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

Deep Purple - House of Blues, Atlanta, GA, USA
Friday, December 5, 1997

The House of Blues in Atlanta recently reopened after its original debut during the Olympics. A wonderfully intimate environment for any concert. I'd been to its tent during the Olympics, but this was my first time in the actual hall. The building is a converted church building with two balconies. The balconies had seats while the bottom level contained the stage and a couple of bars but was otherwise open. Behind the stage were the large pipes of an old pipe organ. It seemed quite the appropriate setting for DP.

The show opened a little after 9:00PM with Chaotic Past. Musically, I enjoyed most of their stuff, but it seemed an odd opening act for DP. The closest label for this 3-piece band would be a HR/HM band with a grunge guitarist. Good bass (when he wasn't pulling out his own plugs or getting tangled in the drums) and excellent drums but they also kept assuring the crowd that DP would be coming on shortly. It was a good thing and the crowd responded warmly.

When Chaotic Past went off, it was obvious that DP was going to be using a minimalist stage. This was fine by me. JL was set up backstage right, IP - backstage left, SM front and right, RG front and left, IG center with his bongos in front of JL. The lights went down a little before 10 o'clock and the place erupted. From the darkness a familiar power chord rang out, followed by another, then the rhythm of "Hush" set in. Here's a complete list:

Into the Fire
Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic
Pictures of Home

Black Night
Any Fool Knows That
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
Woman From Tokyo
"a passionate love song"/Mary (?)
Rosa's Cantina
No One Came

Smoke On the Water

When A Blind Man Cries
Speed King

Encores: Perfect Strangers
Highway Star

total time: ~2hrs 15mins

What a great set. I left the venue singing "Into the Fire" and still can't get it out of my head. But let me get the few shortcoings out first. Firstly, not enough organ! JL was having some amp troubles though perhaps the mix was wrong also. SM kept signalling the sound board to raise JL's sound higer, but Jon was drowned out for almost the first half of the show. Perhaps it was the acoustics of the hall (I was five feet from center stage) because I -and most of the people around me- also had difficulty hearing the vocals. Things were a little distorted. But only one solo from JL! :( Fortunately there was a lot of interplay.

Secondly, the set seemed very unrehearsed. Yes, I know it was the first night, but IG had lyric sheets out for almost all of the songs. It was hard to tell when he was using them, but it was very obvious during the two new songs and also SIFLS. There were also a couple of missed cues for solos. RG seemed to be the man in charge of saying who soloed when and JL and SM had questions for him during the show.

However, these things were overshadowed by the enthusiasm of the band. RG and SM were particularly aflame. IG's voice was in top notch shape and we were treated to many howls as well as some of the finest vocal work in the business. Paicey kept the thunder going but JL seemed to take a while to fire up. Perhaps coincidentally (if you believe in coincidence), JL didn't seem to get his rhythm until the sound problems were fixed.

As for the set list, who could ask for more? I missed not hearing "Aviator" and "Cascades", but I never expected to hear "Into the Fire" or "No One Came". PoH was wonderful, RG tearing it up and then the rest of the band just kicking booty. SM first solo featured a lot of harmonics and then, as the rest of the band provided some rhythm, he started playing a familiar guitar lick. As my brain was deciphering it, the band suddenly broke into BN. Wow! The band also seared through SIFLS, my favorite from the last studio album. SM came over and helped RG with the background vocals.

WaBMC was superb. IG's vocals were fabulous and SM's guitar was superb. I think that it was the only time during the show that the audience was quiet. The song seemed to melt the years off of the band and was a high point of the night. Following it with the "other old ballad" was SK. It was a good thing that we all had a breather, because the place went nuts. During the guitar/organ duel, SM leaned against an amp next to JL and played his heart out. To end the duel, SM played a wicked little riff and JL stood up and just looked at him. The two of them seemed to spar vocally and then SM sat down in JL's offered chair while JL leaned against the piano. The lights flicked out from the keyboard riser and IP laid down some noise. After a short solo, SM began jamming with RG when IG walked out on stage. It looked rather impromptu, but SM got a duel reminiscent of SKoW with IG. Ian, seemingly flustered by SM's playing, at one point began to pull at his neck with his hand to produce a warbling sound. SM had a shocked look on his face, but IG (and most of the crowd) simply laughed on.

The two new songs were both very good. The first one: "Any Fool Know That" seems like it could be a good single. It seemed to have a good hook and chorus, and was rather polished. IG didn't supply a title for the second new song, describing it only as "A love song. A passionate love song. Actually, I don't think there's any other kind!" This song was a good rocker. Live, it sounded harder than anything on Purpendicular. It's bridge/chorus had something to do with "Sweet Mary" or "something Mary".

I think it's obligatory, since this was DP's first show in Atlanta since the personnel change, to make "the comparison". A lot of people seemed to have walked into the show without having heard the last album, only knowing that RB was gone and that SM was in. However, by the end of the show, most of these people were asking, "Richie who?!?". SM did an incredible job on the axe! He truly controlled the stage, cueing the other members for changes, laughing affably with JL during a couple of the duals (most notably the SK dual), trying to get the sound quality correct, and just burning up the frets. The band played very loose and they all really seemed to enjoy being there and, from the little I know :), I think that SM is a major factor in that.

Lastly, I was kinda surprised by the bootlegging. Gone are the old days of sneaking a cheap old tape recorder past the security guards! There were two people near me recording the show, one of them brought in a little hand held video camera. I always knew that video cameras gave a much better sound recording than cassettes, but I'd never thought of this! Occassionally, he would take a couple seconds of video, but mostly he had the visual aspect shut down (to conservere battery strength?) and simply recorded the gig. Another guy had his digital cordless phone turned on. I assume he had someone on the other end recording the whole thing. I was amazed and impressed. I'd also like a copy, so please e-mail and we'll work out a trade!

Jonathon Moorman

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