Review: Joyful nights in Bratislava

What a joy it was to watch Jon Lord! He was obviously enjoying himself, moving with the music, playing his Hammond like a man 20 years younger than he is and making that ‘big lovely piece of furniture’ give sounds only Jon Lord can provoke.

Monika Schwarz travelled to Bratislava to catch Jon Lord’s two recent shows there. This is her report and photos – click on them to see more.

When I heard that Jon Lord was going to play two concerts in Bratislava, at the first moment I was seriously in doubts whether I should go or not. Not that I would normally not jump immediately on such an occasion, but there was still the concert in Zurich in January in my mind. How can a perfect experience like that be repeated? Is it wise to risk a disappointment? Questions like these went over and over in my mind.

Then I just made up my mind, booked the tickets and off I went with a friend by car to Bratislava.

I knew that it would be two radio recordings, so my hopes were pretty high in terms of audio quality. The place is a strange kind of building, looking from the outside like a pyramid that’s standing on top. Just not as pretty as a real pyramid would look like :-). The venue itself gave the impression of a real concert hall and not at all of a studio, which was good for the general feeling, for sure!

We had booked our seats in the first row for both nights, so sight was expected to be good. And so it was, straight in front of Jon Lord – what more can a fan wish?

Artists on stage were the maestro himself, the Slovak Radio Orchestra, together with Cry Free, a Hungarian Deep Purple cover band. Vocalists were Steve Balsamo and Kasia Laska.

Both times the show started with the performance of the ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’, after which there was a break of about 30 minutes.

Setlist 11-03-2009:
Concerto – First Movement
Concerto – Second Movement
Concerto – Third Movement
Pictures Of Home
One From The Meadow
Pictured Within
The Telemann Experiment
Wait A While

Child In Time

Setlist 12-03-2009:
Concerto – First Movement
Concerto – Second Movement
Concerto – Third Movement
Pictures Of Home
One From The Meadow
Pictured Within
The Telemann Experiment
Wait A While

Child In Time

So far about the facts, now to the impressions…

If I could have chosen a setlist out of the impressing musical catalogue of Jon Lord, it would have looked pretty much like the setlist for the first night. The Concerto is undisputed my ‘number one’, but ‘Sarabande’ is a close third in terms of my favourite albums Jon Lord ever has created (right after ‘Before I Forget’). So one could say that I fell from one delightful surprise into the next, getting three pieces from that album.

The orchestra was doing what they were supposed to do in a playful and good-willed way. I wouldn’t say that they were on fire, but for me it is not easy to recognise that in an orchestra anyway.

Cry Free was a bit of a surprise, very to the point, good musicianship an a truly outstanding drummer in the person of Tamás Tatai. Especially his drum solo in ‘Gigue’ was highly impressive, excellent at the first night, but also at the second, when he was giving the audience a totally new and different one. Unfortunately the guitar was a little low in the mix (such as the Hammond during the first night), so I can’t say very much about that.

Katarzyna Laska was known to me from Zurich, and again she did a very, very good performance. Not only that her interpretations of ‘Wait A While’ and ‘One From The Meadow’ were moving and lovely, she gave the all-over impression of being totally into the music.

At the first night Steve Balsamo and Attila Scholtz, the singer of Cry Free, were sharing vocal duties during ‘Pictures Of Home’. Nice to hear two different voices in one song.

Steve Balsamo was doing a good job. For ‘Child In Time’ it was an inventive idea to combine a male and a female voice.

I mentioned Jon’s Hammond work but I will not forget the piano parts. From subtle to sublime, from humorous to thunderous, he moved from the one to the other as easily as he moved from the piano to the Hammond. For me Jon Lord is undoubtedly one of the musical geniuses of our days, capable of creating traditional ‘classical’ music as well as ‘modern’ rock, and playing both of them with aplomb and esprit.

He was also doing the announcements, in his usual humorous and warm-hearted way – especially when he ‘thanked’ the photographers for their clicking sounds during some of the more quiet pieces he was playing ;-).

As we were sitting not only straight in fromt of Jon Lord, but also in front of one of the speakers, we got a quite balanced sound. Not naturally to be expected, when you are watching a concert from the left side front row. Just a little funny now and then to hear for instance the harp straight from ahead, when the real instrument is somewhere at the very right side of the stage :-).

All in all I was lucky enough to see two excellent shows, one or two minor drawbacks, but they were really nothing in comparison to the general good mood and passion of the shows. Needless to say that the audience was giving standing ovations – both times, and well-deserved they were!

Monika Schwarz


5 thoughts on “Review: Joyful nights in Bratislava

  1. I am so sad that I couldn’t come to see you in my home country. I have heard that you might come to Slovakia again. I won’t miss that. God bless!!!!

  2. i saw Lord in MüPa (Budapest, Hungary). Amazing experience, one of the legend in the history of rock. He played, spoke, moved, etc with full of love to music. In the intervals btw the tracks he made some sort of speech showed his excellent sense of humor. Now about the performance.
    I do not want to waste any moment on judging Lord’s performance because he was just perfect….
    Óbudai Danubia Orchestra with Mr Rácz was great too, full of ethusiasm, loved what they were performing and a very good chemistry with Lord.
    Cry Free (cover band of DP) played as an average CEE band, obviously not on the same scale as the Mark II.

  3. Rather like Monika, before I booked for this, I had some doubts about going. Looking online there were rather a lot of unsold seats, could it really be possible to get a front row seat for both nights right in front of Jon? (And, slightly worryingly, another date in Kosice on the 14th was subsequently cancelled.) I had also seen the fabulous performance in Luxembourg (where the orchestra and Kasia Laska were excellent) last September. Could these two nights match that?

    Despite its strange (upside down pyramid) appearance from outside, the concert hall was very impressive with a large stage – the back of which was dominated by the organ pipes – and reminded me somewhat of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank.

    On the first night I felt a little nervous for everyone and was tapping out the entire Concerto score with my fingers. I distinctly remember feeling that thrill (and picturing the young lady in the audience in the 1969 film) in the third movement when the band kicks in again with that simple five-note blues scale before it is repeated and speeded up.

    The orchestra dressed down for the second night, settling for black shirts rather than being more formally dressed. If the first night was excellent, the second night was [expletive deleted] excellent. We couldn’t even complain that we lost a song – Sarabande. And it was nice to hear Jon slip in a bit of the New World Symphony on the second night!

    Being front row, right in front of Jon, both nights was incredible. It was only spoilt by the over-enthusiastic photographers on the second night, showing no respect for the performers or the audience. Just how many photographs of the back of Jon’s head did they need? They certainly didn’t seem interested in photographing anyone else on stage either. Strange. And annoying.

    I remember saying, at the interval, they are only usually allowed to take photos during the first three numbers… and it was a bit of a liberty to treat the whole Concerto as falling within the definition of three numbers. They then carried on throughout the second set. When Jon expressed his thanks at the end, he thanked them for taking photos during all the quiet parts of his music; I think it went right over their heads!

    Steve Balsamo I had seen before at the Sunflower Jam and the Ginger Baker gig and had been slightly disappointed with but he told me that he was particularly nervous at those shows. In Bratislava, I thought he was amazing, stamping his own personality on the songs, making them his own, rather than just attempting faithful cover versions. Steve sang Pictures Of Home on his own on the second night.

    If anyone would like to see Steve Balsamo tackle another Gillan song try this:

    (I’ve never seen a better live performance of Gethsemane!)

    These shows of Jon’s always seem to draw long standing ovations and deservedly so. Helps keep him fit with all of that leave the stage/come back and bow/leave the stage yo-yoing. I noticed that there was a film crew there on the second night – they were certainly filming the final ovations along the front row.

    Cry Free were photographed with Jon afterwards. Moments later someone else wanted a photograph but they couldn’t find all of the band. I jokingly said, “Oh no, band splits!” Attila said something like, “Well, we’ve played with Jon Lord, what else could top that? We might as well split up.”

    Cry Free played their part brilliantly and I thought that their drummer was exceptional. Credit must go to their keyboard player who stood in for Jon so much at rehearsals but had to be limited to a secondary role on a few numbers in the second set. Jon said, however, that he would have a larger part to play next time. (Hint: There’ll be a next time.)

    Jon was, as ever, the perfect host backstage. I’m so pleased that I went. It was an absolute privilege and a pleasure to witness these two shows.

    Nigel Young

  4. Hi,I saw Jon Lord in Bratislava in Slovakia..he was excellent..and im won the tickets and photo and interview with Mr.Lord….i have autographed two LP and beautiful Photo with Him…best moment in my life…he is living legend…god bless you

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