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

Deep Purple live in Katowice, Poland

First of all a big "Thank you" to Andy, Jasiek and Krysztof who gave me enough info and made it possible for me (and my friends) to attend the gig in Poland.

Now to the venue. I've been to places where the shows go on each night but I must say that the Spodek Hall in Katowice is the best place to do a rock concert I've ever seen. It's big enough, it has perfect acoustics and I think that even from the seats the view must be considerably good. Also the whole organization was going smoothly so we experienced no problems getting to the hall.
As we came soon we got easily to the front row. (Some guys behind me got really upset as I am 195cm tall :-) Their fault. Should have come sooner.)
The first surprise was how the instruments were placed on the stage. So Paice's drum kit was on the left (!). BTW Paice has brand new drums. Pearl with a white pearl finish :-) Looked great. He was also using (as always) Paiste 2002 cymbals. Jon's Hammond C3 was in the middle (also unusual to me). He had a digital piano (Roland ???) on his right and a synthesizer (Korg ???) on the top of the Hammond. Behind him there were two white Leslie cabinets placed on two bass boxes. (also white) Roger was on the left of the stage. Strange thing was that he was using 6 different bass boxes. (Each of different mark, number and size of speakers.... ??) During the show he was using his Vigier bass and didn't change for the Rickenbacker even for the SOTW. Steve's laboratory was all over the right wing. Six white Peavey boxes, a board with several (many !!!) pedals, a rack with 4 (5?) effects and Peavey amps. Big Ian's congas were between the drums and the Hammond.
First of all a band called "Acid Drinkers" played their part. I liked it. They served a 30minute portion of a solid heavy metal. They were strongly applauded by the audience as they are probably well known in Poland.
At 8:30 the lights were turned off and in the darkness we could see Jon Lord coming to his organ. And then in the spotlight he started a short intro during which the rest of the band entered the stage and opened the show with "Hush". Right from the beginning it was clear that Big Ian is in unbelievable form. He showed it particularly on the next number "Bludsucker". I know that there were several speculations about using some electronic gizmo for the last verse on /-\. Here he screamed the last verse with no electronic help and it sounded better than on the CD. In my personal opinion he could have given a try to "Child in Time". I think that he would have made it. But he didn't try it and he probably knows why. However, his voice is improving day by day so maybe on the next tour... :-)
After a few songs it came to "Pictures of Home" - one of my all time favorites. It didn't vary from the LATO version except for one small detail. Partway through the song Steve broke a string on his guitar and he had to finish the number on five strings only. Those of you playing guitar know how difficult it is. And those of you knowing Steve know that it wasn't difficult for him at all. :-)
Here I must say that STEVE was definitely THE MAN of the show. I simply couldn't help looking at him all the time. His performance was blowing us away and the crowd applauded his solos over and over again. Steve was smiling constantly but I could see a small change in his attitude since the last tour. Two years ago it was just a shy guy partly hiding behind the boxes looking a bit afraid of what the crowd's reaction would be. It looked just like: "Errr...mmmm. I...I would like to play you something,.....eerrrr, if.... if you don't mind...." But this time Steve was jumping, twisting, shaking his head running on the stage, gesticulating to the people, doing funny grimaces and all that stuff. And his smiles didn't look like "Glad you like it" but far more like "Man, I'm good !". Sometimes it looked more like Steve Morse with a support band than Deep Purple with some guitarist. I don't mean it as a criticism of Steve. He makes the band sound better than ever before and THIS is the real Deep Purple - wild and loud. I just couldn't help asking me a question "Would there anything left from DP if Steve left the band?" and I also couldn't help answering:"I am afraid not."
Maybe this Morse domination was caused by "lack of Jon Lord". I always understood JL's function as something that should be opposite to the guitarist. As someone that should "fight" with the axeman on the stage. As someone that should always want to "get him", to play better solo, to keep certain equality in the band. This time Jon wasn't in a perfect shape. I don't know if he was ill, tired, bad humored or what but IMHO he stayed far below his average this time around. There was a lack of energy in his solos and I also missed his famous invention and originality. But what we ALL missed most was Jon's traditional solo EXHIBITION. Does anyone of you remember a gig where Jon didn't play solo? His organ improvisation and his boogie-woogie rock 'n' roll on a piano? And, damn, we were in POLAND!! I expected some Fryderik Chopin stuff on the piano. Believe it or not, there was nothing. As I am an organist as well, tt's hard for me to say it but the organists lost the match 0:10 that night. Quite sad.
Now back to the show. I was looking forward to hearing "Lazy". I was a bit disappointed when Jon skipped the organ intro (maybe due to the things said above) and they started right with the riff. But everything else was just a fantasy. Steve played the solo very Blackmore-like. All the bluesy feeling and traditional harmony were there. I also tried to sing along with Ian but I couldn't because he was singing some different words in the last verse which I don't remember. Anyway "Lazy" kicked ass.
The best piece was (IMHO) Speed King (but Perfect Strangers get close). There was the one and only real interplay between Jon and Steve. But it was out of this Earth. Jon included a few measures from Bach's fugue and Steve repeated it. Great. Ian Paice during his solo proved that when it comes to a roll on the snare there's nobody else doing it better.
It also came to several Abandon numbers. (Unfortunately not DMMH... :-( They didn't vary much from the record, they were just a bit harder. Steve played a solo, which was nothing than a pure jazz, during 7th Heaven's slow part. I liked it very much and I think that a jazz trio Paice-Morse-Glover would kick ass.

Now for the set list (not exactly in this order):

  • Hush
  • Bludsucker
  • Ted the Mechanic
  • Almost Human
  • Pictures of Home
  • Strange Kind of Woman
  • Fingers to the Bone
  • My Woman from Katowice
  • Evil Louie
  • Watching the Sky
  • Lazy
  • Seventh Heaven
  • Smoke on the Water
  • Speed King
  • Any Fule Kno That
  • Highway Star

The truth is that I was partly disappointed by the songs selected. Firstly I would choose different ones from /-\. (Don't MMH, Jack Ruby or 69) and maybe drop Evil Louie and Watching.... But I also expected some changes in the "traditional" ones. When Roger was speaking about "surprises" I was (somewhere in a very deep corner of my soul) expecting that they would possibly, maybe, play "Burn". Or No,no,no. Or Livin' Wreck. Or just something less usual. Maybe next time. :-(
Overall it was a superb concert. I saw Black Sabbath two weeks ago and Page/Plant in February and I think that all these bands tend to sentimentality. Their concerts are more like a "resurrection" of a legend than a regular concert of a regular band. Not Deep Purple. DP has vitality and power the others cannot even dream of. DP doesn't need to bring the old times back. The guys have still much to say today to today's people. (I think that the average age at the concert was 20 and I saw really many teenagers Jon Lord could be a grandfather of.) And even though the guys are old they speak our (youngsters') language. And we all damn well understand. Thank you guys for a great experience!

Dan Dvoracek

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