June 24, 2003
This was a pretty unusual first week on the road. Being able to have my son attend the performance is something that only seems to happen once or twice a year, so this was special. I was looking forward to him seeing how a big event looks from the backstage, so he could see just how weird his Dad's job is. This was his second time seeing us play with Pavarotti, since I was able to take him round trip the last time, due to it being a one-off gig.
My first priority was shifted when we arrived in the smallish city of Modena. Instead of thinking about the music or the schedule, it was a different focus. I was looking for a place that my son could skateboard, even if it was just a little area of concrete where he could practice his flip tricks or something. As we were walking around, the hotel staff suggested going to a location only about one kilometer away. We walked a while and eventually found a decent, public skateboard park made of several moveable ramps and a half pipe arranged on a concrete apron obviously made for a walkway. The guys there were pretty friendly to my boy, and I was pleased to have found this place. So, with that discovery, I could finally start thinking about the music.
Musically, it turns out I didn't have a whole lot to think about, since we were playing Smoke and accompanying Pavarotti on "Nessun Dorma", like we had done before. With over 100 musicians onstage, including the orchestra, my musical contributions would involve using the volume control. All the highlights of this show, to me, involved being able to meet and talk to people. Lee Dickson, Eric Clapton's guitar tech, got me started. I didn't know if Eric would remember meeting me years ago, so Lee steered Eric over to where we were standing as he was finishing his sound check. What a wonderful moment to have E.C. hug me and remark how I had not changed, all of this right in front of my son and Janine. In my real life, they know me as I see myself: a guy who's outside all day trying to get an old tractor started, not an acquaintance of Eric Clapton's. Anyway, this all surprised me, but we ended up having a nice chat, with Kevin getting one of many celebrity autographs.
At dinner, we end up sitting 2 or 3 feet away from Lionel Ritchie, who was very nice when we finally ask for an autgraph when everyone was getting up. Ironically, one of the pictures that gets taken for the local newspaper shows all three of us next to Lionel smiling for the camera. Kevin gets the unusual feeling of seeing his picture in the paper the next day with a celebrity. Brian May was very kind, as usual. Bono asked for Kevin's name before giving him an autograph. Basically, everyone backstage was super nice and patient, including the guys who were serving the food: they actually remembered Kevin and I from the previous concert 2 years ago. Pavarotti sang incredibly well, by the way.......every single take during rehearsal or during the performance. He really does have it.
Fast forward to the start of our fourth week. Last night, we met up with Skynyrd in Germany. They really sounded great, and after the gig, there were genuine, warm hugs all around for these old friends. I have a feeling this leg of the tour is going to be just fine.
Our new Deep Purple album is due out sometime in August, so there is already getting to be some reviewers involved. The initial impressions are very positive, so that's looking like a good thing. One unusual thing with the album is that the tentative title, "Bananas" has some deep rooted fans up in arms........actually asking if we would change the title. Actually, it was just a funny reaction that Ian Gillan had when Don and I played this intense instrumental exchange on the song of that same name. Imagine a very proper English accent saying "that sound like you've gone bananas" or something to that effect. Well, in most groups, if something makes the band laugh, it has a pretty good chance of sticking. How else to explain some of the band names that exist? Inside jokes, many of them. In any case, everybody in the group is happy with the album. Quite a variety of material, which I always like, including not one, but two guitar oriented instrumentals. By the way, Roger says the title came from a National Geographic type photo he pointed out to Ian that showed a skinny guy driving a bicycle loaded down with hundreds of bananas.....to which Ian replied, "That's brilliant!". Maybe that happened, then the other that I mentioned happened? I don't know. One thing's for sure: if people have a strong reaction of any kind to a title, it will stay.
Well, we're on the bus, it's raining, and the concert is outside today? Hope they don't get wet at the concert site! Whoever heard of rain in Germany? Or Seattle for that matter? Well, gotta go.
© stevemorse.com 2003