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

Concert Review - Deep Purple
House of Blues, Chicago, Dec. 17th

The main thrust of this review will be to compare this concert to the one held last November at the "Rosemont Horizon". The Rosemont is a pretty large arena where a lot of "big name" acts perform (not to mention the tractor pulls).

    Though I was glad to go last year (I only saw them once before, Sydney 1984) and had very good seats - 4th row, centre, I was very disappointed with the sound quality. I could not tell if they were playing well or not - it all became a concoction of noise. The sound just built on itself. The only parts I could hear clearly were the solos. Everything else just mixed together to the point that it was a blur. Maybe further back it magically separated so that you could make out the individual instruments and voice, as they should be heard. The only two songs that made it through the sound barrier were When A Blind Man Cries and The Aviator. Roger Glover & Steve Morse played the intro and bridge with mandolins (or some such instrument) and it worked very well (though Roger seemed a little tentative). I was really sorry that I could not feel the impact of Hey, Cisco or the funk of Rosa's Cantina (which I believe should become a DP classic).

    The HoB set-up is basically a classic opera house except that the ground floor is standing room only. There are 3 levels of balconies, with a private club on the 4th Floor. One of the plusses of the "Foundation" club is that you don't have to listen to the warm-up band at all (I have not heard a good one yet). Instead you sit on lounge chairs and sofas and enjoy a few drinks (in glasses) and conversation whilst saving your eardrums for the real band. This is sort of like not filling up on those party frank, hot dog appetisers and half a loaf of stale bread before the lobster is served. The only negative thing about the place is that the decor is rather jarring and reminds you of that nightmare where you inevitably get trapped in this room where the furniture comes alive (is it just me?). They do have video monitors in the room so you can see when the warm-up is over and the proceedings are about to begin. You then walk through a "soundproof' door to one of a good number of balconies where you can stand or sit in rather comfortable stools. They have waitresses coming around to serve you drinks and ashtrays are laid out. You don't feel like a felon if you smoke, rather civilised. Compare this to the concrete floors and lines of folding chairs at the Rosemont Horizon.

    The view from the balconies is surprisingly good. The angle is not so steep that you end up looking for people's bald spots (may explain the bandanas though?). Being a little right from centre I was looking down at Ian Paice's drum kit (I am an ex-drummer so I got a kick out of that) and you could see him playing as opposed to seeing him behind the drums. I also felt I was relatively close though I was on the 4th floor.

    Deep Purple opened with a wedding. At first I thought it would feel weird at best but it actually came out somewhat romantic. The minister was robed, the parents were at hand and the band was on best behaviour. OK so it wasn't black-tie formal but it's amazing what a blazer can do to hide those nasty tank tops. Jon Lord playing the organ as a backdrop added to creating the mood. I never thought that DP would do weddings (is this Steve's idea of the "wedding band" that Jacqueline asked for?). The garter and bouquet were thrown over the shoulder by the new bride, into the crowd of young virgins as is the tradition (maybe the crowd was a little short on young virgins but it worked).

    The band regrouped (again) and opened with "Hush", as they did last year. There was one very big difference this year - the sound was crisp and clear! - The band was tight. I could not only see Jon Lord "slapping" the Hammond organ I could also hear it "gurgling" through the twin Leslie speakers. That's what it's all about. At the Rosemont the band sounded sloppy though I do not believe that they were.

    I can't remember all the songs but here is what I remember: Hush; Fireball; Black Night; Picture of Home; Ted the Mechanic; Perfect Stranger; Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming; Woman from Tokyo; Smoke On The Water; Not Fade Away; Speed King; Into The Fire; When A Blind Man Cries; and Highway Star. Also there was a sampling from the upcoming album called Seventh Heaven.

    They performed the full version of "Woman From Tokyo" (Note to the band: next year change the name to Woman from Chi-ca-go for some extra brownie points from the locals) which is much more enjoyable than the abridged version they played last year and on the "Nobody's Perfect" live album.

    I was surprised to hear Perfect Strangers from the 80's. That period to me was not really Deep Purple but rather Deep Purple playing Rainbow (i.e. Ritchie Blackmore with a Backup band). The only "purple" song I can think of from the 80's is "Knocking At Your Back Door" though the purile lyrics were beneath Ian Gillan and the band.

    "When A Blind Man Cries" was felt not only heard and that is the way it should be performed.

    The only two numbers from "Purpendicular" were "Ted the Mechanic" and "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming". "Ted" was punchy and tight. It's an easy song to get into and it grows on you. "Sometimes" is one of my personal favourites and is just a good song. I was satisfied with the performance. I was looking forward to Ian Paice's bass drum work on "Hey Cisco" and what "Rosa's Cantina" is supposed to sound like live. Unfortunately I was not indulged. Next year, maybe.

    The new number, "Seventh Heaven", has a great intro but the body of it did not do anything special for me.

    Then they turned it up a notch, and "Speed King" was blasted out. The place started to rumble and shake. Everybody got louder than everybody else (R.G. quote?).

    "Smoke On The Water" is a number which I think was too personal for anybody else but Mark III to perform to it's potential (for example listen to the version on "In Concert", the King Biscuit bootleg quality double album which should be taken off the shelves!) but the boys did it."Highway Star" was the traditional last song and everybody really got into it. We all sang along as loudly as we could.

    As far as individual performances are concerned Ian Gillan seems to have "his" voice back; it sounded better than last year. Steve Morse was very smooth and is the perfect person to fill the "Black"more void. Roger Glover and Ian Paice (like last year) seem to be back with feeling (I used to think that since 80's they did it only for the money). It looked like Ian dropped a drumstick (it either broke or ran away from the pounding it had received) but he did not flinch during his solo. Roger not only kept it all together when all hell broke loose (old quote) but he added more class to the band's sound. To paraphrase a quote I think Jon Lord's organ has a hell of a lot to do with the sound of Deep Purple. It was in the background in the 80's and early 90's. To me there is nothing sweeter than a Hammond organ going through Leslie speakers. They should also have been married along side.

    I believe "Purpendicular" brought "religion" back to Deep Purple. Now the question is can they keep the momentum going? I am "praying" that they will (while I'm at it I'm also praying for better P.R. and some airplay on the radio).

    The bottom line is that I had a thoroughly enjoyable time seeing my favourite band in the world. Truly talented musicians playing good music (unlike the Rolling Stones). Thank you fellas'.

    As Ian Gillan said in closing: "Thank You, Merry Christmas and see you next year".

    Looking forward to it Ian.

Chicago IL.

P.S. Congratulations Steve & Jacqueline!

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