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Review:Deep Purple Live In Lebanon


Mont La Salle Arena, Beirut, Lebanon 8 July 1997

Deep Purple rocked the Mont La Salle Arena yesterday to the delight of the lebanese fans who were experiencing the band for the first time. While Gillan and Glover performed here with Episode 6 in the 60's, this was actually Deep Purple's first time here. A delay of over two hours due to congestion on Lebanon's lone northern highway did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the several thousand in attendance who cheered mightily as their heroes took the stage at 10:05. Hush was followed by Fireball which featured a solo from Roger Glover, and Into The Fire which gave Lebanese fans their first look at Steve Morse in action.

The beauty of the surrounding pine forest and the new moon opposite the stage elicited a comment from Ian Gillan who then introduced Ted TheMechanic and along with his cohorts proceeded to rock the mountainside. The band was in top form: Morse, Gillan and Glover in the front line wearing broad smiles and dancing about as Lord and Paice both in dark shades pounded out the distinctive groove that is vintage Purple.

Ian Gillan was ever the diplomat the ambassador of good vibes as he continually amused the crowd with gestures, jokes and comments. He mistakenly introduced Pictures Of Home as a song off the album Fireball (later correcting himself) but nobody seemed to mind as Steve's pyrotechnics ripped through the evening air. Black Night followed and mid way through, Morse took a lengthy solo backed by Ian Paice while the rest of the group disappeared back stage. Steve got the crowd to chant in unison repeating his guitar phrases before the rest of the band joined in and brought the song to a frenzied finale.

Blood Sucker maintained the level of intensity, the musicians making up in performing zeal for what the sound system lacked in decibels. Pausing between songs, Gillan, holding the only vocal microphone on stage, walked over to Morse and said: "I don't believe you've met; Steve this is mic, mic this is Steve". For many in the audience it was a dream come true to see Jon Lord banging on his battered Hammond, Paice behind his lefty drum kit, the ride nestled between the toms, Glover, complete with hat, looking not a day older than he did on early album sleeves, and Gillan, the singular link between fans and band, alternating between congas, tambourine and air guitar whenever he wasn't singing. Steve Morse, with his Indian bead necklace and cowboy aura looked quite at home and incorporated an Arabic scale into his solo on Cascades. Woman From Tokyo featured a piano solo from Lord. Gillan played harp on Rosa's Cantina and on No One Came did a dance with the mic stand while Roger and Steve performed the obligatory twin dance of the axe players.

And then they played the anthem. The crowd went wild upon hearing the high hat and the opening chords and sang along on Smoke On The Water as they had on Hush and Woman From Tokyo. Roger had switched to the Rickenbacker for this one song and Lord wowed them with his classic organ riffs. When A Blind Man Cries was rendered particularly beautiful owing to Glover's fingerwork (the only song on which he didn't use a pick). Gillan introduced the next song as a ballad with which he lulls his daughter to sleep and tore through a version of Speed King which featured a hot guitar-organ exchange, a charged Paice solo, and a vocal/hammond trade-off before the band wrapped it up and made their exit.

Fans, ranging in age from forty something to teens, and a few children, chanted Deep Purple for about three minutes bringing the band back for two encores. Perfect Strangers and Highway Star completed the evening. Paice flicked his sticks into the crowd, Morse dispensed a dozen picks and Lord and Glover waved as Gillan shouted to the crowd: " You've been great". And then they were gone. It was 11:45. Fans, thoroughly elated, headed home with the satisfaction that comes from having waited a long time for an event and then having it materialize before their eyes.

Munir Khauli
Beirut, Lebanon

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