The venue was some 360km away from home and when we (2 families) made it to collect our tickets in the afternoon sun (outside the stadium), the local usher knowing where we came from – Singapore, was very surprised and moved by our support. He gave us a VIP peek into the stage and allowed us to take a few souvenir shots (Editor: photos were unfortunately never archived). Deep Purple were not there for the sound check (who needs it?) but it was reassuring enough.
The concert started at 8:55pm (scheduled for 8:30pm) with some 20,000 impatient and rock hungry fans. In this part of the world, rock concerts were few and far in between, especially for such a big acts. This was Deep Purple’s virgin visit and the sight of their heroes were reason enough to celebrate and cheer for the waiting was over.
I was about 20 rows from the stage (7 o’clock) and looking up, there were these huge stacks of speaker staring back at me. But there was a sigh of relief when the first kick drum and heavy guitar riff came through. No frills, no fireworks, no laser show, Deep Purple appeared in the fresh with ‘Ted the Mechanic’ as the opening number. It was loud, heavy, full with no distortion. Gillan’s vocals was loud n clear, Roger’s bass line was as firm as ever, Ian Paice could play drums in his sleep and Jon Lord still rocking his Hammond with his long white hair. Never did I expect them to sound this good and tight after so many long years.
The Deep Purple’s set comprised mainly of the 70s classic albums. All my favourites were performed “Strange Kind of Women”, “Women from Tokyo”, “Speed King”, “Fireball”, “Pictures of Home” etc. The ones that were given a miss were “Child In Time” and “Space Truckin”. I was particularly moved when the first few guitar licks of “Strange” was performed. You see, I grew up rocking with “Made In Japan” and seeing and hearing this number performed in front of me really got me quite emotional.
Predictably, the crowd was less enthusiastic when the new materials were played. Many have waited as many as 30 years to hear those opening chords of “Smoke on the Water”. I was lucky and also unlucky to see Deep Purple in their tour back in 3 July 1990 (Editor: still searching for this original ticket stub) at the Singapore National Stadium. I saw Blackmore in the line-up with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals but it was the worst gig of my life. Blackmore’s unpredictable mood spoilt the whole show. He was such a kid unwilling to play. He “performed” about half of the show, constantly walking in and out of the stage and did not finish the show. Towards the end, the singer had to double up as lead guitarist. There were some 30,000 very disappointed fans on that forgettable evening.
Guitarist Steve Morse is a suitable and honest replacement. During the show, he injected much pace and fun into Deep Purple and was the liveliest. In the jam session, we saw him hammering his guitars proving why he is amongst the rock elite guitarists. Despite his reputation as a guitar hero and having to pick up much of the Deep Purple legendary sound, Steve Morse managed to pick his moments and laid his mark in Blackmore’s signatures solo. Credit to him, the result did not make the song or solo unrecognisable but was fresh yet exciting.
The show closed with 2 encore numbers “Highway Star” and “Black Night” which were wildly applauded. It was a 2 hours rock solid experience. A Blackmore-less night that shone brightly. It was surely worth my trip and every penny. My minor critique was Jon Lord’s timing was off occasionally and he did not play his solos matching those locked in my memory and Gillian did struggled a little to reach the high notes towards the end.
Would I travel another 360km for another Deep Purple gig? Well, I would if David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes are coming along. At the meantime, I would also love to catch Grand Funk Railroad, Bad Company, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, Rush, Kiss and many more. I just cannot afford to wait another 30 years.
Note: This flashback article first appeared on my blog cyberway.hi-infidelity.com back in 1999. Regrettably, I did not archive the pictures and they are now gone forever.