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


Friday, December 12, 1997:
Deep Purple overcomes initial sound problems and lays waste to New Orleans.

Saturday, December 13, 1997:
Deep Purple comes blazing out of the starting gate, knocks the Earth out of it’s orbit and into the Sun which moments later goes super nova.

The Setlist appeared to be the same as the Atlanta and Florida shows with the omission of the new song “Any Fool Knows That.” I’ll echo the postive reactions to the other new song, however. “Seventh Heaven” was absolutely stunning. It rocked hard and heavy in a very Deep Purple in Rock vein. The song itself starts out with some quiet errie cymbal work by Ian Paice. After a moment Steve Morse joins in fingerpicking a very note rich Steve Morse sort of pattern. It begins with a very happy (major scale) sort of sound and then starts to mutate, taking on a darker (more minor) tonality before wringing out a last tense note that holds until the band explodes into this wonderfully heavy and rapid riff. The song churns along, breaking into silence in two or three places for just a moment as Gillan breathes out the words, “Seventh Heaven.” The song got a great reaction from the crowd. Anyway the setlist was as below. The total running time was about 1:45 with the encore taking about 15 minutes.

1. Hush
2. Fireball
3. Into The Fire
4. Ted the Mechanic
5. Pictures of Home
6. Cascades Solo
7. Black Night
8. Bloodsucker
9. Sometime I Feel Like Screaming
10. Woman From Tokyo
11. Seventh Heaven
12. No One Came
13. Smoke on the Water
14. Organ Solo
15. When a Blind Man Cries
16. Speed King
17. (Encore) Perfect Strangers
18. Highway Star

The same opening band, “New Meanies” from Winnipeg Canada, played both nights. They were pretty good on the whole -(I had very low expectations for the opening act). They were kind of a hyperactive version of the “Spin Doctors” with a touch of Kenny Wayne Sheppard thrown in. The House of Blues itself was quite small, as was the stage. Deep Purple, in fact, just barely fit on the stage. From left to right Steve’s amps butted up against Jon’s Hammond (The Hammond was facing straight out with the electric Piano layed out “purpendicularly” on Jon’s left. Ian Paice’s drum kit squoze in next and was bracketed on the right side of the stage by Roger’s Amps. Ian Gillian,(and his congo’s) were centered at stage front and there was just enough room for Steve and Roger to walk back and forth a bit, but it was very tight quarters.

I thought the Sunrise Theater in Ft. Luaderdale three years ago was a wonderful, intimate setting with a great view, but this was significantly smaller. The absence of furniture however truely allowed it to be standing room only - this really was an INTIMATE setting for the crowd. Both nights I managed to hold a spot just off center about seven feet from the stage - so close that I could read the fine print on the headstock of steve’s guitar and see every note he played. The two previous times I saw them I was standing on a balconey at Reunion Area in Dallas (‘85) and at the back of the Sunrise Theater (‘95). All great shows but seeming them up close, really getting to watch them play was simply amazing.

As I mentioned at the top the Friday show started with a few sounds problems. The mix seemed a bit off and Steve was constantly gesturing to his guitar tech and making turn it up motions. Ian Gillan also came in and out a few times before stabilizing. By about the third or fourth song the sound was in pretty good shape except for the Hammond which was hard to make out except in solo spots for most of the evening. At first I was a bit worried, the sound problems seemed to keep things from getting completly in sync. I knew how I expected to feel, sitting in a Deep Purple show (and the reviews of the earlier shows in the tour had bolstered that). During “Pictures of Home” though, things really clicked and I began to see the smiles and really feel the confidence and personality of the band shining, through. By the end I was totally wrung out and smiling from ear to ear.

Two things really stood out to me. Roger was running all over the bass like a madman. I’ll swear he was playing a new pattern on the Woman From Tokyo intro - just blazing notes out of that thing! The second thing was true to form. Deep Purple songs always seem improve over time (i.e. perfect strangers rocks so much harder now than it did on the album and early live versions). Well I really liked SIFLS on Purpendicular and was really, really moved by the version on LATO, but hearing it live was just incredible. The subtlty, power, and contrast in that song were simply amazing. This was probably the biggest surprise of the show. (Bloodsucker was also incredible, but in a different way and I was expecting it.)

Talking to the sound board guy after the show, he confirmed that Jon was using a rented Hammand (guess his is still in the shop) and that the small nature of the venue made it hard to get enough PA setup. Apparrently packing the Hall with people also changed the accoustics. After the show I hooked up with some of the internet crowd and we all went out for Beingets (French dounts).

Saturday, I showed up and staked out my same spot on the floor. (A real exercise in holding it!) When the opening band began, my first thought was that the sound was better. I recalled not being able to understand their singer the night before. I just began hoping and praying that the sound crew had been able to adapt to the constraints of the hall. I wasn’t dissappointed. Deep Purple walked on stage to huge appluase and from the first chord of Hush, it was clear that the sound was hugely improved. Each instrument (including the Hammand) was clear and solid from the first note. At every Purple show I’ve had this feeling of “waves of personality” just radiating from the stage and this one took the cake. The crowd was dancing almost non-stop and were totally worked up to a mad frenzy by the time Highway Star closed the set.

Speaking of which...two odd events bookended the Saturday show. About 15 minutes before DP came on, a big shaggy haired guy in a red and white jacket started leading the audience in a left side-right side “DEEP” - “PURPLE.” Chant. They finally got worn out and quit and I forgot about him. Then the theater lights dropped and we could see the band waiting just off stage. Then before the House of Blues guy could get to the mike to introduce them, the cheerleader leaped on stage (no barriers or gap), raised his arms and bellowed into the mike, “COME ON YOU GUYS! THIS IS DEEP PURPLE!!!” About a half second later a roadie had his arm twisted around like a pretzel and he disappeared off stage. I don’t know what happened to him for sure. I guess they either tied him up and let him watch from off stage or they booted him out of the theater! Then, at the very end of Highway Star some young kid leaped up on stage, took a quick step or two and then hurled himself into the audience landing square on the people in front of me and hitting my wrist. In the melee he dissappeared and during a break in the singing Ian Gillan peered into the audience and asked over the mike if everyone was allright and was answered by positive nods. Then a few minutes later - it all happened again. The same kid made it back to the front, hit the stage, jumped, landed on the people right in front of me....Oh well. Someone said later that the band had paused or jerked when the incididents happened. I don’t know. I didn’t notice it but I was busy trying not to get landed on. Anyway, it was a fantastic show. The best of the four I’ve seen and it should make for a great cybercast this Friday.

Due to the kindness of some very nice people I was given a backstage pass after the show (Thanks again, by the way). There was a nice reception area set up and band members wandered out, chatted, signed some autographs and posed for a few pictures. I’d met Steve, Roger and Jon briefly outside the Ft. Luaderdale show 3 years ago but got to spend a few moments with all five that night. I didn’t have anything particularly intelligent to say other than to thank them for two fantastic shows and all the great music. Ian Paice hung around and we talked about his theory on drum soloing, etc. As others who’ve met them have mentioned they’re all just very freindly, gentlemanly people and were very gracious with a bit of their time. I also got to chat with Colin Hart for a few minutes - super nice guy. It certainly wasn’t like the “wild” Rock and Roll backstages I had imagined during the seventies (no particular band in mind). In fact three of us appeared to be around 30ish and were employed as a lawyer, geologist, and a computer scientist. Oh yeah - apparently Steve Morse is getting married soon. It came up early in conversation (to congrats from all) and shortly thereafter a chilled bottle of Champagne arrived for him.

The shows were fantastic and the band members were just super people. I’ve already had a very merry Christmas THAAAANK YOOOOUU!!!!


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