Purple History: It was here that the band played their
last 1968-76 gig, on March 15th 1976....
Details & Memories: "My
first visit to the Empire was Deep Purple's final show in 1976.
We hung around the place off and on most of the afternoon but
the band had stayed over (in Scotland) and driven down during
the day, so they didn't arrive until it was dark - no soundcheck
backstage access was up a narrow road between the Empire and the
station next door, and Purple's posh (to us then - probably just
big top of the range Ford Granadas) hired cars seemed to fill
the street when they did turn up en masse. We scrabbled for a
few words. New boy Tommy Bolin was the last to turn up. A roadie
opened the back door - and he fell out onto the pavement. We managed
a quick hello and they disappeared inside.
A lot of phone calls to their publicity people had produced two
tickets for me and Ann (I'd already got two by post so passed
the spare on to my brother) but there were no such things as backstage
passes then (in the UK at any rate). However someone kindly took
our few cuttings and disappeared downstairs, returning not long
after with them fully autographed, including an impressive flourish
the following year I was a student in Manchester so the Liverpool
Empire was just a train ride away and we caught Rainbow there
in 1977. It was a day of ups and downs. The down was probably
Long Live Rock n Roll (a terrible number it seemed to me after
the grandeur of the second album) and the way the band overall
had become heavier but coarser, losing many of the subtle touches
from the '76 tour. The up was meeting Ritchie properly for the
first time (I'd got his autograph at a couple of Purple shows),
when he invited a couple of us back-stage for quarter of an hour
before the show. I can recall him visibly sharpening when the
questions clearly weren't those of fans of five minutes, and he
was very receptive.
was the infamous show where he disappeared from the stage during
the encore, and reappeared in one of the first floor boxes, from
where he proceeded to trash his Strat copy, dangling the remains
over the rabid crowd below. He also did consderable damange to
the ornate plasterwork too and got a life ban from the place!
This also led to a reduction in the number of rock bands allowed
to play there, and the Royal Court Theatre just across the road
eventually took over as Liverpool's premier live music venue -
but that's another story."
Empire was refitted in 1980 when the orchestra pit was added and
I think Gillan on the Glory Road tour was the re-opening gig.
Gillan had a strange connection with the Empire, playing at least
once a year; Gillan did a memorable set for Phil Easton's (and
Radio City, his then employers) annual Battle of the Bands competition
in March 1981 - memorable in the main for Ian collapsing backstage
due to his very evident bronchitis about 40 minutes in.
were banned after RB's balcony trashing in 1977. Deep Purple returned
in 1996 for Purpendicular. Always an audience with a lot of time
for DP family bands and a good sound pretty much everywhere. Why
isn't there a law requiring bands to play these proper old theatres
with drapes and plaster mouldings and plush seats and capacities
of 2-300 tops?
In the end The Empire seemed to lose interest in gigs, preferring
to concentrate on pantos and musicals.
Getting there: Best
reached by train into Liverpool Lime Street as this is right next
door to the venue. There was an NCP car park a few hundred yards
away - right next door to the Royal Court Theatre (I have memories
of them being too skint to put the heating on during Whitesnake's
Feb '83 gigs, with the band making what looked like their own
individual plumes of dry ice...so cold was the air interacting
with the heat from the stage lighting!" Mark Maddock