Conquistadores in Kansas City
On a bright, hot, humid, July afternoon, Deep Purple made it's triumphant return to the Kansas City area. This was Purple's first appearance in the area since May 1987's House Of Blue Light tour, and the first time local fans got got a chance to witness the Steve Morse era line-up in action. Local radio station 99.7 KYYS was celebrating its birthday, so the show was heavily advertised and the outdoor venue appeared to be packed.
A local band opened the show, and like the band I saw open in Omaha, they only played a few songs and were on and off in about 15 minutes. I didn't catch the name of the band, I was preoccupied with locating our seats and acquiring some alcoholic beverages. [Uh-oh, Jim! :-) Rasmus] After waiting about 30-45 minutes, Nugent came on late. His setlist was identical to the Omaha show, the only difference being that during "Great White Buffalo", he played the melody to "JC Superstar" and sang "Buffalo, superstar, who in the hell do you think you are?" (More on this later.) His set was brief, but powerful and the crowd ate it up. Nugent has been a KC area favorite for close to 30 years, and fan loyalty is very strong around here. He made quite a few strong pro-US statements and repeatedly commented on this being the day before America's birthday. His "Fuck the Limey's" comments were cheered by a lot of people in the crowd, but I felt that saying this stuff before Purple came out was insulting to say the least. He ended his set with the flaming arrow shot into his guitar gimmick that he's been doing for years and then was gone.
Purple came on stage late, probably because Nugent went on late. The sun was still up and it was still very bright out. This blunted the impact of the band's entrance a little. (In Omaha, the lights went out and "Woman From Tokyo" started in total darkness.) Having the band come onstage one at a time and starting "WFT" in broad daylight was not as powerful (IMHO) as it could have/should have been. The response from back in the lawn was very enthusiastic, and not too bad down front, but from our seats in the second section there was very little reaction at all. I was very worried that the whole show would be met like this, but song by song, Purple won the crowd over.
"Ted The Mechanic" got a very good reaction and people around us started to shake off the lethargic mood they'd initially displayed. When Gillan announced "Lazy" as the next song, it didn't seem to spark any recognition in the seats, but when they launched into it most the crowd recognized it immediately. "No One Came" thundered along quite nicely, and people started to really pay attention to the band. "Fools" got off to a slow start and I was afraid they'd lose the crowd with it. This didn't seem to be a crowd that would let a song build slowly, they were there to party. Still, once the band kicked into the heavy riff, the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Steve's guitar work was spectacular throughout, and a lot of people seemed to be very impressed with it.
A shortened version of "Pictures Of Home" was good, but I had been hoping for "Knocking At Your Back Door". It didn't seem to flow as well as other versions I have, but the time constraints probably kept the band from letting it develop as it usually does. If the setlist up to that point hadn't gotten the crowd going, "Perfect Strangers" certainly did. Everyone responded to this reunion classic with a roar of recognition and Purple owned the place from here on. "When A Blind Man Cries" was up next, and there was some intital restlessness from the people around us. As the song built and the emotional performance grabbed people's attention, there was rapt silence from the audience. As the song ended, the applause was deafening.
Steve started his guitar medley with "Dust In The Wind", which was a perfect choice. As he, Roger and Ian Paice ripped through the various riffs, the excitement grew enormously. The solo section of "Stairway To Heaven", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Little Wing" and "Back In Black" all got standing ovations. When he started picking the intro to "Sweet Home Alabama", the place went nuts. However, when he broke into "Smoke On The Water", all hell broke loose. People were on their feet, singing along with the band, dancing and just having a great time. The band ended the song and left the stage as conquering heroes. The crowd wasn't about to let them go at that point, and when they came out and played "Hush", Kansas City was eating out of their hands. Without missing a beat, they ended "Hush" and started "Highway Star". The people on the lawn and the people down front seemed to be in a frenzy, dancing madly and cheering.
After they left the stage, we went to get something to drink. People were all talking about how magnificent the band were. In particular, a lot of younger people seemed amazed that Purple could play with that much intensity. I was very happy to hear people saying how much they hoped the band would be back soon. I have to agree, 14 years is waaaaaaaaaaay too long.
After their set, I went backstage to talk to the band. They were very happy with the show and Roger, Ian Paice and Steve were all talking to fans and friends backstage. Finding them in such good spirits was great and they were all very friendly. I got an explanation about Ted Nugent's "Buffalo, superstar, who in the hell do you think you are?" comments. Apparently, Mr. Nugent had shot an arrow at his guitar at an earlier show, but had missed! He was upset/embarrassed about this, probably because he's so pro-hunting and he's always boasted about his skills with a bow. Well, it seems he missed the guitar the next night too! Thus, he was extremely embarrassed about the whole thing. Well, that second night Ian Gillan came walking out onstage with an arrow through his head! Now this was all done in fun, but apparently Nugent felt the need to respond, thus the Buffalo superstar bit.
We talked to the guys for a couple of hours, then called it a night. All in all, a great and long overdue return to the Kansas City area for Purple.