Warsaw: Here be friends, here be a hero…

Jon Lord live at The Congress Hall, Warsaw, Nov 10th, 2010.

Review by Marcin Karski

Jon Lord has taken the Polish capitol by storm and it was the best I’ve ever seen from him. The way he moved, conducted, played and sounded will remain vivid in my mind, hardly forgettable. I can only thank the organizing company executives for the determination to get the whole event finally happening and bow my head in an ultimate gratitude to Jon for putting out such a masterful concert.

A thing that clearly marks Jon Lord’s comeback to Poland for another amazing live show is how  immensely energized the Maestro was for the whole of the concert.

I have seen him performing live four times over last 12 years and I have never before witnessed this level of joy, passion and engagement into his live playing as he did on Wednesday evening. He was able to sit still and contemplate the most quiet parts of the show, but with every livelier moment he was moving around like a man possessed.

The degree of command over the Hammond organ and the piano was breathtaking, including the fierce soloing, using the whole hand rundowns over the keyboards, bashing around the keys with accenting figures when needed and tripping around the left stage area to conduct the electric band and help the orchestra to get most of the important cues with the moves of the master’s hands. It actually really reminded me of the best vintage Purple years when some certain banjo player was especially colligated with that visual and entertaining style of leading the band. It was just no more no less, but awesome sight to see.

It will be difficult for you to imagine Jon almost doing an Angus Young impersonation (especially during “Pictures Of Home” and “Child In Time“), wheeling with his hands up, stomping with his legs, encouraging the musicians to get this amazing sound machine moving to tear the roof off the hall, kind of like saying “Get it up, rise it up, move it, let’s ride!” Hypnotizing stuff, a wholehearted taking over the excitement wave and pushing everybody involved to give all they have into the performance.

And you have to bear in mind that Jon’s actually at the magic age of 69 (that number, yes, what a year that was for him in the 20th century). We were so positively stunned on in how great shape he was. He looked so much fitter and tighter than two years before, sparkling with vitality, energy and this overwhelming charm we love him so much for. He puts the most of his generation pals to shame. He has a powerhouse of an orchestra and a stunning selection of a varied material behind him.

He takes the audience into the heights of excitement through the variety of sounds and emotions and build the complexity with the brilliant usage of the contrast, light and shade formula, slow and energetic segments, sung songs and played instrumentals. Jon executes it with a passion transforming to anybody within the range of the event – on both sides of the stage.

And that’s why when he plays either “Concerto For Group And Orchestra” or a brief selection of four Purple signature tunes – you get to experience a close quality encounter with the magic of the legendary band – through the charisma of it’s founding member and key sound establishing soloist.

Jon Lord is a musician with his own palette of solo efforts relating to the world of classical and orchestral music. Whether these are the energetic stand out cuts from the “Sarabande” or the quieter, contemplative songs based around the piano and orchestra union, edged with the female voice – he’s still proving to be an ace of his craft, strong in his abilities and confident in using the available range of musical tools to take over a command of his listener’s mind.

No one walks out of the hall unimpressed. And one has to have in mind that it’s actually a great architectural challenge to achieve the cohesive performance in that circumstances. It’s combining the most aggressive hard rock sound merged with orchestra that should be well heard. Jon’s a real winner in this territory.
Last two years have been crucial for building up of this artistic success. The debut of this formula  at the Plock Market Square in 2008 concert was thoroughly enjoyable, but it must have been nervy at the same time – just like usually every ground checking is. Now – in Warsaw – the whole  performance sparkled with confidence and the wisdom of all the lessons learned from the two years of touring.

It showed in the ease of expression in Kasia Łaska‘s singing, providing an amazing voice for the Lord’s most musical staples. She even creatd her own female vocal interpretation of the very demanding and personal “Pictured Within“. The soloists of the electric band also proved to feel a bit more confident in backing of Jon and orchestra.

A special mention has to go to Mr. Jakob Samuel who stepped in for Steve Balsamo to sing the male vocal parts in the 2nd “Concerto” Movement and the Purple tracks. He fitted in exceptionally well, sparkling with exuberance and hard rocking frontman appeal – both in the visual and stage commanding area. Jakob provided the voice that handled all the tonsils tormenting parts truly effortlessly – a factor that is so necessary to inject this unique purple crack molecules into the listeners brains. By the final stage of the show the whole hall was surely eating out of his hands and it’s a huge task to achieve while stepping into this kind of role.

The performance was so enjoyable to see and to hear. The top-notch form of Jon Lord every  minute, who was immensely into his cup of tea from start to finish. The sound and the playing of his was mesmerizing and powerful both on piano and the organ. Jon has added an extra sharpness to his parts almost in every livelier piece, especially in the finale of Concerto, where he edged out the drum rhythm accents on the low key registers of Hammond like he was playing the drums.

The orchestra sounded very bright and many nuances of the “Concerto” composition seemed energized and more dynamic in the tempo and colour areas, which – along with the Maestro’s ultimate commitment – gave the whole a feeling of the new, refreshed musical treatment. A wonderful execution of the vibe by the enthusiastic conductor Tadeusz Wicherek and the very excellent Zamo Symphonic Orchestra was also crucial for the overall effect.

A selection of Jon Lord’s own material was a well structured mixture of the lyrical favorites from “Pictured Within” and “Beyond The Notes“, where Katarzyna really shone in vocal parts, flying on  the wave of enthusiastic reception of her hometown audience. More dynamic side was built on the  instrumental standouts from the Jon’s solo albums. We got these rousing reenditions of “Bouree“,  “The Telemann Experiment” and the ever mind cracking “Gigue“, complete with the improvisational middle section, where the Lord’s organ only solo set the audience into a frenzy.

Jon’s own music spoke sincerely and proudly of it strengths, but it was the Deep Purple material  that parenthesised the second half of the concert. “Pictures Of Home” drew it powers vastly from  the combination of the orchestra arranged introduction and the charging tempo go-through the  song. Samuels’s voice combined lovely with Lord’s Hammond and the sound mixture simply rocked the hall, taking no prisoners and accepting no hostages. It worked better than any archive footage of Purple or time machine you would wish to take you back into the time of 1972 and the Lord’s seminal band’s heyday.

Still it was not after “Gigue”, that we came to witness the biggest surprise of the evening – and to  me piece-de-resistance of the concert. Like in “Pictures Of Home” – the orchestral, somewhat  misleading  introduction was played, with only sole revealing to more concentrated listeners the well-known phrase “can you remember, remember my name?”. By the moment of full recognition of the “Perfect Strangers” majestic introduction, the whole Congress Hall got to an ear-splitting roar of applause. This was one of the life’s moments that has to be lived to be believed in. The Hammond, raw, edgy sound of the 80’s Purple anthem took the roof off the venue. This was the most keyboard soaked, wall drilling, romped-up performance of this song I’ve ever heard in my life.

Absolutely jaw-dropping and astounding with the sheer, blood boiling power. One of those moments that a Jon Lord afficionados live for, with an extra icing on the cake in the shape of ever excellent final solo from Jon, displaying unreachable level of command over the instrument. He is the only one who’s capable of achieving such a intense sound effect, no one steps in close to his ranks in the field. It’s got proved here again, live, with no fills and frills involved.

There was no letting go from then on until the last note of the evening. “Soldier Of Fortune” was  introduced by Jon as one of his all-time-ever favorite songs (“which I did not write, I only did the  arrangement”) and the mention of the author’s names of Blackmore and Coverdale again electrified the audience. It has to be said that this tune is one of the most beloved Purple songs in Poland – the emotional connection of many listeners to it is comparable to “Child In Time”, so the reception of this classic was rousingly enthusiastic. Jacob again shone vocally, singing it out confidently and closing the track with the octave raised full voice phrasing of the title. Simply fan-tas-tic, what an idea to shape up this wonderful tune and do David Coverdale’s original the deserved justice.

The crowd was on their feet during the final round of introductions of the band, orchestra and soloists done all personally by Jon. And Mr. Lord is probably the only living person who is able to achieve the convincing display of the Purple spirit essence in a only four songs set of choice… And that’s what he did. “Child In Time” was the – for now obvious – closing staple of the concert. The  composition itself pretty much defying the laws of passing time and it still is played by Lord with this monumental, explosive impact.

Being 41 years old, this track still inducts the same emotions and excitement that it did from a very start, being an emotive protest song against the danger of the cold-war related nuclear apocalypse. It collected all the described above values of the whole concert like a lens into a one overwhelming sound battle, hypnotizing in the quiet parts and storming like a hurricane in the middle solo section and the grandeur finale – a sonic mayhem righteously depicting the meltdown picture. It capsules the nucleus of the Jon Lord / Deep Purple phenomenon, with the trademark sound and the compositional dexterity that has built over the decades an unfading emotional bond between the audience and the performers.

The reaction of the audience to the whole event was outstanding. The standing ovation must have  lasted for around 20 minutes and two ‘give-it-a-bow’ sessions by the Maestro and his Musicians. The crowd was so unwilling to let the artists go without another encore, that after this time the  Conductor had to come out to the stage again. He thanked the crowd for the reception, bid the final bow and released the Orchestra stunned on stage from the seemingly never coming end of an  applause. Exhausting, but – I believe – worthy recompense for their huge efforts to perform so well  with Jon Lord.

What can I say beyond the fact that it’s been another fantastic event of my music life? Words are not enough, but I took the opportunity to bring my closest family with me, so that they can finally see what actually Jon Lord’s magic is all about. They’ve been bogged with the issue for years, accepting the fact of having his devotee around and standing this state of things patiently.

My brother Lucas, who’s never been really engaged into the Purple music matter enjoyed the show, claiming he felt happy and excited to see (quote): “a living legend, a person formative to the culture phenomenon that classic rock is, and a musician that has shaped the frames of the music history with his trademark sound” and got very much under positive impression of the event’s artistic output. I guess that’s the better sort of compliment for Jon Lord than another portion of fan exclamations, really, although both are well deserved.

Thank you so very much, Jon.

Marcin Karski

Photos: Wojtek Dobrogojski of Rockmetal.plsee more photos

PART I: Concerto For Group And Orchestra

Pictures Of Home
The Sun Will Shine Again
Pictured Within
The Tellemann Experiment
Wait A While
Perfect Strangers
Soldier Of Fortune
Child In Time

Jon Lord – p., org., The Master Of Ceremony
Katarzyna Łaska – voc.
Jakob Samuel – voc.,
Damian Kurasz – g.,
Micha Grott – b.,
Jan Mynarski – dr.
Zamo Symphonic Orchestra
conductor: Tadeusz Wicherek


2 thoughts on “Warsaw: Here be friends, here be a hero…

  1. Wow.

    Listening to the CD’s is so great, but I always wanted to hear and see Jon Lord live. However every time I want to visit a concert, something goes wrong and I am not able to visit it (things aren’t easy if you are only 16…).
    But some day, I hope I will hear, see and, that would be even greater, talk to the maestro live ‘and in color’.

    Whatever, if you are reading this Jon, I just want to say thank you for your music, which definitely changed my life and musical orientation into a better direction.

    Joel Linn

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