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

DP Review Manchester 18th Oct.

Steve Morse provided both the high points and low points of the Manchester show. The high point was his solo spot - beautiful voice-leading chordal passages interspersed with Bachian (Lordian, even) scales delicately executed. The inevitable moronic shouts for Blackmore were much in evidence during these quieter passages, but the rapt silence of 99.99 per cent of the audience spoke far more loudly.

The low points unfortunately were pretty much every time Morse embarked on all of his other solos. I know from Purpendicular and Abandon that this guy can play with economy and taste, but he displayed precious little of either last night. Without exception, every song featured his signature squawks, pinched harmonics and mechanical fret runs. It's such a distinctive sound that after two songs you're starting to get bored of it - and after two hours, enough is enough. I really missed the 'feel' approach that Blackmore and Bolin personified. The 'technique' approach is admirable, but just doesn't move you. To put things in a bit more perspective, I was at the gig with a metal fan friend who was even more disappointed with Morse than I was. Obviously it's just a matter of personal taste - I don't go in for that style, and that's my problem and not his!

Gillan, Paice and Glover all played blinders. Gillan in particular impressed - his voice on the closing Highway Star was actually stronger than on the opening numbers. Paice's energy level was a revelation. Unfortunately the drums were amplified in such a way as to obscure the beautiful natural sound of his kit, producing a more metallic, processed sound.

I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing the Walrus, but I don't think this was one of the classic nights. The Hammond was too low in the mix, his solo spot was very short and perfunctory, and his current Hammond sound seems a little thin and shrill (as it sometimes does on Abandon). I feel there's currently a mismatch between the big deep stereo wall of sound that Morse produces and the drier, more 'mono' sound that Lord has opted for, as if they are produced in different acoustic environments. Still, maybe that's intentional? That being said, every time you could here the Leslies revving up, the show moved up a gear for me. He is still Mr. Rock Organ (and long may it ever be thus).

Overall this sounds pretty negative, but I do think the band are happier, more energetic and more creative than ever. The new stuff sounds good (tho' better on the hifi where the all important subtleties are more evident) and the classics are still cooking. Of the four of us who went, one raved about the gig (and specifically, Gillan), and three went home not buzzing, suffering from pinched harmonic fatigue. Each to his own.

Ian Jackson

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