Deep Purple

Royal Albert Hall

September 25, 1999

This is really hard.

I don't know what to say about the concert I just saw. I don't have anything to compare it to. I have never seen anything like it. I loved it. I want to see it again and again... ok, so I am seeing it again tomorrow anyway. It's after midnight and I'm totally drained, mentally and emotionally, so excuse me if this is not very coherent.

The Royal Albert Hall. This is an amazing building. I have never seen a building like it. You walk in and already you feel intimidated. It's just so big and elaborate and just so different to any other concert hall. Anyway, I got a sort of peculiar swivelling off to the side sort of seat that seemed roughly equivalent to about 12 rows back in a normal hall. An excellent seat. I could see and hear everything perfectly.

The London Symphony Orchestra. You know the interesting thing about an orchestra? The men have to wear white evening dress and black tie, but the women can apparently wear what they like. The ones in black dresses seemed to fit in best, but I think the Asian violinist's purple dress was quite appropriate.

The concert opened with Malcolm Arnold's Scottish Dances. This is a great piece of music. It would have been nice to hear something like his 6th Symphony instead, but the dances were more sensible time-wise I expect. The conductor (Paul Mann) explained that Sir Malcolm could not attend due to poor health but he had sent his best wishes anyway...

Jon Lord then played two pieces from his Pictured Within album. First Pictured Within with Millar Anderson singing. Then Wait A While with Sam Brown singing. This was sooooo good. I cried all the way through Pictured..., then when Sam came forward I was completely surprised. None of the guest rumours of the last few weeks had mentioned her but I had really really hoped to see her. And I really wanted her to perform Wait A While. I love that song so much and her voice is fantastic. She sings just as well live as she does on record.

Anyway... some more musicians came on stage, including Roger Glover and Ronnie James Dio. Yes, Dio was there as rumoured and sang two songs from the Butterfly Ball: Living in a Dream and Love is All, and they both sounded great with an orchestra. Dio's voice is still good. I think he sounded better than I remember him when I saw him way back in 198mumblemumble. But the amplification was at a sensible level and I think the sound of the entire show was just generally better than I am used to from live concerts.

Ok, Ian Gillan came on next. Good grief, he had some kind of white robe with a gold jacket and looked like a cross between... well I don't know what, but two very odd things. He sang Via Miami, a song that I thought everybody except me had forgotten about, then That's Why God is Singing the Blues from his last album. Steve Morris played guitar on both, including a good slide solo. Both good songs and not the type of song Ian normally sings. It was cool.

Steve Morse came on, with the Steve Morse Band, and played two of his own songs. I didn't know this band was so good. Why hasn't somebody told me to buy all their albums??? I didn't know the first tune, it was a slow laid-back sort of thing. The second tune rocked more and I sort of recognised it because it's the tune Tommy Vance used to play on the Friday Rock Show years and years ago...

Finally, Ian Paice came on with an odd collection of musicians. Steve Morse introduced it as an "impromptu jazz orchestra". There were horns and a violin. Anyway, they played a jazz version of Wring That Neck. On record, and in other live versions, Ritchie totally dominates the song, so it was really strange to hear it with no guitar. You realise that it's actually a very strong drum song, which is obviously why Paice picked it. Ian played it fairly straight. You always think he's going to break out into a mad solo but he never quite does.

Anyway, then there was an interval, which was good because I had to get a t-shirt. Hmmm... no time to describe the t-shirt, this is too long already...

The second part started with the Concerto itself. This is

Ok, I have to explain something... this is the only Deep Purple concert I have ever sat down for. Everybody sat down. The audience was really restrained for the Concerto. Sort of respectful, if you see what I mean. Except for a couple of MORONS at the back who kept shouting for Highway Star and were obviously in the wrong concert. Anyway, I wondered if the audience was just bored, or if everybody was just waiting for Highway Star, but the ovations at the end of each movement were huge... everybody was just so into it I thought it was I don't know I just haven't had an experience like it. The re-scored Concerto seemed so close to the original, I couldn't really detect any differences in the orchestration. But the band parts were different. Steve Morse. Oh my god Steve Morse, I thought he would play the guitar part as originally scored (i.e. "Ritchie") but he just played "Steve" and he's so good. He just went off doing his own solo, then when the rest of the band joins in and he has to fit with the orchestra, he plays "Ritchie"... then he does a "Steve" solo... are you following this? And, listen, he's SO GOOD. I wonder if these violin players look at him and think: "This is the best musician I have ever seen."

So the first movement is good, all orchestra and guitar and organ. Then the second movement is the slow one and has the blues tune and the vocal passage and Ian's voice is still perfect. It's weird to see the band sitting down, and reading music, and so on. Oh, here's an interesting thing: while Paul Mann conducts the orchestra, Jon Lord conducts the band. Roger seems to know what he's doing, but Steve and the Ians watch Jon for their cues I think... Anyway, the final movement is the loud fast one... oh, I forget the technical term for it... but that means DRUMS and the drums are huge massive crashing and FAST and there's more guitar and Steve is still playing like Steve...

Then it's all over and the crowd cheers forever. Then the band play a short set of their material, with the orchestra joining in selected places. Odd song choices, but nothing I would complain about. Mostly new stuff: Ted the Mechanic (great), Watching the Sky (cool, almost like it was meant to have a backing orchestra), Sometimes I feel Like Screaming (utterly utterly beautiful guitar passages, I wish there had been more) and Pictures of Home (with all the usual stuff). Great choices.

Finally... finally... EVERYBODY came back on stage and played Smoke on the Water. Well, what else could they do? This was incredible. Two guitars, two drummers, two bass guitars, organ, jazz band, orchestra, and a huge number of singers (about 5000 I think). Ronnie Dio sang the middle verse... that was really odd... and everybody seemed happy... and, oh yeah, we all stood up for it. Well, because you have to. Because it's the greatest rock song ever written. I don't know how this whole mass of musicians worked, but they did. Everything was so clear and just meshed together. It was a wonderful, special, magical ending.

Except nobody wanted it to end. Everybody stood and clapped and shouted and cheered. The house lights came on and nobody left. The canned music came on and nobody left. The orchestra packed up and nobody left. Finally, Ian Gillan came out and said "Thanks but that's it, the end of the concert. Jon's being sick in the toilet." So we left.

"No matter what we get out of this, I know we'll never forget."