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

Much better than Dallas

Due to problems with the venue we did not get to see the other bands on the bill, so I cannot comment on their performance, except that we arrived in time to see the last two numbers of Ted Nugents show.

He sounded better, perhaps the sound mix was out of his control and it was at least possible to hear what he was singing.

As has been reported by others on this tour the man seemed to be engaged on some sort of piss take of Big Ian belting out "Buffalo Superstar" but on this occasion the Motor City Mouth fell flat on his face.

As usual, for the closing song he hung his guitar from the amplifiers, took aim with his bow and arrow and from 10 feet away... Missed!

At 7:30 in the evening Deep Purple took to the stage and it was immediately clear that some acclimatization to the traditional weather had taken place.

First up, "Woman From Tokyo" an extremely tight performance to a much less partisan crowd than two days previously. Obviously the fact that this was billed as a festival watered down the proportion of Skynyrd fans.

After only a short spoken introduction "Ted The Mechanic" blasted around the arena and this time there was no sign of Big Ian running out of steam.

Already it was noticeable that this was going to be a much better performance than in Dallas two nights ago.

"Lazy" underwent a structural change, whereas in Dallas they relied on Jon Lord for the solo instrument in the first section, this time Steve Morse opened with Lordy following hard on his heels. The vocal performance was slightly interrupted when Ian called twice with a request to "see those again." I gather that some woman had taken her top off and although I couldn't see the incident, I guessed that that Ian's request had been met.

"Knocking At Your Back Door" was next up and showed just how much Steve Morse has grown into his role as Purple guitarist. He played the number very raw giving the song an edge that had been missing before.

Once again "Fools" lost some of the audience, but it was noticeable that this time less of the crowd sat back in their seats and that this was played in a much more concise fashion than two nights before, but still the purple ones had to struggle to regain the ground that they had lost.

"No One Came", this time could not have been further from the truth, as with all of the songs played at Houston there was a dramatic improvement and this time it was easier for the band to regain peoples interest.

Strangely "Perfect Strangers" seemed to have lost a little of its power but was still enough to return the enthusiasm to where it was before.

"When A Blind Man Cries" was played with a very Texas blues feel to it and it seemed to be that the band had decided to keep this one simple but how wrong could we be? At the end of the first verse Jon Lord went off on one of his perfect meandering keyboard solos which was then taken up by an inspired Steve Morse who performed one of the most breathtaking solos I have ever heard him play. At the end I was reminded very much of the stunning guitar piece played on Thin Lizzy's "Live And Dangerous" album... "Still In Love With You". The crowd, who had mostly returned to their seats for "the slow one" rose as one to credit Morse with a very deserved standing ovation. This time Big Ian was overshadowed.

Then the set closer!

Morse played (in this order) "Voodoo Chile", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Sunshine Of Your Love", "Love Hurts" (with Dan McCafferty performing vocals,) "Stairway To Heaven" (the end piece which morse pulled out of just as Ian was about to start singing) and then two further numbers which Steve couldn't get right and aborted very quickly before deciding to cut his losses and go straight into "Smoke" which of course rocked the place to the ground.

"Hush" for the first encore and then straight into "Highway Star". In the guitar solo Big Ian went to sing with Steve but Morse turned away and began to play a very fast lick and Ian held up two fingers to Jon Lord as if to say that is the second time he has done that.

Despite this show being in a hotter and more humid city than Dallas, there seemed to be no signs of fatigue and our heroes left the crowd howling for more, if they had the time then I suspect that they would have been called back all night long!

Bob King

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