We arrived early at the venue in plenty of time to hear Mountain's opening set. I must admit I was not expecting much from them: I had heard that they were not very good live. My sources were wrong, they played well and put on a very good show with a nice combination of jamming and singing. The drummer, Corky Laing, was particularly entertaining, letting his drumsticks go flying into the crowd when he hit the crash cymbals at important parts of the songs. Leslie West did a fine job on the guitar. A stand-out song was his acoustic cover of "Blowin' in the Wind." Not too many hard rock bands have the guts to pull out the acoustics in the middle of an opening set, so you have to respect them for that.
Deep Purple were in fine form this evening despite some lingering hoarseness in Ian Gillan's voice. They played for just under an hour and a half. The set list was a good mix of greatest hits and fan favorites with a few new tunes thrown in. They started out with "Silver Tongue" which went over very well despite being unfamiliar to a lot of the crowd. No one seemed to care if they didn't know it because it was such a thrill to see Purple onstage. I think they are some of the finest, most professional musicians out there.
They are all at the top of their game technically and musically, and it always makes for an exciting show. People in the crowd are so involved in watching their musicianship that it almost doesn't matter what songs they play! The songs become a vehicle for their improvisations, much like a good jazz group. The band was very tight this evening, and played off each other's musical ideas expertly. They did quite a bit of instrumental improv, including a wonderful version of "Contact Lost" by Steve Morse that led into an extended guitar solo. Every time I see Steve play I am more impressed with his abilities. He is technically flawless and his playing seems effortless. He just seems to be having such a good time! Another stand out instrumental happened just before "Highway Star" when Steve, Roger, and Ian Paice did a brief but entertaining jam to lead into the tune.
The last time I saw Deep Purple was in 2002 at Tower City Center in Cleveland just after Don Airey joined. I have to say that the band is much tighter now, and Don really seems to have come into his own. His solos are more melodically developed and less focused on scales and arpeggios, and he seems to be having a lot more fun during the duels with Steve Morse. His long solo was very diverse and a lot more interesting than the last time I heard him. He quoted from a variety of classical pieces, including a Bach invention, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin, and Star Wars. The solo started off on the piano/keyboard and then he moved over to "The Beast" and hit a long, low rumbling note. You can really tell how that thing got its name! Then he noodled around a bit on the organ and led the band into a killer performance of "Perfect Strangers" which included a funny little dance by Ian Gillan.
Ian was obviously struggling with his voice, but it didn't really effect the quality of his performance at all. What a professional! You couldn't tell he was having troubles at all until he tried for some of the legendary high notes. He hit them frequently, but a few of them turned into screams when he knew he couldn't get them. He covered it very well, though, and I think if I hadn't have seen him before I might not have realized that anything was wrong! I was worried when they went into "Space Truckin'" right after "Highway Star," but he hit all of those high notes at the end with just a little help from Steve. He had quite a good time dueling with Steve on several songs, but when they tried it one last time toward the end of the show, he had to give up. He laughed and pointed at his throat, shaking his head. Steve went on and soloed for a bit and they finished up the song. I sure hope he has a chance to rest his voice up before the tour continues--he certainly works it hard!
All in all, the show was excellent. The greatest hits came off superbly as usual, and the lesser-known tunes were well-received by the crowd. The Bananas tunes came off much better live than they did on the studio CD. I haven't said much about Ian Paice and Roger Glover, but they were fantastic as always. Roger put all his artistry into every note he played, even when it was a simple bass line. I did miss Ian Paice's solo, though--I love the one-handed drum roll! One of the great things about Deep Purple is that they take it out on a limb musically every time they play. So many bands are afraid to experiment because they are afraid of making mistakes. Deep Purple knows that the excitement of improvised, challenging music is worth the risk of mistakes, and that is what makes me and so many others keep going back to see them play live.
review: Amanda Lukacsko