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

Jon Lord is still the coolest guy in the room...

When I first saw that Deep Purple was doing this summer tour, the question was not "if" I would attend, but rather "which show(s)" I would attend. I was hoping for a Virginia or Maryland date (next time....right guys?), but I knew I'd take whatever I could get. This show was not the closest to my residence, but it was the gig that fit best into my schedule. Besides, what's a 275 mile drive each way to see the greatest live band ever? No problem...no problem at all...

Apparently, there was either no act before Ted Nugent, or it was very brief, because as I entered the venue at 7:00, Ted was well into his set, finishing up around 7:15. Purple took the stage at about 7:40.

The set list:
1) "Woman From Tokyo"
2) "Ted The Mechanic"
3) "Lazy"
4) "Knocking At Your Back Door"
5) "Fools"
6) "Pictures Of Home"
7) "Perfect Strangers"
8) "When A Blind Man Cries"
9) "Smoke On The Water"

10) "Hush"
11) "Highway Star"

Yes, this band still smokes in a big way. From the second they took the stage to the second they left it, Mr. Gillan was in total control. The predominantly Skynyrd-core crowd (more on that later) was "luke warm" to say the least. I was disappointed that the attendees were not a little more open minded (what did I expect?), but you'd never sense the antipathy of the crowd by Purple's performance. Whether playing in front of 80,000 screaming hardcore Purple fanatics or playing in a half-full pavilion of unappreciative closed-minded (insert your own noun here-I'm not going to use the one we're all thinking of), this band puts on the same energy-charged show. Smiles all around.

I must say that I was most impressed with Jon Lord. He IS the soul of this band, and he was definitely on his game on this night. His interplay with Steve throughout the show - particularly during "Lazy" and "Perfect Strangers" - was awesome. His short intro to "Perfect Strangers" was impossible! How does he get his fingers to do that?

Roger's rumbling bass and Ian's solid foundation were, as always, the basis of the whole show. Unfortunately, the set length (don't get me started on the time-constraint issue) prevented Ian from performing his usual drum skin pyrotechnics.

Mr. Gillan's voice is in better form that it has been in years. Now mind you, I've got an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality (not that there's anything wrong with the alternative), but when Ian removed his shirt and replaced it with a vest two songs into the set, one could tell that he's been working hard on some kind of "program". Congratulations, Ian, you're ready for 35 MORE years of belting it out...

As for our newest member, Mr. Morse: He treats the classics with the respect they deserve, while at the same time putting his own indelible stamp on every thing he plays. F*cking magic.... The old "Riff-Raff" beginning of "Smoke", although it was quite confusing to the Skynyrd faithful, was extraordinary, as was his soloing - especially on "Lazy".

The only complaints: The same as everybody else - too bloody short and not enough new stuff.....

That's it for the Purple. Read on at your own risk...

The rest of the show:
Since my wife was not able to attend at the last minute due to a business emergency, and not being able to find a replacement, I was faced with the decision of bagging the trip or going it alone. Obviously, I went it alone. Since my seats were in the pavilion, but still not very good, I took advantage of the fact that most of the Skynyrd fans were trying to suck down as many Milwaukee's Bests and/or Meister Braus before entering the gates. There were an inordinate amount of empty seats during Purple's set. I advanced almost twenty rows and planted myself in the first row before the floor seats. Just act like you belong there and you'll never get caught - and I didn't. However, when Purple began "Woman From Tokyo" and I chose to stand throughout, a woman (whose appearance reminded me of the saying "if someone is as wide as they are tall, how come they're not square?"), came up and asked me to "sit (my) ass down", I turned around to see the size of her husband or brother. Possibly both. He certainly was the size of two "fellers". I thought it wise to just move ten feet to my right rather than risk a tussle with the beast, for I doubt that he would have given me "three steps", if you know what I mean.

Ted Nugent: Never liked or disliked his music, always hated his "personality". He said the word "sh*t" at every opportunity - whether it fit grammatically into his sentence or not. The crowd roared it's approval at every cuss word. What a release! I felt just like it was me who was saying those naughty words in public!!!! Oh, that Ted...he's incorrigible....

Not being from there, I had no idea how popular Lynyrd Skynyrd is in Pittsburgh. If any of you North Americans subscribe to DirecTV, you know they're showing a Skynyrd show on weekends in June. It was taped in this very venue a couple of years ago, and Van Zandt even mentioned that Pittsburgh has always been one of their better markets in the north. The crowd was insane. Just a response to all the confederate flags I saw: The South will most definitely NOT rise again, all right? And Neil Young was right! I stayed for the first 5 songs and left before the rowdy throng in their Ford pickup trucks would cause traffic backups for miles.

As I was leaving I saw a gentleman with a DP t-shirt and struck up a conversation. He had travelled almost as far as I for a glimpse of the world's greatest live band. As we all know, Deep Purple fans are the friendliest fans in the world. Hopefully I'll see him next summer at the Deep Purple show in the Washington DC/Baltimore area...hey, tour manager, are you getting the hint yet?.....

Dan Becker (no email)

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