Hala Rondo, Belgrade,
Serbia & Montenegro

7th December 2003

To tell you the truth, I never expected any less than a mindblowing performance from a band whose reputation, and that's exactly what Belgrade was treated to after 28 years of Purple abstinence.

Arriving at the venue, a huge Belgrade Fair hall, the most noticable thing was that, despite the expected "mix of generations" in the audience, young people of age ranging from 15 to 25 were the dominant category, and as they showed later on they were familiar with the new material as well as with the old. Having got there early, we got a caught the support acts: first a "domestic" hard-rock band called Royal Apartment who did a pretty good job, then some Slovenian band whose singer was the definition of "dreadfull", doing all he could to ruin an otherwise fine performance by the rest of the band.

A few last soundchecks by the crew and then - the lights went out and the crowd went nuts! Or should I say bananas? Ian Paice showed up first, greeting us all from behind the drumkit. Then the four other Gods ran onto stage, all in great mood, looking shiny 'n' happy! The well-known drum beat started followed by Steve's incredible engine guitar-effects, Glover and Airey joined in the final notes of the intro, and then Ian Gillan burst in with ... "Nobody gonna take my car...". He seemed in incredible shape, and the audience sang right along with him. From the very first verse of Highway Star it was clear that Gillan's voice was in fantastic shape. He really was the star of the show, throughout the entire gig he kept his voice on the same (high) level, sounding so powerful... better than I've heard on any live recordings from the last ten years. He just gets better with age! Bearing in mind that this gig was the conclusion of the tour I expected him to sound a bit weary and flat. But - my concernes were unjustified! Add the fabulous showmanship and interaction with the crowd and you get one 1st class frontman.

As for the others, it could have hardly been any better. Paicey is a monster, what shocked everyone about him is how he makes it all look so effortless. Morse was fabulous, bringing enormous positive energy into the band. He got huge cheers from the crowd after the beautiful and extended Contact Lost and then Well Dressed Guitar. Roger was solid as always, keeping it all going in proper direction, his moment was Hush, the solo spot he did at the end of it included the bass-line from the sadly missed Pictures of Home. As for Don, I am now 150% sure he was the best possible Jon Lord replacement. He's captured Lord's exact sound, and contributes big-time to the overall impression. A huge cheer for him too, during his interpretation of Fur Elise in his solo spot. All variations of keyboards were demonstrated, from the classic heavy organ to the "eighties" sound.

I've Got Your Number was particulary cool but then so were House of Pain and Doing it Tonight which was the particularly good fun, with Gillan doing certain "hip gestures"! The highlights to me were Space Truckin' (which I now appreaciate more thanks to this gig), Perfect Strangers and both encore songs: Hush and Black Night (which had the entire crowd singing and howling along with the riff).

Speaking of riffs, Smoke on the Water was introduced in an odd fashion. Ian first went to the mic to speak out and then changed his mind by simply pointing to Steve who instantly went into The Riff without the usual riff parade. Nice one! At the end of the 1 hour and 45 minutes long show, the band stayed on stage to throw guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd, rounding off a magnificent evening that wasn't even spoiled by a few guys being run over on the way out. Guess they're fine... My first DP gig, and out of this world!!! May it happen again!

review: Andrej Vidovic

deep purple 2003 reviews