Jon Lord

Sala Palatului, Bucharest, Romania
November 5th 2009

"Performed in the capital of Romania this fantastic event featured Jon Lord joined by Bulgarian musicians: The Roussè Philharmonic-Opera Orchestra, conducted by Naiden Todorov and band Te: Venko Poromanski – drums, Ivaylo Zvezdomirov – bass and Darin Vasilev – guitar. Kasia / Katarzyna Łaska (Poland) and Steve Balsamo combined their voices into a rare fusion of beauty.

Programme: The evening was divided into two halves: the first half was the Concerto for Group and Orchestra, and after a short break a selection of Jon’s solo pieces and orchestrated Deep Purple songs  were performed:

1. Pictures of Home / 2. The Sun Will Shine Again / 3. Bouree / 4. Evening Song / 5. The Telemann Experiment / 6. Pictured Within / 7. Wait a While / 8. Gigue / encores: 1. Soldier of Fortune / 2. Child in Time.

Well, it was a very emotional experience for me, as Tthe Concerto was the reason for me getting into Deep Purple and I consider this 40 year young genre of music the true contemporary art. Also, I am from Roussè and I rarely miss one of our orchestra's concerts. Here I should say that about a half of the musicians are Deep Purple and Jon Lord fans and those who were not now are: everyone I spoke to admired the way that he lead the rehearsal and the whole working process – encouraging and respecting every player in a very relaxed and friendly manner.

A long rehearsal was held in Roussè on Wednesday morning with orchestra, band and Jon but without the singers. I didn't expect his Hammond to be transported over for the rehearsal, and that maybe he would rather play on a synthesizer, but everybody was happily surprised to see it there. The audience was allowed to enter the Philharmonic Hall and in the breaks Jon met the fans and signed autographs. Then he left for Bucharest to appear on an evening TV show. (I hope Romanian fans can help us with more details about it) The next morning the orchestra and the band went to Bucharest for a couple of rehearsalsand soundchecks with the singers.

The concert started around 8pm and immediately brought me to tears! It was truly beautiful! I’m no big fan of Bulgarian rock bands, but Te managed to really meld with the orchestra and control their sound to a unity rather than a competition. The orchestra was amplified with long distance sensitive microphones and there were very few places where the band drowned out the orchestra. The sound was very natural and true to its acoustic origin. The solos from the orchestra were performed slower than on either of the records (1969 & 1999) and with longer pauses, which really added to the drama of the piece. The slow sections of the piece were slowed down further, while moderatos and allegros were similar to the recorded versions. The band cadenzas were short and intelligent: guitarist (Darin Vasilev) whom I suspected might fall in either ‘Blackmorism’ or ‘Morsism’ or a combination of them both surprised me with ‘Lordism’… One could here the synthesis of the themes built-in in his waterfall of sweep-picking arpeggios and tapping.

The singers: Steve Balsamo has followed in Ian Gillan's footsteps before, including stage performances of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1997, but everybody forgot the inevitable comparisons as Kasia Laska joined in for the first half of the vocal part. Steve sang the second vocal part alone. He was in full control of his beautiful high pitched voice - be it bel-canto, falsetto, gentle or energetic.

Then the drum solo: Again – short modest, respectful and intelligent, a real tribute to the composition and with THAT thundering-old-school-resonance, Venko Poromanski heated up both audience and orchestra for the crescendo of the finale.

second half:

The programme speaks for itself. Strangely enough it sounded as if the orchestra was dominating the band. The highlights for me were the two Sarabande numbers and the Telemann Experiment.

During the Gigue organ cadenza Jon played a few bars in 7/8 which is a common and specific rhythm figure for both Bulgarian and Romanian folk dances, and you could see everybody from the orchestra smiling and blushing.

The second half revealed Kasia’s wonderful voice and beautiful technique. But what really moved everybody were the vocal duos in the encore – in the second verse and refrains of Soldier of Fortune and in the refrains of Child in Time. The latter got the audience standing. Steve’s interpretation enhanced the meaning of the words: the few notes he sang differently made any possible comparisons with the original singer meaningless and the song was heartbreaking through all of its three culminations.

This is an evening I’ll remember for the rest of my life!

Some practical notes: If anyone is searching the web for video clips there are some variations in the spelling of Roussè (Bulgarian is the original Cyrillic language) to Rousse or Ruse. Also Kasia is listed on the poster as Katia, that could be another abbreviation of Katarzyna. The whole show was filmed professionally with 5 or 6 cameras, so a full broadcast should be expected on some of the Romanian TV channels.

review: Lachezar Dotchev

Jon Lord live reviews 2009