[% META title = 'Tour Reviews' %]
Exhibition of exceptional excellence wasted on vast indifference
To put my review in perspective, and though I have been a fan of Deep Purple since the early 1970s and have all the official studio and live albums, this was the first time I've seen the band live (so now I have a t-shirt, too).
Purple was the third and final act of the night here in Charlotte and I think the audience may have been a bit fatigued by that point. But more on this later. Musically, the band was very tight. Don Airey did an amazing job replacing the great Jon Lord and if you closed your eyes I'm not sure you could tell a major difference. The short set (under 90 minutes) allowed for only a couple of brief keyboard solos where, in an extended set, the different styles might have been more obvious.
Steve Morse was all smiles and quite relaxed, still seeming to be enjoying the whole Purple thing. It was a shame he did not have more room to solo; I enjoy hearing his musical tribute to various popular rock riffs so prevalent on many of the live recordings. He only managed to get one or two references in tonight. Roger Glover was also smiling but in a different way, like the grand vizier of the band, a wizened guiding hand presenting a band whose image and style he had helped craft for just under 30 years.
Mr. Paice performed with his usual professionalism, exhibiting his exceptional skills throughout as well as during a brief drum solo. Mr. Gillan was all the beachcomber in his rolled-up white cotton trousers, sleeveless white cotton button-down shirt and bare feet. It was Gillan's voice that lured me to the band in the first place and, despite the unavoidable loss of the higher 'screaming' octaves, his vocals were smooth and resonant, giving all the tunes the proper flavor that makes Deep Purple songs so recognizable. His is still the best voice in rock and roll.
The set list was the same as at previous concerts in this US part of the tour with Gillan announcing just before the first encore that this day marked the 30th anniversary of the band's recording of Hush.
Quibbles? A few. The band was almost too professional. By that I mean that unless you knew what venue you were in you would never know it by listening to Gillan's between-song chatter (contrast this to the Scorpions' lead singer who shouted out Hello, Charlotte. Hello, North Carolina about 50 times during their act to great effect, I might add). Gillan's remarks were brief, rehearsed, and not spontaneous at all. He frequently said, Superb, to the audience several times even though their adulation was frequently lacking. Diplomatic I suppose, but he may have elicited a better reaction from the crowd by talking to them and not at them.
I don't know if the American South is Purple country but in general the Charlotte audience seemed less enthused with Deep Purple than with the Scorpions. This could be because a) they were tired by then; b) they were drunk or stoned by then; c) they were sincerely trying to listen to the music rather than react to it; or d) they weren't true Purple fans. Toward the end of Smoke On The Water for example, the band broke and Gillan held out the mic for the fans to sing the chorus a capella and there was nearly dead silence. Gillan couldn't fail to recognize this faux pas and wagged his finger admonishingly at the crowd. How embarrassing (for me that is).
I don't think Purple's act has ever been appropriate for a short set. This is not yet a greatest hits band. As far as I'm concerned they're still developing and know how to fill several hours with diverse musical flavors and experimental soloing. It would have been better, in my opinion, for the band to be headlining by themselves with one opening act. Even if this meant fewer venues the shows would be attended by Purple fans only and the vibes between band and audience would have been better.
Recommendation? By all means go! Deep Purple blew the other two acts off the stage whether the audience recognized this or not. In fact if you want a lesson in stellar vs. mediocre just sit back and compare (no, better yet, stand up and yell!). Who knows how much longer we'll be able to see this great band live? All I'm saying is, it'll make you wish for more!
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