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

Purple in Sofia, November 27/28

As usual, after a couple of days in the presence of Purple, one's mind is full of ideas, impressions, memories and feelings which are too numerous to put in order, indeed some of them are too precious to share with a piece of paper or a keyboard. I'll try and give an overview of Deep Purple's visit to Sofia, Bulgaria over November 27 and 28.
They arrived the day of the first concert and did a press conference at 3 pm, everyone except Big Ian (who had a terrible cold) was there. It was a media circus, all the newspapers, radio stations etc. were full of stories, such a sad contrast to the UK press, whose non-coverage I had the misfortune to witness last October. Needless to say, the hotel lobby (they stayed at the Kempinski) was full of patiently waiting fans round the clock, so much so that one thought that youths clutching Machine Head sleeves were part of the hotel lobby's decoration. ;-)
The concerts (both sold out days in advance) at the Winter Palace of Sports were both incredible. The set list : Ted/ Strange Kind of Woman/ Bludsucker/ Pictures of Home/ Almost Human/ Woman from Tokyo/ Watching the Sky/ Fireball/ Fingers to the Bone/ Any Fule Kno That/ Steve's solo/ Smoke/ Jon solo/ Lazy/ Perfect Strangers/ Speed King/ Black Night/ Highway Star.
Apparently the band have a meeting 20 minutes before they go on stage, where they discuss ideas for the show, and on Friday Jon suggested they did Fireball, unrehearsed, they did it and (surprise, surprise!) it turned out very good, complete with "power cut" bit. The first night Ian imitated the air-conditioning noise with his voice, whilst the second he introduced it on congas, to be drowned out by Paicey's thunder, that was a classic moment. One such meeting has produced an incredible slow jam within Pictures of Home, a song rapidly turning into a vehicle for improvisation. The idea for that jam came from a 1971 bootleg called "Danish Yodel", which contained a similar jam, and it's the fault of a certain DPWWW editor, who furnished a certain bass player with a copy of the aforementioned bootleg. I shall say no more. :-)
As mentioned above, Big Ian had a terrible cold (the weather had been terribly cold, windy and humid all this last leg of the tour) but he soldiered on bravely, with only a few hoarse bits, otherwise he was in fine voice. But the star of the show would have to be Ian Paice, who produced two nights of drum magic - the hall was echoey and he struggled all the harder to overcome this, with the result of a drum performance I haven't seen for a long time. Brilliant. Jon's solo on the second night incorporated a Bulgarian tune and Für Elise, while during SKOW Steve and Roger played the "Dr. Who" theme. :-) The crowd, it must be said, was very appreciative, lively and LOUD. All in all, two very enjoyable concerts, and I'm in danger of repeating myself here, but it's true and as such it should be said: Deep Purple just keep getting better and better.
After the second show, my mates Chris P. and Chris K., my dear companion Evi and I had a wonderful night chatting and drinking with Roger Glover at the Funky Spot, a lovely bar in Sofia. Many amusing, interesting and unpublishable things were said there. We called it a night at 4 in the morning.
Before closing, it is my duty to mention that almost 80 members of the Greek DPAS were present at the first show [Whoa! - Ed.], having travelled from all over Greece to catch a gig which I'm sure will stay in our memories for long. I must also say "thanks" to Dimitre "Funky" Kovatchev, the promoter, who with his wonderful group of people made the concerts happen, Colin Hart and Katrin Garz (a nicest press liaison you could not wish for!), and a very special greeting to my brother Peter (head of the Bulgarian Gillan fan club) and all the other guys I've met there during those two days. They've all been fantastic.

Stathis Panagiotopoulos

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