Little did the capacity crowd at Portsmouth Guildhall on Monday night know just how new Deep Purple’s opening number "Highway Star" really was. On the coach on the way down from London, Ian Gillan asked for suggestions for titles for a rock number, Roger Glover suggested "Highway Star", and Ian set to writing it. It was finished during rehearsals and performed for the first time three hours later!

It was the start of Purple’s new British tour and if the audience reaction at Pompey is anything to go by, it’ll be a stormer.
A lot of venues are already sold out.

Before the coach set out on what developed into a NEMS works outing presided over by section leader Peter "I hate bouncers" Bowyer, Ian Gillan talked about the plans for the proceedings, telling me: "We’re only keeping two of the old numbers, putting in three from the new album and there will be two completely new numbers" "‘Strange Kinda Woman’ developed into a very good number in America so we’re dropping things like ‘Wring that Neck’, ‘Black Night’,and ‘Speed King’ ," (the latter was, in fact, later included as an encore), "and now we’re just keeping our fingers crossed. I’ve got butterflies, I always do before a new tour starts."

And so the concert which began late due to Bullet’s van containing the gear breaking down. Bullet is a new band formed by two former members of Atomic Rooster with some mates, including the formidable Johnny Gustafson. Johnny wasn’t at all pleased with the way things went and in fairness to the band I’ll reserve my judgement until later. It was their debut and not undertaken under the best circumstances - they had to borrow Purple’s equipment and dash on stage very quickly. (I should point out that after the concert I asked Roger Glover about Purple’s performance and his comments are recorded below with mine.)

"Highway Star" is a very fast chugging rock and roll number, a good solid opener with Roger and Ritchie Blackmore working very closely together. It has all the hallmark of a typical Purple belter and should become a firm favourite quite soon.

Roger: That came off very well, I’m looking forward to recording that, we’ll be doing it on the next album, which, incidentally will be out a lot sooner than this one was after ‘In Rock’, probably February. I was very pleased with the way it went.

The revamped ‘Strange Kinda Woman’ is a lot cleaner, Ritchie’s solo in particular being more defined and clear cut,

‘No No No’ , from the album got the reception it deserved, being heavy and forceful. Ritchie excelled yet again and Ian Gillan had a good time with his maraccas which always seem to egg on an audience.

Roger: I enjoyed it because it’s a stompy kind of thing. We run the risk of doing all our numers too fast, it’s good to slow it down sometimes. Perhaps it was a bit too fast.

My old favourite, ‘Child in Time’, had Jon Lord and Ian Paice really getting together for a swinging jazz passage which Jon and Ritchie transformed into a rock session. Ian Gillan brought his congas on to add to the overall sound. Then we got ‘The Mule’, also from the album, and what Ian Gillan described as "a perverted interpretation" Little Ian got very busy taking his solo here instead of on ‘Paint it Black’ and the feel of the number differed a lot from the one on record.

Roger: We re-arranged it and played a completely different rhythm from the record, which just didn’t work on stage when we tried it a few months ago somewhere.

Another new one was ‘Lazy’ during which Ritchie popped in with a splendid sequence after a period of calm.

Roger: I really enjoyed doing that, that’ll be on the next album as well. There was one incredible mistake at the end when it all stopped - Ritchie was supposed to do something and we all stopped and were standing their with our heads nodding in time, but he didn’t and it ended. Actually it worked quite well, perhaps we’ll leave it like that.

And to the end which was ‘Fireball’ itself. Another bass drum was brought on for little Ian who explained later that he needs two to get the volume because of the speed at which he has to play. In all its glory, it was snap, crackle and wallop! Just what was needed.

Roger: I didn’t think we’d be able to do it on stage, but it worked very well.

As I said earlier ‘Speed King’ became the encore and a very extended version of ‘Lucille’ the second encore. Unfortunally a couple of stewards got a bit out of hand, but Ian Gillan, spotting this, provoked the kids to such heights of excitement that the bouncers gave up and stopped it.

Summing up, then, a helluva concert with a pleasing transition from the old stage act. It all went off very well and satisfied all the demands.

Roger: I enjoyed it because we were doing something new. There was a lot of fire on stage and everyone was happy and I think it showed in the music.

Richard Green / New Musical Express 18 september 1971