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

Tie your hats down, it's Deep Purple!

Copenhagen 1999

It occurs somewhere in the middle of "Pictures Of Home", the first song; These guys are having a good time! It really sounds like this is fun not just for us to watch, but very much also for them to play. Deep Purple have experienced their fair share of cynicism on the parts of reviewers over the years. But fortunately certain quarters of the press seem to be finally catching on to the well oiled, finely tuned rock phenomenon that is Deep Purple in 1999. And understanding it for what it is. For they are an easy target for jokes about age, dying of hair and straining of voice. But there's really no other band on this earth that has come as far as Deep Purple have today while still managing to reinvent and revitalize itself with alarming frequency. Defying all expectations they just keep getting better.

This evening they're visiting one of their old playgrounds in Copenhagen, Denmark - and as if to mark this they open with a touch of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town". The band virtually came to life here some 31 years ago and the city has experienced more than a few exciting nights out with Deep Purple since then. Not to mention the historically important ones like David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes' world debut with the band in December 1973 or one of the very last magic nights with Ritchie Blackmore twenty years later. But none of these otherwise highly esteemed musicians are present tonight for we are talking about the very well kept and incredibly tightly knit unit that is Deep Purple today. The clashing of egos usually associated with bands like Deep Purple are a thing of the past, just like the aforementioned three gentlemen - and thank God for that! In Copenhagen the sheer vitality and excitement felt from the stage made for a highly impressive performance.

Viewed from the crowd we've got on our right the unbelievably amiable Steve Morse on guitar - his first visit to Copenhagen with Deep Purple is a mere eight months away. That in itself was a triumphant return to the venue where the classic Scandinavian Nights video was filmed back in 1972 - KB Hallen. Times certainly were different back then. Much has been said about his courage concerning stepping into someone else's shoes, but the fight against narrow minded stupidity and reactionary nostalgia is (apparently) long and hard. You must take absolute leave of your sense of realism to not want to welcome Steve's efforts in Deep Purple with open arms. Had this band been a bunch of unknowns when Steve joined, the downright inane criticism afforded them and him at the time would be nothing but an incomprehensible bad dream.

Just behind him we gaze with awe, as the maestro lets his fingers do the talking (so to speak) across the keys of his mighty Hammond. Jon Lord was here all those years ago when it all started. He's acquired a very delicate and respected air of eminence about him which is underpinned tonight by the stylish long black jacket he wears on-stage - why only now is a mystery in itself. He's fresh off the road from his own tour in support of his first solo album in (almost several) decades - and in his playing we hear the tell-tale signs that it has done him very well to have had that highly tasteful detour away from rock and roll.

To Jon's right there's that one invention the scientists have been looking for since time began; The perpetual motion machine. Perhaps not a very flattering description of one of rock's most original drummers, but after numerous shows on endless tours nonetheless a very fitting one. Ian Paice drives the band, grooves the beat, inserts those little gems you'd never notice was it not for being "in the know" about having to watch him closely all the time and he never lets up. Seemingly he never has a bad day and yet incomprehensibly claims to stay away from the drums when the band isn't working! His studio work away from the band is just about as rare as anything you can think of, so it is with some excitement one looks forward to the release of his recently recorded sessions with Paul McCartney. What a feather in his cap that's gonna be - McCartney's cap, that is!

Ian Paice's most regular partner in the game of ready-steady-rock is situated immediately in front of him tonight. Bobbing from side to side, never quite standing still, but amazingly always right there "in the pocket" (musician lingo for keeping a perfect beat) Roger Glover never strays. He's the ever reliable anchorman of the band and as such has managed to keep a relatively low profile over the years, compared to his massive importance in the band's creative process.

Center stage - or should that be anywhereonstage? - there's the singer we'd all go and see even if he'd lost his voice completely. And contrary to popular belief among aforementioned sad critics, this hasn't happened yet! Very difficult to pinpoint, endlessly fascinating to watch - Ian Gillan never disappoints. The humour he injects in the proceedings is priceless and was occasionally, in times gone past, the all-important factor that saved the show. He considers himself lucky to be in Deep Purple, but he can rest assured the rest of us don't feel any less lucky for having him there!

Already during "Pictures Of Home" we get the first taste of the way Deep Purple have fun in 1999. It's jamming time! This fortunately crops up throughout the show - again in "Strange Kind Of Woman" where the guitar and drums chase is an attraction to behold in itself. To be a fly on the wall when these guys blow each other out in a rehearsal room...

The band go straight from a strikingly fresh rendition of a tune first written and recorded in 1969, ("Bloodsucker" - back then dedicated to the management, tonight jokingly nearly dedicated to their longtime friend and Scandinavian promoter, Erik) and into a similarly fresh tune written only last year dealing with the fascinating incidents that took place in just that long ago year and which thus laid the foundation for the Deep Purple we know today. "69" is about 1969. And it is not just through the song's lyrics they celebrate the subject. Halfway through "69" they dive into a bit of revived nostalgia known only to the die hards among the well intoxicated crowd - the up-tempo beat that used to form a large part of the band's live show when it served as the musical backbone for the all-important marathon improvisations during songs like "Mandrake Root" and later "Space Truckin'". There are melodic tastes of "The Mule" and "Paint It Black" and it could easily have gone on forever. This bit is greeted with an amazingly wide grin from this particular fan who although not anywhere near old enough to have been there, nonetheless has worn his share of pick-ups, vinyl sides and parents out while enjoying the recorded documents from that time. What a thrill!

"Watching The Sky" tonight features a dedication to one of the unsung heroes of Deep Purple. For unlike many other bands who's been around as long as Deep Purple, this band still manages to attract to it the finest in technically skilled and well trained road personnel. Moray the sound engineer finally receives the proper mention he deserves and while the (even more intoxicated now) masses don't give a flying duck, you can be very sure that had Moray not done his job as well as he always does, they'd be the first to complain. Ian Gillan manages to mention toes and sound engineers in the same sentence as a lead-in to a song that also includes something like 10 "Zip My Lip's" before the end-of-song climax.

Just as "69" set itself into context with a musical trip back to where it all started, Steve puts this evening's commercial highlight into perfect context by taking us through a fascinating tour through a selection of the classic guitar riffs of all time. There's a bit of Clapton's Cream, Jimmy Page's Zeppelin, Iommi's Sabbath, not to mention Jimi Hendrix, before we land at Deep Purple's own (much worn but still curiously infectious) creation in this field, "Smoke On The Water". The by now definitely intoxicated locals take a terminal swig of their cure against inhibitions and the party reaches even the farthest corner of the venue. It never fails.

"Speed King" features an introduction which goes after the usual charming fashion of let's see what the singer has on his mind tonight. Scottish-Chinese? Well, it sets the band off on another storming version, which includes captivating solos from all members - including that most elusive bass solo so often missed before. This comes just before Ian Paice launches himself into his bit of unmistakeble signature rolls and bouncing about. Not to have been believed had it not been witnessed, the man's even trained himself up to do a one-hand snare drum roll!
"It's Now Or Never" croons a ball room inspired Ian Gillan as if wanting to take the seriousness out of things before the voice-guitar duel that follows. During this he again manages to put a smile on the guitarist's face, by inventing yet another weird oral sound that appears impossible to emulate on the guitar. But this is Steve Morse!

And yet again during the encores it's Steve Morse. In "Black Night" he leads the crowd through a very effective sing-along duet with the guitar and there's just no stopping him. Especially not so when he revs up his strings for the final howling introduction to "Highway Star". There's a fleet of Formula One cars - or is it Harley's? - somewhere in that guitar amp!

While a wider selection of newer songs would have seemed more appropriate, the one thing that really amazes is the band's ability to keep songs like "Highway Star", "Smoke On The Water" and "Woman From Tokyo" relevant. It is through a perfect balance between well performed versions of such songs and the new material - such as the hypnotic sounds of "Watching The Sky" or (the sadly missed) "Fingers To The Bone" and "Almost Human" - that Deep Purple must stay out here. Catering for the fans of the old material is important enough, but it is equally important not to forget the fans who buy the new albums and support the band's evolution by wanting to hear those songs live also.

5-Øren, Copenhagen, Denmark - June 13, 1999
The Boys Are Back In Town
Pictures Of Home
Ted The Mechanic
Strange Kind of Woman
Woman From Tokyo
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
Watching The Sky
Space Truckin'
Steve's Cascades
Smoke On The Water
Jon's solo
Perfect Strangers
Speed King
Black Night
Highway Star

Rasmus Heide

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