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Ian Gillan with the Bruckner Orchestra

Linz, Austria, 31st March 2010

The show was virtually sold out, and the age group was as varied as it usually is for Deep Purple performances. On my left was a man aged around 70, and in front of me there was a 16-year-old girl.

This was my fourth time seeing Ian performing with an orchestra. Friedman Riehle conducted The Bruckner Orchestra and glamorous violinist Lidia Baich was a special guest. (Lidia jammed on stage with Deep Purple in 2007, and played on Don Airey's last solo album).

Set-list: Highway Star / Strange Kind of Woman / Woman From Tokyo / Wasted Sunsets / Ted the Mechanic (Lidia Baich) / No Lotion For That / Pictures of Home / Fireball (Lidia Baich) / Perfect Strangers / When a Blind Man Cries / Black Night / Smoke on the Water / Pictures of Home .

The show did not involve Ian throughout. The orchestra performed ‘Out of the Universe’ just before he took the stage and ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’ before the intermission. They basically followed the set list I saw in Germany. Before ‘Out of the Universe’, two attractive girls from the Czech Republic performed ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’, and ‘Show Must Go On’. It was a nice introduction for the main event.

What was striking was how the sound of the orchestra blended with the vocals. It was so clear. Each and every instrument was audible. For the first time in my life, I did not see the show from the first row. Thus, I could really appreciate the work of the sound engineer – brilliant. As I found out later Ian brought Deep Purple’s sound engineer with him so everything worked like clockwork. Ian’s voice seemed to drift from the stage through towards the back wall of the venue, bounce off it, and fall swiftly down without returning. Great work!

The show was a fusion thing, performed with excitement and greeted with lots of enthusiasm. Thanks to the combination of Friedman’s work, the sound engineer’s input and Ian’s voice, the ambience was there, and an elusive, evergreen element of Deep Purple was captured. Obviously it was a different mood from Deep Purple, but the spirit was there. Ian was in good shape although he seemed a bit tired. Mind you, he had just come back from Armenia, where he recorded a DVD, took part in a lot of press conferences and interviews, and was guest in a local ‘Idol’ type of TV show. Nevertheless, he put on a terrific performance and managed to deliver the goods once again. Those fans who wanted high fives with Ian could easily approach the stage and do it.

I personally treat Ian’s solo shows with an orchestra as a chance for him to keep the vocals hot and take a break from singing in high register. I mean he does not need to scream because for me he can do without it. He has a terrific timbre now. ‘Highway Star’ without any screams sounded very distinctive. Instead of screaming ‘I love her, I need her, I bleed her’ he sang it in the manner of ‘Better Days’ from On Eye To Morocco – as a sort of whisper. It worked for me!

It is really refreshing to witness Ian performing in a different manner with 85 people on stage with him. 86 when Lidia appeared. Her touches in ‘Ted The Mechanic’ and ‘Fireball’ were great. In ‘Ted’ she played the guitar solo part, and in ‘Fireball’ filled in around the keyboard parts. And she nailed both. I was really amazed. The orchestra, Lidia’s violin (her beauty too), and Ian’s voice is a combination that is hard to come by, and for me personally, it was the embodiment of high culture.

There were absolutely no glitches whatsoever. The orchestra's takes on Deep Purple cuts were both spot-on and tasteful. I had tears in my eyes when I heard ‘Wasted Sunsets’ sung by Ian for the first time in my life. It was a very emotional moment for me, and he sounded so much better than on the ‘Perfect Strangers’ album. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think he had to mature to perform some pieces with the much emotion which he puts in nowadays. I didn't even miss the guitar sound. The title cut from 1984 album was performed in a fashion that sent shivers down my spine. The encore was ‘Pictures of Home’, performed in its original rock form given an orchestral momentum. The guitar and organ parts were taken by the orchestra and Ian’s vocals provided the tune. ‘No Lotion For That’, is a swinging rock’n’roll track that caught me daydreaming about the Morocco tour.

This was an enjoyable and surprising evening, which needs to be experienced to be able to fully appreciate the overall talents of this truly unique performer.

review: Marcin Rybacki

Ian Gillan : One Eye To Morocco is available from dpas mail order.