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

Deep Purple (Status Quo, Katapult)
Prague, Czech Republic, 16th November 1998

Not only the main band, Deep Purple, but also their support Status Quo promised an evening full of powerful hard-rock music. We got more than enough of it...
I am one of those who think that watching a rock concert form somewhere else than the first three rows is half the experience. That's why I was in front of the hall very early. It is not very comfortable to stand two hours outside, then one and half inside and then four another hours during the show. Anyway, it pays...
Prague Sports Hall (it is an ice-hockey hall in fact) is a traditional venue here in Prague. It is average in every way you can understand the word. The view is good, the sound is usually good, parking is good....but none of these is TOO good. :-))
We managed to get to the second-third row middle and we had a superb view. For a detailed description of the stage see my review of Katowice gig (24th Jan 98). Here is the stage in brief:
Paice's kit was on the left-back. As you all probably know he uses silver pearl finish Pearl drums and Paiste cymbals.
Jon's laboratory consisting of Hammond C3, digital piano (Yamaha I guess) and two synths, one of them probably Korg, was on the right-back.
Front-left was Roger's place. Vigier bass, Trace Eliott boxes and amps.
On the right - Steve, the man. Six Peavey boxes and his board with more pedals than he has in his plane. :-)
Ian Gillan - everywhere. Congas of unrecognisable mark. Gillaphone was Shure, I guess.

Now let's have a look at the support bands.
Katapult is a Czech band with a long tradition. That's why everybody knew their songs and it explains why the audience reacted so well. I think that these guys cannot play and it is a shame that amateurs like this share the stage with Deep Purple. (and also Uriah Heep a few weeks before. They get everywhere :-((()
Well, when Katapult abandoned the stage, things started getting better.
Status Quo were using a wall of Marshalls. I don't know how many boxes and heads were there, but I think that "a lot" is the right word. :-)
Stats entered the stage and started their rock'n'rolling... They were in a good form and a good mood. But the sound wasn't very good. We could hardly hear the singing from PA because the stage set was very loud. Nevertheless I enjoyed them a lot. They played all those famous hits (You're in the Army Now sung by the whole crowd...) and "Rockin' All over the World" blasting with energy...
I especially liked two moments. First of them was when all the members (except one, guess who...hehe) took guitars and started rock'n'rolling on the edge of the stage. Really a good stuff. The second cool thing was a rock'n'roll medley they played near the end. If you know Uriah Heep's medley form Birmingham '73, then you know what I am talking about... :-))

Now it's time for the hottest band in the world. Usually the Purps enter the stage in dark, then start playing something and then the lights turn on. Not this time.
Then Jon's organ said "OK guys, let's get down to the work, shall we?" by a brief intro and then something which is very hard to describe started. Imagine that you listen to a rock concert for an hour and something. Imagine that you get used to the volume, to the sound, to the quality. And then imagine that a band enters the stage, touches their instruments and it feels like in a different world. The sound hits you chest like a hammer, all your senses are paralysed and there is nothing but those five people up there playing their music.
Usually I manage to look at many things during the concert. This time I couldn't concentrate on anything else but the band. The audience was like in a trance. Sometimes it takes one or two songs to warm up the people. This time the link was established IMMEDIATELY. I mean within a second.

Let's see a setlist, before we proceed a little further. I don't remember the exact order but it goes like this:

Ted the Mechanic
Strange Kind of Woman
Pictures of Home
Almost Human
Watching the Sky
Woman from Prague
Fingers to the Bone
Any Fule Kno That
Smoke on the Water (incl. Jon's solo)
Perfect Strangers
Speed King (incl. Ian's solo, Roger's solo, Gillan-Morse vocal-guitar interchange and Morse-Lord guitar-organ speed competition)

Black Night
Highway Star

I sometimes say who was the man of the show. Here it was very hard to tell...
Steve is always great. No surprise. He played unbelievably. Ha had several really great moments. His solo exhibition was beautiful. It is a mystery for me how does he manage to produce such a sweet and silent sound with his all time blasting instrument. In other moments it was mainly his playing which made the band sound VERY hard. And that is the way I like it. I didn't like the album Stormbringer for instance because it sounded too soft to me. With Steve you can be sure that the band will sound very 'eavy. :-))
Another Steve's moment was before Watching the Sky (I think). He came to the stage and started playing Whole Lotta Love. Not exactly the way Page does but it WAS there. It was very funny mainly because Led Zeppelin were about to play in the same hall the next evening. I hope that a few guys from Led Zepp crew were in the hall :-))))
Simply, our Smiley from the right wing did his job very well.
OK...but...why shouldn't be Roger the man of the gig? He surely could. On this tour he is more audible so you can hear how good he is. He is smiling all the time, running on the stage... That's normal... But this time I heard Rog doing strange things. :-)) Firstly he probably decided that it is time to shut the Morse thing up for a while. So the bass solo in Pictures of Home wasn't one and only during the show. Roger showed a pretty nice one during Speed King for instance.
The another interesting Rog's activity was unisono playing with Steve. The truth is that Steve usually "got him", but Rog did quite well. :-))
What about the old man at the organ? Well, another hot candidate for The Man of the show. In Katowice Lord was doing just his job. Here he was awesome. He was probably inspired by Roger's activity and decided to take his part in defeating Morse army. :-)) He had several opportunities to meet the enemy in a head to head combat. Especially The Battle of Speed King showed some pretty cool war techniques. Both parties were presenting their best and Jon's strategy was to copy Morse's attacks almost perfectly note by note. Finally the fight was over, they shook their hands and the show went on.... :-)
Jon performed on the piano a lot that evening. Maybe because he feels like Pictured Within. :-) His piano solo in Fingers to the Bone was quite long and beautiful. He started with several touching melodies, then he got into his classic strange, jazzy chords and finished the solo with a typical phrasing which makes his playing so unique.
His own solo exhibition was something amazing. He didn't start it on Hammond as he usually does. He went straight to the piano. This is the point where I think he played a piece of Pictured Within. I don't have the album but I think it must have been this. It was beautiful and too complicated to be an improvisation. Then it was time for a classical stuff. Czech Republic, so Bedrich Smetana's "My Country" symphony, part called "Vltava" was presented. The crowd recognised it and applauded...
After that Jon speeded up and performed some crazy jazzy funky improvisation on the piano with several moments on Hammond. When it all was over he turned his playing right towards Lazy.
Good, but some would claim that Big Ian (have you noticed that Ian is getting really BIG these days :-))))) ?) was dominating the show. I must admit that they would be probably right. Ian's voice is getting better and better. A few years ago I thought he was going to loose it at all. Now I think that he isn't far from his 1971 form. Not only did he do all the screaming everywhere he had to but he did many more screams even though he could have rested there... The last verse of Bludsucker convinced everybody that Ian was able to sing anything he wanted to. We got plenty of "thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank you's" and "Yyyyyyeeeeeeaaaaaooooowwwwwww's" and Ian didn't loose his voice even near the end of the show.
Another remarkable moment was in Speed King. He did some sing-along with Steve and then they started doing weird things. Steve was producing strange sounds on his guitar and Ian was doing his famous "hehehehhihihhahahahhohoho". People went nuts. Not only the sound Ian was doing by his mouth but also the grimace in his face... People were laughing like on Rowan Atkinson's show... Maybe these two guys should do something together...
It is really hard to say but if I should pick my little favourite of the evening it would probably be Little Ian. Some people say that during the Joe Lynn era it was Paicey who performed extremely well on the gigs to keep the Purple standard. I think that the time is back except for the little fact that Joe Lynn Turner has left the building. :-))
Sometimes Paicey just plays. Here he was so inspired!! First of all the sound of his drums. Believe me it is NOT only the question of microphones and the sound engineering. The sound of the drum is made and affected mainly by the HIT itself. I have seen a couple of drummers in my short life and I can say that Paice is technically the BEST of them.
That evening Paice showed dozens of great ideas. Not only the breaks in the songs but especially during the other members' improvisations he supported the soloists with his playing. He probably has some kind of mental energy that he is able to presume what the soloist is going to do. I had the feeling that Paice wanted to play more and more and maybe forever. When he was hitting the cymbals you could read from his face:"Here...here...one more here...yes, man, I'm good :-*)". I liked it very much because on the other gigs Paicey seemed a bit "closed" to me. Like he didn't care too much about the others. Here he was a real part of band's creativity. Superb.

As you see this wasn't an ordinary DP gig. They have very good ones and even better ones. This gig was from the second category. The band is happy, powerful, creative and very young in spirit. And they are soooo good! I don't think there is another band that could beat them in a live performance. I am glad that it is so...

Dan Dvoracek

[ reviews | the highway star ]