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

Chicago Dec 15th

Well, my friend Rico and I set out from Kansas City at 10:30 AM Sunday Dec 14th for Chicago. This was to be my 3rd Deep Purple concert, but my first since 1987. Rico had never seen Purple, but I had been coaching him and he was excited. How does one go about preparing someone to see Purple for the first time? Well, when you are driving 9 hours straight, you take along plenty of CD's! Between Kansas City and Chicago we got through, among others, Purpendicular, Machine Head, Fireball, In Rock, Made In Japan, & Perfect Strangers. We got to Chicago, and after checking into the hotel, went to check out the House Of Blues. We got there and found that speed metal kings Testament had played Sunday night (house of blues?) While the security people were clearing the house, they were kind enough to let Rico and I come in to check out the venue. A nice, small hall, with two balconys and a small main floor. They told us only 1000 tickets had been sold for the show on the 15th, but they expected more to be sold at the box office the night of the show. Satisfied that this was going to be a great place to see the band, we went back to the hotel to relax.

Monday morning we checked out Chicago and that afternoon, we went to the hotel bar to meet some people from the net. This was a highpoint of the trip for me. It truly showed me how much of a "universal band" Purple is. With Don and Glen from Canada, Doug from Scotland, Rico and I from Kansas, Collin from Chicago, Ron from Detroit, etc. among others it proved to me that Purple may not be selling as many records as in the 70's, but I'd bet there's not another band that can boast fans from all over the world at their shows like this one. These guys are truly nice people and they made the trip worthwhile to me. They also showed me that I'm just a novice when it comes to Purple collecting. My 100+ collection is nothing compared to what these guys have! :( If you guys are reading this, thanks again, I had a great time.

Well, show time came and we all walked to the HOB, Doug resplendent in his kilt! We got inside and moved to the middle of the floor, center stage. The lights went down and The New Meanies hit the stage around 9:00. With a lead singer that resembled a young Randy Bachman, had stage moves like Angus Young and sang like Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, they played a nice mix of bluesy/hard rock songs. Unforunately, nobody can hold your attention for long when you're waiting for Deep Purple. The crowd responded to them well, but it wasn't too long before yells for Purple started echoing through the hall. They played right around an hour and then were gone.

After an eternity, the lights went down again. The curtains opened and the crowd roared as the band came into view. With that familiar, crashing chord, the band launched into Hush. The sound was immaculate, the band was tight and the crowd sang along with every word. Hush ended and Little Ian led the band into a rousing version of Fireball. Without a doubt the best live version I've ever heard of this song. Roger in particular sounded great and the bass solo in the song was note perfect.

After a brief pause, Into the Fire. This song just ROCKED! Steve did a ripping solo on this number, but the real star was Ian Gillan. I don't know how or what he's done to his throat, but his voice sounds fantastic. He very much looks and sounds like the 1980 era Gillan. A fantastic performance.

The next song Ian introduced was off Purpendicular. "A true story about a guy named Ted". Sounding very much like the album, Steve took a much longer solo than on the CD. Just a great song.

When he introduced the next number as "a song we recorded in Montreaux in 1971", I think most people were expecting SOTW. Instead we were treated to a stunning version of Pictures Of Home. Once again the band sounded great and Ian in particular sang fantastic. Like on Fireball, Roger's bass solo was note perfect and the sound was unbelievable. After Pictures, Steve treated us to a long guitar solo which incorporated pieces of the Cascades... solo. Impressive technically, but I thought it upset the flow of the show.

The band went right from Steve's solo into Black Night. As with most of the other songs, the crowd sang along with Ian on this one, getting quite loud at times. A solid performance. I really like the way Steve and Jon trade chops on this arrangement.

The next number just took my breath away. Ian introduced it as "a number off of In Rock". Then the band exploded into Bloodsucker. Long one of my favorites off that album, I never thought I'd hear it live. Ian sounded f**king awsome and Steve and Jon traded vicious licks. A monster performance by all, but Gillans voice kept blowing me away.

Ian said the next song was "a love song, all about being alone in the hotel, with a tear running down your cheek". Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming was a very moving performance, with Steve just wailing on his solo. It gave me chills listening to him. A much more emotional performance than on the CD. Ian again sounded great on this song.

I need to mention here that the band was very obviously happy playing together. This was my first time seeing this line-up and they are fantastic together. None of the tension from the 87' tour when I saw them last.

Anyway, the next song was Woman From Tokyo. This was the first time I saw them play the whole song. When Ian sang the middle section, the whole crowd sang it with him. It was really cool hearing that many voices harmonizing with him.

Ian said "this next one is a work in progress, from the album we're recording now." Seventh Heaven starts out mellow, then gets heavier than hell! I mean this song just kicks ass! Steve's solo is really cool, starting out mellow and bluesy, then getting loud and heavy. A fantastic, complex piece of music. I hope this is what the next album sounds like.

Ian said "This one's off our Fireball album, it's called No One Came." Roger started it off with that booming bass line, then the band just stormed in with crushing intensity. Ian sang great, Steve and Jon's solo's rocked and the whole song just thundered along.

For the next song, Steve twiddled around on the guitar for a minute, then led the band into Smoke... With everyone in the audience singing along and the band just rocking out, you couldn't help getting caught up in the moment. I've stated before that after all these years I'm tired of this song, but live, like this, you can't help but get excited. I love watching this band just energize an audience and then feed off that energy. Amazing!

Smoke...ended and Jon did his solo. Not real exciting, but enjoyable enough. This led into When A Blindman Cries. Probably the highpoint of the evening for me. Ian's voice literally gave me chills. The mood of the song and Steve's emotional guitar work had me wiping tears from my face when it ended. F**king fantastic!!!!

Ian introduced "this last song, as a ballad he sang to his child everynight." Of course the ballad was Speed King. The other song I've never heard better live. Ian's voice was just note perfect again. Steve and Jon's frantic trade off's were stunning, then Ian and Steve did a nice vocal/guitar duel. The song built back up in intensity, then brought the set to a rousing climax. They left the stage at this point. The stage lights were left on, so I knew they'd be back. (Plus, I'd read the reviews of the other shows)

The band walked back on stage and Jon played the intro to Perfect Strangers. As the crowd roared in recognition, the rest of the band thundered in. A great version, with Steve doing great guitar fills and really doing the song justice. Ian thanked everyone for coming and said the last song was appropriate for everyone hitting the road. Little Ian and Roger started out the familiar chugging beat and Steve and Jon worked their sonic mayhem behind Ian's vocals. Another great job, with good solo's from Jon and Steve. Ian harmonized with the guitar solo like in the old days and sounded great.

The song ended and then they were gone. The lights came on and I stood there stunned. This was a fantastic show. I can't describe it any better than that. I've been reading the opposing opinions of the live shows from the Blackmore faction versus the Purple faction. True, they don't sound the same as with Ritchie. Now they sound happy. Now they look happy. Now we're hearing songs we never would have gotten before. If you like and miss Ritchie, and want to hear him play Purple tunes, go see Rainbow. You'll get Burn, Mistreated, Perfect Strangers, Woman From Tokyo and sometimes Smoke On The Water. You'll hear them played well enough, by a bunch of young guys with a great guitarist. If you want to hear a bunch of great Deep Purple songs, played f**cking fantastic by 80% of the band that wrote them, with a fantastic guitarist, go see Deep Purple. It's that simple. Thats what I did. Given the choice between Ritchie and his new band of the week or Deep Purple, I'll choose Purple 7 out of 7 days. Don't take my word for it. Go see them for yourself.

Jim C.

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