August 9, 2015
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Justin Press
British Rock Royalty Delivers Four Decades of The Deepest Purple
Always considered the third spear of the English heavy rock movement of the late 60's and early 70's alongside Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple were a mad cross between Zeppelin's blues-infused thump and Sabbath's riff laden aplomb. Their 1970 release In Rock called an end to their first era of dance-able rock and pop and ushered in their more carved in stone thunder years.
After several bustling releases it was 1972's Machine Head that cracked the skulls of the listener open with tracks like "Space' Truckin'," "Highway Star" and the riff heard round the world of "Smoke On The Water." A completely inescapable record to this day, essential for any hard rock collector worth his salt. Over the next several decades, line-up changes, break-ups, musical chairs and eventually death shifted the paradigm of the band.
It's 2015 and Deep Purple Mark VII doesn't sound that much different from Mark II and Sunday's performance at Verizon Theatre was chock full of those nuances that make Purple both a great band but also frustrating as hell. Thing is, are you willing to endure one to get to the other?
Gone are Richie Blackmore (by his own choice) and Jon Lord (by God himself) and in their place are long-time players Steve Morse and Don Airey who along with originators Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Ian Gillian have somehow maintained the longest line-up continuity of their career.
But it was back to the back to the beginning of sorts as the strains of "Highway Star" came roaring out of the speakers with Paice laying down that now famous snare roll before the band lays down the wallop that opened up the aforementioned Machine Head album. Musically the band is anchored down, and always known for his heaven awakening high notes, Gillian, now 70, handled the track with a solid delivery. Stage presence once Blackmore left the band has never been a strong suite of the band; theirs is a musical delivery performance. When a catalog is this vast, who needs to animate. "Hard Lovin' Man" and "Strange Kind Of Woman" were crowd pleasing ventures into their blues and groove-filled rock measures while a newer track "Vincent Price" was a much more macabre affair into Airey's gloom entrenched Leslie organ and synths passages, and it is here were the band may have gone off the rails a bit.
The trio of more recent tracks "Contact Lost," "Uncommon Man" and "Well Dressed Guitar" were exercises in noodling and experimentation. To the blind eye it may have appeared as indulgence but for Deep Purple hardliners it was in no way different to the Made In Japan album where tracks like 'Child In Time" were eclipsing the 13-minute mark. The band have always been ones to wander off into the dark for a spell, rather it became rather a showcase for guitarist Morse (Dixie Dregs) who is no stranger to improvisation. But upon retrospection, these long-winded numbers gave Gillian a chance to rest his pipes given that Purple numbers can at times be vocal tongue twisters.
For the audience, the hits and the familiar are king, for the performer, yes they have to pay the bills but also need to be able to stretch the legs stylistically. For the casual or first time Purple attendee they were looking for one thing, the tracks they've heard ad nausea on the radio, but for the seasoned vets, they knew that nothing was going to be left on the table and were prepared for a bit of a journey. But like all journeys you eventually find yourself back home. And it was Paice with the keys to the house as his drum solo (yes they still exist) during "The Mule" took us back to our flares, Earth shoes and long, full heads of hair. "Lazy" got the audience up and swinging their hips (to note: a lot of younger people in the audience, new generation of fans perhaps?)
Though the band's resurgence really gained ground again in 1984 from their former 70's glory, it was only represented once tonight in the form of the majestic "Perfect Strangers," a huge musical piece that is part pretentious overblown extravagance, the other, pure fist pumping heavy rock. Followed perhaps by the best track the band has ever put to tape, the windows down, howling at the moon fervor of "Space Truckin'." The track may infer interplanetary travel but the four-on-the-floor populace adopted it en masse. It burns with a white heat furnace fury especially at the chorus "Let's Go Space Truckin'" as Airey's organ doubles with Morse's guitar to create a hell of a deep riff.
What follows could have been written in the stars as the (3) chords that alienated girlfriends across the globe came at you without even offering an apology as "Smoke On The Water" basically was what it is, a classic riff backed up by a song that simply supports the riff. It's not rocket science but rather a primordial exercise at its very essence. It's a knuckle dragger with an AOR rock radio lifespan. As the lights dimmed and the prerequisite several minute delay unfolded per "encore rules," the strains of Booker T & The MG's "Green Onions" aroused the crowd giving them a welcome cerebral massage that shifted into "Hush," the hit of Deep Purple Mark I period. It still slithers and shakes like it's Swinging London all over again.
Thankfully, Purple aren't ones to let you off to easy as they hit your over the head one last time with "Black Night," that 4/4 beat and bluesy riff turned way up, ultimately providing the Deep Purple "sound," that jazzy swing that knocks you back a step or two.
Deep Purple, were too smart to be a straight rock band, too experimental to be a punter only band, too funky to be a metal band and too dumb to be a progressive band, but what they were was/is a perfect marriage of all those things. They didn't do poetry like Zeppelin or bombast like Sabbath but what they did was/is both poetic and bombastic, just with more style.