ago with late singer Ronnie Van Zant's brother Johnny on vocals, and co-founder Gary Rossington on guitar; and Deep Purple because they've endured break-ups and lineup changes in their 33 years, served as a main inspiration for Spinal Tap, and still manage to turn it out with surprising authenticity.

Deep Purple's current configuration of founding keyboardist Jon Lord, original drummer Ian Paice, veteran singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, and guitar virtuoso Steve Morse - in for the absent Ritchie Blackmore - should have been enough to satisfy the most old-school fan.

The prototype British hard-rockers phoned in a handful of numbers such as "Woman From Tokyo" and old favourite "Lazy" with ease, but also mixed things up with less familiar tunes "Fools" and "Pictures Of Home."

Gillan has chilled out in the vocal department, saving his best metal "rooaaahhrrr" for the valuable climax of "Smoke On The Water" - complete with a name-that-riff intro from Morse that included nods to The Beatles, Hendrix and Zeppelin.

There was plenty of energy left over for the obligatory encore of "Hush" and "Highway Star," which were alarmingly good. Too bad Deep Purple didn't crank things up until so late in the set.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, on the other hand, never broke their mid-paced stride. Powered by their own combination of good-timey boogie and heavy cult appeal, the Jacksonville, Fla., band came off as something of a touring artefact of southern rock, complete with a three-way guitar hugeness, courtesy of Rossington, former Outlaws axeman Hughie Thomasson, and Rickey Medlocke, and a sound that is frozen in Skynyrd's mid-'70s heyday.

For those unfamiliar with the band beyond "Sweet Home Alabama" and the encore fixture "Free Bird," well, it must have been educational.

Besides, these southern men had to face Neil Young's hometown and dis him with that famous line about not "needing him around" in "Sweet Home Alabama."

I wonder if they noticed the irony, too.

[ reviews | the highway star ]