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

Deep Purple Köln 25 June 1999

After a hard day's work, I drove - all alone - the almost 4 hours from Brugge to Köln. Johan did not get a day off from work, and my wife did not want to join me. She doesn't like Purple because "it's music for children". Thanks to a friendly native, who drove in front of me to put me in the right direction, I found the Palladium quite easy.

There were already 2 queues: a small one to get some tickets, and a larger one to enter the hall. After I bought my ticket (as I found out later, it was cheaper than those who ordered it by phone). The doors opened at 18:30. I was one of the firsts to enter the rather small hall. Many would follow.

At last; it was 19:40 when the support act started: Lenny Wolf, a German singer and bass player, backed up by 2 guitar players and a drummer who sat really low behind his drumkit. I must admit that I've seen worse openers for Purple. Anyway, he got much support by the German audience. It was a mix between English and German songs, between very heavy and slow blues. The keyboard player stood there for the show I think: or he was not playing, or you could not hear him. Sometimes they sounded like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath; during one song you could hear some Steve Morse influences on the guitar. Before the last song, I left the hall; to have a beer and a last pee before Purple got on stage. The hall was quite filled, but the bar was also full, that promised! Therefore, I hurried back to make sure that I have a decent place.

At 20:29 the roadies started to break Wolf's gear off, in the dark! It took some time before the lights were switched on. The hall is quite narrow and long, but as I have stated before rather small for a Deep Purple gig. The age of the audience situated between 6 (I asked his father) and 65+ (no, I did not dare to ask her). Also a lot of fathers and mothers with their sons and daughters, pity mine are into the Spice Girls and Boyzone. In addition, as always, when you are reasonably in front, people are trying to get in front of you at the very last moment. Moreover, as always, they are bigger and taller than you. Except for that guy who was trying to get in front of us with a beer in his hand. My neighbour asked if that beer was for him. And, yep, he gave his own beer away, just like that. Luckily, that guy shared his free beer with some of his neighbours - lucky me.

After half an hour (20:58) [Hey! That's only 29 minutes! ;^) - Ed.], the audience got inpatient and started whistling. It looked like it helped, because 2 minutes later the lights went out and the show started with a very short version of "The Boys are Back in Town" (Thin Lizzy) that ended with a small drumsolo. I would have preferred a Purple song, but it seemed appropriate.

"Pictures of Home". A new opener. Gillan with his hair cut (everyone knows it by now, I guess) looked like Jimmy Page, though without beer belly. In fact, he has lost some weight. The sound in the hall was simply GREAT! We immediately got a Morse and Lord solo. Steve's sounded a bit like "Cascades" and was awesome. This first, real song lasted 7 minutes. A good start.

"We like to finish with this song. This is not about Ted and has nothing to do with his car". "Ted The Mechanic", which is becoming a real Purple classic. Gillan managed his screams fine, not as in the good - very - old days, but he did it!

On purpose I did not read the last reviews on Highway Star, because this would spoil it all; I already knew the new, improved playlist.

"Thank you very much. Superb!" "Strange Kind of Woman". Here Ian had some small problems with his high screams but could just manage (very tiny remark, to have at least one). Suddenly he saw a - yes indeed - very pretty girl in the part of the audience where I stood, and kept an eye on her during the whole concert and blew kisses at her. Lordy's solo was good, but too short for my liking. During his "oehoe"-singing Ian was just beside the right notes, but that's a part of a live show that I like, but only if it happens once, luckily this was the case. A small interaction between the guitar player and the drummer, whose sound was amazing. A nice fat bassy sound that felt like 3 on the Richter scale in your stomach. This song lasted for 5 minutes or so, and the crowd went loopy for it.

"Here is a song about mets (?), small mosquitos as we call them; it is from 'In Rock' from '69." "Bludsucker". This was a delicious heavy version; including some excellent screams. I must say that I'm afraid that this song is as bad as "Child in Time" for his voice. During this concert, Gillan was again all the time behind the amps drinking his magic potion. Lord did his Abandon solo, I prefer the old one, but still beautiful. Big Ian included the melody of "The Lion Sleeps Tonite". Nice new touch.

"This was the ballad and bla bla bla (he talked really too fast, so I could not follow him trying to write it all down, when this happened I'll write "bla bla bla)." "69". I find this a good live song, though Pierre and his friend, who I saw the day after at the Belgian DPFC convention, thought that this version was rather minor. Did they include a new middle piece? I had the impression they did, and I liked it. Steve's brilliant solo, supported by Jon, was played over a swell rhythm, which sounded a bit like "Paint it Black". A heavy, but too short drum and Hammond interaction followed it. Steve threatened to untune Roger's bass. They were all smiling faces on stage.

"This one had the spirit of the old days in Hamburg, Cologne and it was a great part of our life." Then he was adlibbing something about "swimming over the ocean and having his mouth full with sand". This theme returned often during the concert. "Woman From Tokyo". The song started somewhat different, but was good. Again the old songs got the crowd excited. During the quiet bit The Lord of the Hammond became the Lord of the piano with a fine piece of playing.

"Superb! Fantastic! You're great! Thaaank you! This is a thing about lost messages while I was swimming. I could not read it, because I don't understand English and I Felt Like Screaming". This announcement drew wild response from the audience: "Yeeaaaahh!". The singer was walking around a lot during the whole gig, sometimes he was on the left side, sometimes on the right side, mostly in the middle part, waving at everybody, and of course singing his ass off, owning the crowd. Morse was astonishing; the last note he kept stretching and stretching until there was no more sound from his guitar. The public was really quiet, one could hear a pin drop until the whole place exploded with applause.

"Every night it gets dark, every morning it doesn't. We've done a study about it: 'Watching the Sky'". A marvellous live song with those rhythm changes, one of my few faves on Abandon. I noticed that almost every song they played included some - or more - screams. So, why didn't he have a try for CIT? This would be a great crowd pleaser, even more than worlds most famous riff. At the end Gillan was sitting down on stage, something I suspect he does during every gig.

Now he was adlibbing something about "Niagara Falls, Tokyo, it's dark and bla bla bla" while having a stroll on stage and then almost whispering "and lost my luggage and bla bla bla and what is this? Oh yeah, it is 'Space Trucking'. All Right!!" It seemed a bit slower than earlier versions, but the place (including me) went nuts! (This in great contrast with the music I'm listening to at the moment: for the first time I hear the complete "Under a Violet Moon." Beautiful! Now it is "Beyond the Sunset". I do prefer this CD above "Pictured Within". Sorry Jon, but it is really boring. On with the concert.) The short Steve-and-Little-Ian-thing is a blinder. I wonder how Paice manages not to loose his arms, hitting his drums that hard.

Lord started a nice melody, taken over by Morse. This is the intro for "...Blind Man..."! Oooooh, would they? The real highlight of the "Purpendicular" tour. His "rain drops solo" (or how should I call it?) pleased everyone in the audience. He played different rhythms, and then he did something classical real fast. By now it was clear that this was not the song I hoped for, but still a breathtaking guitar solo. Oops, small mistake. However, this was one in, well how many notes did he play that night? If I was on that stage performing; well, I might have had one sole note correct during the whole gig. ;-) The ending of his solo was now well known by the habitués: "Cascades". Again, like last year, Steve threatened to fall off stage. The crowd went insane after this jaw dropping good solo.

Jon started the intro for "Lazy". The part I liked most was his imitation of Ritchie's fun-bit on "Made In Japan". It sends some shivers down my spine. Followed by a heavy Morse and again Jon. This was a real awesome version! Pity one could not hear Ian's harmonica, which he did not throw in the audience. This "Lazy" was a real treat!

Next was that famous new intro to "Smoke on the Water" everybody was writing about. I recognised "Brown Sugar", "Honky Tonk Woman", "Whole Lotta Love", "Iron Man", "Stairway to Heaven", "House of the Rising Sun" and some others I knew, but could not give a name; some fragments lasted only for 2 seconds! I think he played 10 or more tunes. They all were classics, followed by hard rock's hymn. Of course the crowd went into overdrive. Gillan threw a purple, plastic inflatable guitar into the public and - unbelievable - they did not fight for it! When I compare this concert to the last one I saw in Lille. Well, there is no comparison possible; this concert is completely different! (See my review of the rather disappointing show in Lille.)

Lordy's solo was nothing special, though he seemed to enjoy himself. I liked the part when he played the "Smoke..." tune on the piano. His solo became the intro to...

"Perfect Strangers". Another "new" classic (well, "new": it is already 15 years old). I must say that I had a real great time! Long time since I'd enjoyed a gig so much. During the "organ-green-lights-thing" Gillan was practising his Spanish dancing ability.

"Bla, bla, bla and a Scotsman, a Welshman and a conservative, it will never work out. Bla, bla, bla." "Speed King". This was phenomenal! The interaction between Steve and Jon seemed more real than the other times I've seen it. Roger did an extended solo, but he did not get much reaction from the audience, so he handed over the torch to little Ian and his thundering solo. I must admit that I like his playing very much, but I rather like Cozy's solos. They are much more impressive. The duel between Gillan and Morse was quite short, and did not work out very fine. Just Steve who was imitating Gillan's laughing. They interpolated "Blue Suede Shoes", and Gillan started adlibbing: "I have some blue shoes, and some black shoes, I have some red shoes". Here Steve was taking their duel up again, which now worked out fine. Gillan sang "there is a hole in my shoe" a la "I've got a hole in my bucket". It was a real pleasure to watch them. After this furious duel he had to gasp for breath. The whole thing finished at 22:48. Gillan stayed on stage a bit longer to sign some tourbooks, tickets, and CD covers.

The raving crowd was chanting the "Black Night" theme. This got rewarded at 22:50 with Gillan conducting the audience into "Black Night". Including a magnificent solo by the banjo player (dare I call him that?). The crowd, as well as the band, were really enjoying themselves.

Happy 2 hours was over, with a gigantic version of "Highway Star". The excitement was hardly describable; as was the sorrow when it all ended at 23:04. Weep weep.

Outside the hall I saw a van, with "Purple tour" lettering all over, parked. Also a Saab with Swedish licence plates. In the hall I've heard some other languages too: Russians (one of them clapping all the time out of rhythm), English and of course inevitable some Dutch people. I did not see any familiar faces.

As I have written already a few times before, during this review this was a superb concert. I can compare it with Paris last year. Pity that I had to hurry back home, I had to drive for 3 to 4 hours (and my feet did hurt) and had to get up early to taxi the missus to her work. Moreover, after that she would join me for the first time to the fanclub's annual convention. Well in fact she joined me to do some shopping over there. Women!

Michel De Pourcq

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