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

Deep Purple Lille

After a drive for half an hour (with on the car stereo Rainbow in Lidköping 9 Aug 96 - a great special gig), we found Le Zénith very easy (not like last year when we first went to the town centre to find out that the hall is just off the highway). The parking was full, not to see Purple but for an exchange market. At 15:00 some people (mainly teenage girls) were waiting at the gates, but there was nothing much to see, except for a very beautiful Deep Purple tourposter, high up behind the windows (after the concert I saw it being pinched by a Dutchman). We went into town, to yet another one of Johan's favourite pubs in Europe; and there are many, believe me. As I was free of driving for 8 more hours I could join him in drinking a few special beers in 'la Taverne Flamand' and "les 3 brasseurs'. In the last one, Bruno Six, the local correspondent for 'Nord Eclair', interviewed us, being Deep Purple fans. He was phoned earlier to tell him to cover tonight's concert. Seemingly he was not a big Purple fan, cos he did not know they had a new album out. But he seemed eager to witness the gig. As usual we then had a bite at the local Chinese, but had to wait for half an hour because we arrived too early, thus we had a few Chinese beers. After the so-called 'spicy' dish we hurried back to Le Zénith.

When we arrived at 19.11, Gotthard was already doing their thing on stage. This was a very early concert, normally it starts at 20:00. I enjoyed the support act very much. Sylvia Eichholzer - a mega Gotthard fan (hope you enjoyed your first Purple gigs in Montpellier and Chalon s. Saone) - asked me to review their gig as well. So here I go.

People trying to see them blocked one of the entrances, when we saw this we were afraid that we could not get a nice place. But 2 doors further there was no one standing, we could enter the hall at ease and make our way to the stage front. Again, like in Paris in July, the resemblance between the singer and Dougie stroke my attention: the singing itself, the gestures. The first song 'NA NA NA NA' (or something like that) drew good response from the audience, which were not that many. 'LET IT BE' was played with a double steel guitar (12 and 6 strings). Johan came in with the drinks, at last! (This would be my last one before the concert ending (otherwise I would be spending more time in the toilets than in the hall). I must say that this band is really good, I could even become a fan (but I won't! Hardly have any spare time left with Purple and Blackmore, trading tapes and videos). "a fait du bien, merci beaucoup. 1 LIFE 1 SONG" is something nice and slow, done acoustic. Beautiful! Reminds me a bit of Uriah Heep. Think I'm gonna look for some CD's, at least on tape (Tiny hint, Sylvia). The drummer even had a personal roadie? He was sitting behind him during the whole gig, assuring that nothing would fall? This is the first time I took the effort of reviewing the support band, because Sylvia asked me, but also a bit because I like them, and it was worth the effort. I followed my daughter (13, a heavy Boyzone and Mama's Jasje fan) Lynn's advice: to write slowly in my little notebook, so afterwards I can read my own writing. I still wonder how I can enjoy both the concert and write at the same time. They've played something 'Blackmore-ish' "MOUNTAIN MAMA" (?). Maybe I like them because the singer really can sing? The next thing was something that might have been called something like "FIREGONE" (?). Pity they had to do the obligatory 'clap your hands' stuff. And that guitar player is also impressive. I guess I have to tell everybody to go see this band and to enjoy it. "Il fait chaud maintenant. It is a privilege and we like to do a tribute to our heroes Deep Purple! Check it out: HUSH" Two hardcore Purple fans (Johan and I) looked at each other with puzzled faces. What would Ritchie have done if they dared playing it while he was still in the band? They've performed it very 'eavy and superb. At 19.46 it was finished. Pity, no encores.

Now you could clearly see that the hall was half-empty. After a pee I took advantage of my little notebook, pretending to be a journalist - shame on me - but I reached the second row with ease. I was standing in front of Rogers spot. In my Rotterdam review I forgot to mention that I caught one of his plectrums. Now I still have to get one of Steve, a drumstick, a mouth organ and a signed guitar by Blackmore, and my Purple life has been good. I was wondering what went on the minds of the roadies when they were sound checking? After 15 minutes the stage was all ready set. Glad that this is becoming a new trend, so we don't have to wait for an hour or so. We didn't see much movement on stage anymore. Despite the Santana music the audience was getting more and more inpatient ("merde alors"). At 20.21 the place went nuts because the lights were dimmed a bit. Everybody was shouting for 'diep pourpre' and started chanting the 'hohohoho' of Black Night. The security had to rescue someone (fainted?) from centre first row.

At last, at 20:24 TED THE MECANIC. Someone beside me shouted 'salut Roger!' Gillan wore a big ludicrous feminine necklace, but threw it away after only 20 seconds (a new gimmick?). Did he have a haircut? Thought so. Standing in front of Roger I could follow his moves very good: well he is not the quiet Stone Purple: he was bouncing around during the whole concert.

STRANGE KIND OF WOMAN. Loved the heavy Morse bits during "I want you, I need you" Again, like in Rotterdam, Gillan went regularly behind Jon's amps to drink some magical (?) potion. During Steve's solo he even went walking behind the stage, leaving on the left to return on the right side. I heard Roger's bass louder than anything else, even during Lord's solo. Again (as in Rotterdam) Steve did some duelling with Paice and Glover.

"Merci beaucoup, thank you very much. I thaaaaaank u! Here's one, it's been new twice. It's a new song and it's also an old song. It's called BLUDSUCKER". He used (needed?) during this one the echo on his voice a lot. After reading the review of Nigel Young (about "a lot of the things some might have thought were ad-libbed were turning up every night") now I did even put more attention to those things than I would have done normally; like now: the switching of each other's volume controls by Roger and Steve (actually I did not notice this at the earlier gigs I've been before).

Gillan mentioned something about football results and then "something from Montreux and Machine Head". But he really talked too quick, so I did not have the time to jot it down properly. "PICTURES OF HOME". Steve's solo - the same as in Rotterdam! - was hidden by the volume of Roger's bass. It was nice to see Glover playing. And I thought that a bassist was producing the whole time the same notes! His short bass-solo was really celebrated by the raving crowd. Too bad that I hardly could hear Jon! And again Gillan was drinking.

"Merci beaucoup! You're fantastic! I was saying to Cliff (?) I don't know what his wife was doing, but this was "ALMOST HUMAN". And - as in Rotterdam - he tied his hair in a ponytail. Steve was doing his solos standing beside Jon; this is getting familiar too. At last we were having some real Jon "Lord of the Hammond"! By now Big Ian's hair was loose again.

"You're too kind! There's no doubt about the city: Tokyo. I rest my case: WOMAN FROM TOKYO". This one really got the crowd excited. But, for my feeling, the intro was spoiled by Roger: too loud, so I could not hear anything else. I had also hoped for some new "old" songs, but so far this was the same (literally) concert as it was last month in Rotterdam. The marvellous bit that Rog played at the end of the quiet part was a real treat.

"Thank you very much, merci beaucoup! That was a new song. This is almost new. It's all about the gab between your legs. It's all over the news: WATCHING THE SKY". I was getting thirsty seeing Gillan drinking all the time, and was becoming a little bit disappointed: hearing nothing new by now. But the crowd were really enjoying themselves, though I could not help noticing that there were fewer smiles on stage too.

"Thank you very much! Very kind of you." Jon asked him "Is that me you're talking to?" Ian answered: "pity you don't have a mike, your voice is getting better late in the evening. This is dedicated to a simple man falling out of the sky: FINGERS TO THE BONE". One of my - few - faves on Abandon. 1 moron next to me is shouting for Burn! Nice intro by Morse, and some nice piano.

"This is a cheerful song with a serious message" But I could not understand any word of the rest of his introduction to ANY FULE KNO THAT."

Steve owned the crowd during his solo, the whole place was very quiet (a total difference to Rotterdam where everybody was whistling and shouting) even Gillan was watching him from behind the amps. Steve started playing heavier and than quieter again. But then exactly the same stuff he did before! The ending-CASCADES-bit was done with a lot of help by the audience. Gillan was dealing this time with the hand signals. And again - remember Rotterdam - Steve was threatening to fall of stage. The crowd was shouting "Steve! Steve!" When I re-read my review of Rotterdam, this point was one of the highlights of the evening; and now it sounded all the same to me. Pity.

He immediately started world's most infamous chords, performed poorly(!), but the crowd went into overdrive for this crowd-pleaser, especially when Steve was for once performing on my side of the stage. Well, the ending of the song was the best part, thanks to Glover.

Lordy's solo "Smoke on the piano" lasted only 2 minutes and sounded a la "Pictured Within". Then he started LAZY, then back to Smoke. Only 3 minutes in all: much too short; the few times you could hear him playing he sounded better than in the Ahoy. Steve took over and it sounded heavier than last time (at last! Something different), but again Gillan was wearing that hat. In Paris this was the absolute highlight of the evening, and was also the best version I had seen since 85. And now, well now, OK they played Lazy.

"This is the title track from the middle ages, the title track PERFECT STRANGERS". Gillan is doing some kind of oriental dance. That's all I can remember about it.

"Superb! Perfect Street Rangers! This is not a blue(s) song; it's a blue and white song. The piano = white stuff" And the rest I could not understand, but he did not tell us anything about a lullaby! Maybe because he noticed me taking notes? His first cough during the evening, and during the instrumental bit he was behind the amps gasping for breath! Jon was overacting when he was studying Steve's notes that he would imitate a few seconds later. Handshake. Glover's solo was very very short, as was Little Ian's; again in Rotterdam this one was better. I had the feeling they were playing on automatic pilot: everything sounded very routine. Just after writing this down, Gillan started singing a sentence rock and roll (don't know which one) and then "Lucille". The duelling bit was very the same as at other concerts, but not so good. The same things happened: Gillan playing 1 note on the guitar, Steve "cutting" Ian's throat.

22:01 the first part ended, the encores started at 22:02 with SEVENTH HEAVEN. I find Black Night a better choice for an encore, but at least they do change this from time to time. Again it was Roger who took all my attention.

Like he did when doing the intro for the last song HIGHWAY STAR. It took a while before Steve started his engine. Glover and Gillan both recognised Johan who was now standing beside me. At 22:18 it was all over. Throwing the plectrums (again I caught on of Roger's, but gave it away to Johan); the mouth organ and drumsticks landed in my near surroundings, but my luck was over.

After playing for 116 minutes (minus the 1-minute break) I could only conclude that this was Roger's evening, he was simply the best! Except sometimes he was too loud to hear anything else. If only Lord had been more audible (remember Whitesnake!?!). But I found it all fairly routinous and was thus a bit disappointed. Still, I'm not saying it was bad, but there was something lacking, a bit of spontaneity, maybe? The crowd seems like they did had the time of their life. Even Johan thought that this concert was better than Rotterdam; but I do agree with him that Paris was the best. In the (good) ol' days you had to see as many concerts you could, every time it was different, some good ones, some bad ones. Now I have the feeling you must see maximum 2 shows; before the resemblance attracted too much attention. Still better than Michael Jackson, or the likes, with - no doubt - good shows, but where every move, every twist of his little finger is orchestrated. I think, I'm even pretty sure, if I had seen Purple only once this tour that I would have liked it more, without these complaints.

Though I was a bit 'angry' with Mark Welch, after reading his review from the Manchester show, I'm afraid that he was right. I'm very very happy that I've seen them in Paris on 9 July. This review is the opposite of the one I wrote then.

Better luck next time!

[This week: in a quiz programme for youngsters, one of the multiple-choice questions was: "Smoke on the Water was done by a) Deep Purple or b) Light Green]

Michel De Pourcq

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