The World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band 2001
Last night, Thursday, June 7, 2001, my wife and I made the four hour drive from Lafayette, Louisiana to Bossier City to catch the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Deep Purple/Ted Nugent tour. We saw Deep Purple in December 1997 at The House of Blues in New Orleans and had to see them live again. When we first learned of this tour, we were pretty sure that it wouldn't come to Lafayette, so we set a western boundary of San Antonio, Texas and an eastern boundary of Atlanta, Georgia and decided that if they came within that region, then we were going to catch the show. [That's the spirit! :-) Rasmus]
The show started promptly at 7:00 P.M. and Ted Nugent was simply Ted Nugent. We had seen him open for Kiss last year and it was basically the same show. I like Ted live because of his energy, but he's a lot more impressed with feedback than I am. He played seven songs and was finished in 35 minutes.
About thirty minutes after Nugent ended, Deep Purple hit the stage with "Woman From Tokyo". It was a fine version and right off the bat Gillan showed that he still has the pipes. He hit the high notes with ease and was impressive in the process. Jon Lord tickled the ivories like no other in an extended middle section of the song. The man is a master keyboard player. "Ted The Mechanic" followed and it was done very well. I really like that song and you can tell the band enjoys playing it.
They followed that with a great version of "Lazy" where each of the musicians got to show off a little. Lord and Morse were particularly strong during this song. Next they returned to the "Purpendicular" album and played "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" which is one of my favorite songs on that album. I don't think most of those in attendance were familiar with this song - it was definitely a Skynyrd crowd - but they seemed to get off on it.
Next up was "Fools" from the "Fireball" album. This is one of my all time favorite Purple songs. It was a very powerful version that featured a guitar solo that isn't on the album version. Gillan's vocals were particularly strong on "Fools". They again returned "Purpendicular" and played the song "Hey Cisco" next. This was probably the low light of the set. They did a nice version, but this isn't one of their better songs. Considering what songs they didn't play, this one certainly could've been omitted. More on the omissions later.
They, however, made up for "Hey Cisco" with the next song, "Perfect Strangers". I haven't conclusively made up my mind, but this may well have been the best song of the evening. It began with a Lord keyboard solo and when it kicked in, it did so with the force of a runaway Peterbilt steamrolling into a steel mill. [Which reminds me, we need more trucks on this website! ;^) Rasmus] The wall of sound was overpowering. Gillan again delivered a superb vocal performance. They followed this with "When A Blind Man Cries". It provided Morse a chance to put his blues playing on display and Steve didn't disappoint. They also did this song in 1997 and I again believe it was better last night.
The next song was the finale of the regular set, "Smoke On The Water". However, it began with a twist. Initially, they broke into the intro riff from "Whole Lotta Love". Just as it kicked in with the entire band, they stopped. Morse did a mellow bit of picking and they broke into the intro of "Funk 49". Again, just as it kicked in, they stopped and let Morse doodle about again. Then they broke intro the riff from "Baba O'Reily" and stopped just when it got interesting. After some more picking from Morse, they went into ZZ Top's "La Grange". The next riff was their own classic riff from "Smoke" and then they launched into the song full throttle. For me this song suffers from what I call the "Stairway To Heaven Syndrome" - you've just heard it too many times to get very excited ("Freebird" is also on this list). However, the redneck throng took to dancing in the aisles when they cranked out "Smoke", and the band fed off of this and delivered a rousing version of a song that even they must be sick of hearing. I can't prove it, but I am convinced that the volume was turned up all the way for this song and the encores.
They were, of course, called back out and they played "Hush" as their first encore. It was another solid rendition and Lord and Morse gave a hint of what was to follow as they volleyed back and forth throughout the song. They concluded with "Highway Star" and they very well may have saved the best for last. Glover did a little bass solo as part of the intro and it just took off from there. During the first solo, Lord ripped up the keyboards. In the second solo, Morse took the spotlight and again gave a nice volley with Lord. Then he and Gillan did a little call and answer segment that gave Gillan a chance to work his pipes again. That guy still has glass-shattering high notes. After this section, Morse launched into a guitar solo that made me ask, "Ritchie Who?" He not only matched the speed of Blackmore's original solo, he improved upon it. And that's no easy feat. Then, 75 minutes after it had begun, it was finished. The crowd roared their approval and the band members basked in the appreciation.
I really believe that the band enjoyed the crowd's response throughout the show. Gillan's constant response to the cheers was "Superb. I thank you." He even mentioned at one point how they were loving the vibe the audience was sending their way. I was disappointed that they didn't play a single song off of "Abandon." Gillan mistakenly said that "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" was from "Abandon" and that was the closest they got to that album. There are any number of songs from that album that would've been better than "Hey Cisco". I would've also preferred to hear "Space Truckin" and anything from "In Rock" (not a single song from this album) over "Hey Cisco". I blame the time constraints of a triple bill and not the band.
They all stood out, but I think Ian Gillan was the star of the show. There is not another singer like him in rock music. I think Robert Plant had a better sounding voice and I think Freddie Mercury was a better singer technically, but no one has the ability to project like Gillan. He is one those rare vocalists who can be heard above the instruments. He's not only heard, but heard prominently. Considering his age and the rock wars that he has slogged through over the years, he is even more amazing. And he still has a range that, on the deep end is reminiscent of a whiskey-chugging bluesman, and, on the high end makes one wonder if he has testicles at all. He also plays the congas and the tambourine when he isn't singing. Morse and Lord were both impressive with their virtuosity and their musical volleying. It was great to see them in a bigger venue than House of Blues. I was actually more impressed, however, with Glover and Paice. I could hear Glover a lot better this time around and he provided a very solid bass while managing to get in his fair share of licks and runs. Ian Paice was particularly good though. He always has been underrated as a drummer in my mind and I don't know why. He has a very simple drum kit, yet he manages to get a great deal of sound out of it. His fills are always precise and he makes great use of his cymbals. He doesn't overuse them like so many alleged rock drummers, but he also doesn't forget that they're there.
After Deep Purple, and with a four hour drive ahead of us in bad weather conditions (we have the remnants of a tropical storm stalled over Louisiana), we packed our stuff and got up to leave. A couple of obvious Skynyrd fans in the row behind us whom we'd spoken to earlier were appalled. One asked, "Ya'll ain't stayin' for Skynyrd?" I replied, "Nah, we have a four hour drive and work in the morning. Besides, I've seen what I came to see. Anything else would be anti-climactic." I'm fairly certain the words "work" and "anti-climactic" had him baffled, but I didn't elaborate. It was nice of Lynyrd Skynyrd to close the show for Deep Purple, but I didn't need to experience it. I had already seen and heard the best band working today and given out my award for "The World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band 2001."
If you have the chance to catch Deep Purple on this rare jaunt through the U.S. I would certainly advise you to go see them. I'm now debating if I want to go the final show of this tour in Houston on July 8th.