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Pearls for Jelling

Being a Deep Purple fan exposes you to strange things. The band’s headlining gig at the Danish Jelling Music Festival on May 26 is no exception.

The unbelievably unintelligent and overrated underachievers in Bloodhound Gang occupies the main stage before Deep Purple. Hopefully their idiotic rants against gays, girls and non-Christian religions is just that – and not American white trash adolescence personified.

jelling-purple.jpg30 minutes to midnight Deep Purple takes the stage under a clear night sky. At the end of a long day in the sun, the crowd seems drained and it becomes an uphill struggle for the band to get more than the diehards near the front going.

Ian Gillan treads barefoot in black jeans and westerny white shirt. Very stylish he looks too. The rest of the band likewise. The sound is spot on as they fire away with Pictures Of Home, Things I Never Said, Into The Fire and Strange Kind Of Woman. This is exciting.

Pictures Of Home itself has become a little medley of snippets, moving as it does into a bit of the old Beethoven’s Ninth and even incorporating a signature piece from the guitar solo in Child In Time. Ingenious.

‘She was a mystery biscuit’, he sings of his strange kind of woman. Rhyming Nancy with fancy has worked for 36 years and the song still boogies and sways and we follow suit. The guitar solo is played to a different chord progression these days, which throws one or two of the diehards. Nice touch. The ending is also different.

Ian tells us Rapture Of The Deep is a new song which is old, as it’s off the new album which is a year old. What a genius composition this one is. The assembled craftsmen onstage each come into their own on this track as it moves beyond simple good time hard rock.

Ian Gillan ambles across the stage, waving at various sections of the crowd and it works. He’s applied a new trick of putting on a mock shocked face, pretending to be caught unawares of particularly loud spots in the music. It sort of makes him look like a grand dad trying to cajole a smile out of the grandchild in the tram. Spooky.

Getting cold feet
After Steve Morse’s engaging solo spot – which includes cheerful snippets of Sweet Home Alabama, Sweet Child O’Mine and a powerful (as always) Well Dressed Guitar – Ian Gillan decides he’d had enough of the cold evening:

‘What do you say guys, should we skip this one? It’s too cold for slow songs. Let’s do Lazy instead,’ he says (probably) of When A Blind Man Cries.

Mind you, walking around barefoot in the chill Danish night is known around here as the perfect recipe for catching a serious cold!

Tonight The Battle Rages On is not introduced as coming from ‘the four corners of Hell’ – but Gillan does prance about with devil horns trying to look menacing. I really enjoy hearing this one back in live set. The unpredictable 1993 versions will always rule supreme in my mind, but the current lineup does the song justice, Don Airey even adding a bit of trumpet during the build-up near the end. It’s an excellent song, again showcasing one of the band’s more exotic styles of writing. Thumbs up!

Rolls Royce rock’n’roll
The band has a professional air about them. Much like a Rolls Royce, they’re quite unbeatable in their class. Yet as they move through the second half of the set – one Machine Head classic after another, all played to perfection – the show begins to bore.

And before you dismiss me as a hardcore online nutter only in it for the rarities: You can tell that the unwavering high standard of performance is also turning the crowd comfortably numb – to the point where even the tried and tested crowd pleasing hits (except Smoke of course) suddenly fall short on unconverted ears. Quite simply, to this festival crowd of very casual music fans, something less safe and less predictable is called for.

After a very tight version of Hush – complete with somewhat shaky drum solo (oops, where did that stick suddenly go?) – Roger Glover takes a solo spot and starts playing the riff to Black Night. And the crowd doesn’t react. This was a first for me. During the song Ian Gillan attempts to ‘conduct’ the crowd into chanting along, but with the same lame result.

Gradually Gillan becomes visibly annoyed at the slack audience. He takes his frustration out on the festival’s follow spotlights, which seem to blind him. ‘Those spots are so low! Can’t you afford any towers?’

Overall the band was probably scheduled too late on a long festival day not otherwise catering to the hard rockers, making the crowd one of the most casual Deep Purple have played to in a long time. You can’t win them all, but they sure do try.

Generally speaking the crowd reacts the same way to Rapture Of The Deep as it does to Black Night, so playing the hits – even at a festival – isn’t a guaranteed success. Furthermore being such a short set we are robbed not only of When A Blind Man cries, but also of Wrong Man and Perfect Strangers, that have been played recently.

Suffice to say it’s excellent to see the guys again. They put on a good show, but I’ve seen better – even considering the less than ideal circumstances.

Pictures Of Home
Things I Never Said
Into The Fire
Strange Kind Of Woman
Rapture Of The Deep
Steve Morse’s solo
Well Dressed Guitar
The Battle Rages On
Space Truckin’
Highway Star
Smoke On The Water

Black Night

Rasmus Heide, The Highway Star reviews editor

New album + new tour = old setlist? (Old discussion!)

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