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Excellent show with a set list to gripe about

See all of Daniele Purrone’s photos.

Went to the Purple concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, with Vanilla Fudge as the opening act. Excellent show all around.

Vanilla Fudge put on a surprisingly energetic show opening with a mid-tempo cover of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There”. The highlight of their set was definitely “Shotgun”, the sole VF original of the night, which included some extended jamming and a few measures of “Greensleeves”.

I was a little disappointed with the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”. It was competently done but was missing some spark that the rest of their set had. Might have been fun if they had done a Purple cover instead – I bet VF would do interesting things with one of the old Mark III songs that doesn’t get played anymore. The set lasted about 45 minutes and closed, as I expected, with “Keep Me Hangin’ On”.

Purple came on at about 9:20PM and played ’till just before 11, and their set list was identical to that at the Boston and Wallingford shows. I’ve seen Purple pretty much every time they have come to the NYC area since the Abandon tour, and for quality of playing and general show energy this was probably second only to the triple bill with Dio and the Scorpions at the Garden State Arts Center in 2002. (The Jones Beach show that same tour was less good.) The crowd was really into the music throughout, and this seemed to push the band to greater heights.

A few minor flaws: Gillan’s voice seemed a little hoarse for the first few songs but after “stretching out” a bit on “Strange Kind of Woman” he was great. Don Airey’s solos for “Pictures of Home” and “Highway Star”, as well as Steve Morse’s solo for “Highway Star” were all verbatim the original Mark II studio solos, so there was a little less improvisation than the typical show. Also Don Airey’s solo leading in to “Perfect Strangers” was a little gimmicky, but he pleased the crowd with a few bars of “New York, New York”.

Some great moments: During “Well Dressed Guitar”, we the audience were just gaping silently in awe at Steve’s pyrotechnics when Gillan crept up behind him and started gesturing to the audience to crank up the cheering and jumping, which we promptly did. Later, Steve and Roger started improvising something that sounded like an up-tempo instrumental version of Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” but warped it, step-by-step, measure-by-measure, until it turned into the opening of “Highway Star”.

Anyway, the show was really great like that throughout. But I would like to gripe about the set list: Only two songs from “Rapture of the Deep”, the album they are supposed to be supporting (“Things I Never Said” and the title track). Only four songs from this decade (above two plus “Contact Lost” and “Well Dressed Guitar”). Only 5 songs less than 20 years old (above four plus “Battle Rages On”). And yet most of “Machine Head” was played, while Purple has a whole catalogue of great recent songs that never get played live.

Count me among the vocal die-hards that would like a set list more focused on relatively new material. I suppose we are a minority if some internet polls are to be believed, but surely some better balance could be struck. Maybe the solution for the next tour would be for Purple to play two shows in each city, one big concert (like the one tonight) where the fogey-ish masses can get their fix of oldies, and a second show at a (probably smaller) venue (maybe Irving Plaza, for example) where they play the new album in its entirety plus a sampling of post-1995 songs for us real fans. I would go to both. 😉

Andy Shiner

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