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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Deep Purple: A Mind-Blowing Experience!


Yep. That’s my backstage pass to meet my childhood idols. The John Labatt Centre went overboard in trying to make sure I had the grooviest night possible, and I can’t thank them enough. The Powers That Be in the community engagement department are second to none in this town.

Unfortunately, the security department was also doing a fine job that night, and tossed me out half way through the show. So I didn’t even get to see the band performing ‘Lazy’ or many others I was greatly looking forward to, never mind get to shake their hands after the show.

Not that I deserved to get thrown out, but Security had no way of knowing that. I have a bit of a rare neurological condition called an  Arnold Chiari Malformation – basically, my brain’s too big for my head. I know, right? It used to be that I couldn’t as much as clear my throat, or the pressure it caused in my cerebellum would trigger headaches so excruciating that I would simply blackout and faint from the pain. But I had surgery for it about a decade ago, and it’s not quite as bad now.

A couple of the worst symptoms I suffer from these days are dizziness, some loss of motor-function, and nystagmus. As luck would have it, these symptoms can be triggered by laser and strobe lights, and loud noises. Therefore, a stadium rock concert isn’t really the smartest place for me to be, and I’ve therefore been avoiding them for years. But this was Deep friggin’ Purple. How could I not go and hope for the best? It was worth taking the chance.

So there I was, enjoying the hell out of the show when I had to take a bathroom break. When I got out of my seat, the symptoms hit pretty severely. I became quite dizzy, and the signals from my brain to my legs were somewhat less than precise. I'd neglected to bring my cane with me, having decided it would've been cumbersome and distracting to others in the audience. As a result, I simply couldn’t walk very straight. A young Security guy noticed me and told me I had to leave because I was obviously too drunk. I wasn’t, of course, but I’d had 2 or 3 beer, so between my breath and my inability to walk a straight line, I was unable to convince him otherwise.

When his superior arrived, he conceded that I was having a coherent and apparently non-inebriated conversation with him, and seemed to wrestle with the possibility of allowing me back in. In the end, however, caution won over and he decided that “if anything happened” there may be liable issues if he let me back in after I was asked to leave. Well, the guy was just trying to do his job responsibly, so as crestfallen as I was, there was no one I could really blame, other than myself for taking the chance of going somewhere that triggered my symptoms.

So that was the end of my Deep Purple experience.

 photo courtesy Amanda Stratton

BUT! Before that whole unfortunate situation, the show was amazing, and the sound at RBC Theatre was fantastic. Don't miss an opportunity to see your favourite performers in that venue. 

I’d heard in passing lately that Ian Gillan’s voice wasn’t quite up to speed. Well, it *is* 40 years later, so give the guy a break. He sounded just fine, and he put his heart and soul into performing for his audience. It was so cool to finally see and hear him live after all these years.

Roger Glover, he of the famous ‘Smoke On The Water’ bass, looked like he was enjoying himself immensely, as did Ian Paice on drums. Those are the three current members of the band who were also part of their early ‘70s heyday. Replacing the great Ritchie Blackmore on lead was Steve Morse, who’s no slouch himself. He’s been with the band for 15 years now, and his comfort in filling Blackmore’s shoes is apparent. The dude rocks full out.

Still, Blackmore would’ve been awesome to see, as would Jon Lord, whose legendary keyboard skills so defined the Deep Purple sound. But he was replaced 10 years ago, due to injury, by Don Airey, who was in fine form at the JLC show. Airey has nothing to prove to anyone, having played over many years with such greats as Sabbath and Priest. If I was a little hesitant to accept Morse and Airey, they immediately put my concerns to rest with the very first number of the evening, ‘Highway Star’.The whole band went at it full force and it was such a great thing to finally witness in person.

For a bunch of guys over 60 years old, their energy and exuberance were infectious. So infectious, in fact, that it caused some lousy symptoms to be triggered. Ah well. From the brief part of the show I was lucky enough to see, I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity, as there's no way I could've afforded it on a disability pension, so I thank the John Labatt Centre sincerely for that.

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